The King has spoken.
Last night, at a premiere of the movie “Trainwreck,” Cleveland Cavaliers superstar LeBron James was asked about how he feels his team has been doing in free agency. James seemed happy with how things have gone, but certainly felt there’s still work to be done.
“It’s been good so far, but we have a lot of work to do,” James said. “We still got to re-sign Tristan (Thompson). Hopefully we can bring back J.R. (Smith) as well and see if there’s some other free agents out there that’d love to come here and play if we’re able to do that.”
Clearly the team will continue working to ensure Thompson is back next season. However, James’ comments on Smith seem to be a bit surprising, especially when you consider how his year ended with the Cavs.
Smith was relied upon heavily during the NBA Finals as Cleveland’s bench thinned due to injury. Unfortunately, though, his shooting was erratic, and even when he was able to heat up, it never lasted long. Upon season’s end, Smith opted out of his $6.4 million option and became an unrestricted free agent. However, in the ten days since free agency began, there’s been minimal interest in the unpredictable guard.
Should the Cavs try to bring Smith back, regardless of his Finals shooting woes and his penchant for getting in hot water with suspension-worthy fouls? You could certainly argue for it, I guess. That said, if Smith wants back with Cleveland, he’s going to need to seriously adjust his rumored contract demands.
Word is Smith is looking to get a little over $8 million a year. This isn’t terribly expensive, though Cleveland is already writing a hefty luxury tax check and this salary certainly wouldn’t help the cause. The issue, though, is Smith’s desire for a long-term deal.
I completely understand Smith wanting long-term security with a team. But, looking at this from the Cavs’ perspective, it’s easy to see why they might be hesitant to offer Smith what he’s looking for.
The M.O. with Smith has always been the same. He can shoot you into games, and he can also shoot you out of games. Whether he’s hot or cold, it appears Smith has never found a shot he didn’t like. While this is all well and good when his shot is hitting – as it was in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals – it’s not as fun to watch when his game is off.
It’s highly unlikely Smith is going to change his approach. Knowing this, you can see why Cleveland doesn’t want to be locked into a long-term deal with him.
In addition to his poor Finals performance, Smith seemed to find less favorable ways to negatively impact the team during the postseason. His spinning back-fist to Boston Celtics forward Jae Crowder netted him a two-game suspension right as the team lost Kevin Love for the year. He also made more than a few questionable fouls during the Finals, ones which did nothing but help the Golden State Warriors.
Tie all of this together, and you can see Smith is fighting one heck of an uphill battle if he plans on sticking to his long-term demands.
You’d like to think he’s starting to see plenty of evidence he needs to adjust his contract requests. As mentioned, outside of Cleveland, you don’t really see Smith’s name attached to any other team right now. I’m sure there are more than a few franchises who’d be interested in signing him, but his current price tag is likely scaring them off.
James made it clear he’d love to see Smith back. It wouldn’t be surprising if the Cavs felt the same way. Right now, the only thing preventing it is Smith’s desire for more money and more years.
Said desires are scaring off Cleveland and seemingly every other team. If Smith wants to be back with the Cavs next year, it’s safe to say it’s time for him to read the room and start backing off his unappealing demands.