An NBA player is crediting a visit from a therapy dog for getting him out of a slump and helping his team win this week.
Cleveland Cavalier J.R. Smith had only scored six points in the Cavs’ first two games on their three-game road trip, but after meeting a golden retriever named Remington he shot 8-for-9 and scored 18 points against the Charlotte Hornets.
“It was exactly what I needed,” Smith said. “Something to take my mind off the game and something to make me feel better.”
“It was right on time, especially for me,” Smith told ESPN. “I’m an emotional person. I live in my head. I don’t really express a lot of things. But let’s just say it was right on time.”
Even Cavs acting head coach Larry Drew gave credit to Remington for Smith’s game.
“You know, I think it was the canine,” Drew said. “I walk in the room, and there JR is sitting on the floor. … He’s sitting on the floor petting the [dog]. I think it was the canine that got him going. I can tell he’s very fond of that dog, and we’re going to have to get that dog back to more shootarounds.”
Remington is a therapy dog for the University of North Carolina baseball team.
The UNC team was playing in Charlotte and Cavs’ head athletic trainer, Steve Spiro, arranged for the get-together. Spiro said he read about “Remi,” and reached out to Tar Heels head athletic trainer Terri Jo Rucinski.
Remington, in addition to lifting spirits, provides companionship for team members while they’re going through rehabilitation after injuries and helps out with tasks such as opening a door for a player on crutches or fetching a towel for a player coming out of an ice bath.
“We had a great opportunity today to do something for our players outside of the normal routine on a back-to-back,” Spiro told ESPN. “We looked for it to be a potentially very positive impact in a casual setting where the guys could enjoy being around Remington, who is an extremely loving and talented service/therapy dog.”
Spiro said that to his knowledge, no professional sports teams have a service dog in their ranks, but that it might be something worth looking at.
The Cavs have been at the forefront of mental health awareness this season, with former Cleveland big man Channing Frye opening up about dealing with depression and Kevin Love penning an essay for The Player’s Tribune revealing that he has experienced panic attacks.