J.R. Smith will skip the Cleveland Cavaliers’ informal minicamp in Santa Barbara, California this week, according to ESPN’s Brian Windhorst. Smith is still a free agent, and while he and the Cavs both want their partnership to continue, the two sides have been unable to reach an agreement on a new contract.
This is essentially the same thing that happened with Cleveland big man Tristan Thompson last year, right down to the fact that they’re both represented by Rich Paul, who also represents LeBron James. Thompson eventually signed a five-year, $82 million deal less than a week before the regular season started.
Smith’s agent, Rich Paul, and the Cavs have been in a standoff since July, when Smith opted out of his contract. No recent progress has been made in the talks, sources said. Smith, who played a significant role at both ends of the court, is seeking a multiyear deal.
Smith is focused on returning to the Cavs — and the team wants him back — but Smith likely won’t hesitate to miss part of training camp to see if his leverage changes. Other teams currently have cap space, and events in the preseason can change the situation.
It would make no sense for Smith to attend the minicamp. Smith already has a leverage problem, and it would send the message that his return was assured. If this isn’t resolved in the next week, then you can expect James to say something about the situation at media day. The superstar already made his feelings clear, first when he announced his own contract with the Cavs and then when he wished Smith a happy birthday on Instagram. He wants Smith back.
All of this is tricky because Smith signed a one-year contract last summer for $5 million, which was $1.4 million less than he would have received if he had just picked up his player option. He then had one of the best seasons of his career, making 40 percent of his 3-pointers and earning a starting spot because of his willingness to guard the opposing team’s best wing player. After winning a championship, he had every right to expect a significant raise, especially considering the other signings this offseason.
Given Smith’s age and production, it would be reasonable for him to sign a contract richer than Jamal Crawford’s three-year, $42 million deal with the Los Angeles Clippers. At this point, though, it wouldn’t be surprising if Smith had to accept less than that. The market is obviously not what it was at the beginning of free agency.
Courtesy: CBS Sports