This week’s agreement with J.R. Smith was the last step for the Cavaliers in keeping together the core of last season’s Eastern Conference champs, writes Terry Pluto of The Plain Dealer. Smith opted out of a $6.4MM deal for next season, against the advice of the team, before settling for a new contract that will pay him $5MM for 2015/16 with a $5MM player option for the following season. Pluto noted that the Cavs had “tremendous leverage” in negotiations once Smith failed to get a significant offer in free agency. In addition to bringing back Smith, Cleveland was able to re-sign LeBron James, James Jones and Matthew Dellavedova, while adding Mo Williams and Richard Jefferson. In addition, center Sasha Kaun struck a deal with the team today. Free agent Tristan Thompson has not reached an agreement, but is expected to remain in Cleveland for at least one more season.
There’s more news from the Central Division:
- James averaged 36.1 minutes last season — the lowest total of his career — and Pluto writes in the same article that the Cavs hope to cut that figure even further. Smith and Jefferson will both help reduce his workload, Pluto says, and Williams should do the same for Kyrie Irving, who is rehabbing after surgery for a fractured kneecap.
- Marcus Morris will likely win the Pistons‘ starting small forward job over rookie Stanley Johnson, according to David Mayo of MLive. Detroit acquired Morris from the Suns in a three-player trade last month. Mayo also points out that the addition of Ersan Ilyasova to go with holdover Anthony Tolliver gives the Pistons a three-point threat at the power forward position on both their starting and reserve units.
- Rookie Stanley Johnson thinks the Pistons selected him because he has a personality similar to coach/executive Stan Van Gundy, writes John Niyo of The Detroit News. That includes a distaste for losing, which Johnson shares with his new coach. “You want to be around people that are like you,” said Johnson. “I don’t think Stan would draft me if he wasn’t looking for the same things.”