A year after the Cavaliers and Tristan Thompson took contract negotiations down to the wire, the team is once again engaged in a standoff with a key free agent. This time around, it’s J.R. Smith who remains unsigned, despite the fact that the Cavs have made him an “incredibly competitive and aggressive” offer, according to general manager David Griffin.
While the two sides are still expected to reach an agreement eventually, count LeBron James among those who isn’t thrilled about the fact that there’s no resolution yet. Speaking today to reporters, including Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com, the Finals MVP said he hates “having to deal with this s–t again” during training camp, adding that “it wouldn’t be good for any side” if the Cavs and Smith don’t work something out.
“Negotiations are always two sides but J.R. did his part,” James said. “He showed up every day. Worked his ass off every day. Became a two-way player, a model citizen in Cleveland and he’s a fan favorite, obviously we all know that. All of the sudden now he’s a season ticket holder at the Indians games. We just miss him. We miss having him around. He’s a big piece of our team and they just need to get it done.”
While LeBron suggested he’s not involved in negotiations at all, his praise for Smith suggests he wants to see his teammate gets paid, and his comments today may be designed to nudge the Cavs toward increasing their offer a little. According to Vardon, the club’s offer to Smith, which he rejected, was somewhere between $10-11MM annually. The veteran guard was reportedly seeking $15MM per year earlier in the offseason.
Smith, who turned 31 this month, started a career-high 77 games for the Cavs during the 2015/16 season, and also started all 21 of the team’s playoff games. During the season, he averaged 12.4 PPG and shot 40.0% from long distance, making 2.6 threes per game. He increased those three-point numbers to 43.0% and 3.1 per game during the postseason.