LeBron James has urged Cleveland Cavaliers’ roster to step up in the absence of the injured J.R. Smith.
Influential guard Smith needs surgery on an right thumb fracture sustained in Tuesday’s overtime win against the Milwaukee Bucks.
The Cavs were victorious against the Bucks again in Smith’s absence on Wednesday, with talisman James and Kyrie Irving impressing with 29 and 31 points respectively in a 113-102 win.
DeAndre Liggins filled Smith’s spot, while Mike Dunleavy is another option for head coach Tyronn Lue.
James acknowledged the loss of former New York Knicks star Smith, who has no timescale as yet on a return with reports suggesting he will miss four to six weeks, is a big one, but sees his injury as an opportunity for someone else on the team.
“It’s tough when you lose guys who mean so much to the success of our team,” James told reporters.
“Obviously it’s going to be a while until we get J.R. back so it’s next man up and guys have to fill in.
“Guys have to fill in and play their role and not play J.R.’s role, you can’t. J.R. is a special talent so you don’t try to play his role.
“You just try to do more of your role and try to help the team win. So hopefully we can get that.”
The Cavs, who are top of the NBA Eastern Conference, might have had two successes in as many games against Milwaukee, but James sees future playoff potential in the Bucks.
“Over the next several years, they could be really, really good,” he added. “For me, I’m ready for whatever match up.
“It doesn’t matter if it’s this year or if it’s in several years, I’ll be ready for them if I’m fortunate to be in the playoffs at that point in time. So we’ll see.”