J.R. Smith is in the midst of parting with agent Leon Rose and the Creative Artists Agency and plans to sign with Rich Paul of the LeBron James-backed Klutch Sports Group, reports Chris Haynes of the Northeast Ohio Media Group and the Cleveland Plain Dealer. It’s the latest step in the growing bond between Smith and James, who’ve strengthened their connection on the court and off since Smith arrived in Cleveland via trade in January 2015, Haynes writes. Smith is on an unusual two-year contract that includes a player option and partially guaranteed salary for next season.
That deal came at the end of a frustrating summer for Smith, who turned down a player option worth nearly $6.4MM and lingered on the market for about two months before agreeing to a $5MM salary for this season. The partial guarantee on next season’s $5.375MM salary is worth only $2.2MM, though it increases to a full guarantee if he remains under contract through September 7th.
Smith will join James and fellow Cavs teammate Tristan Thompson as clients of Paul. The swingman represents the latest score for Klutch, which also landed Ben Simmons, a prime contender for the No. 1 overall pick who announced his selection of Klutch on Wednesday. John Wall left Dan Fegan of Relativity Sports to sign with Paul earlier this season. CAA has also otherwise had a strong year so far, landing Joel Embiid as well as soon-to-be free agent Pau Gasol.
The 30-year-old Smith has had a reputation for inconsistent play and stirred controversy in the past, but he was recently cleared of any wrongdoing in a case involving an incident outside a New York nightclub. Coach Tyronn Lue is impressed with Smith’s growth, as Haynes relays.
“Just talking to him the other day after the game, just hearing his maturity. I think him taking that step he took this summer, I think that’s helped him off the court,” Lue said. “And then on the court, every night, he’s giving us effort every single night. He’s playing hard. He’s competing and that’s all we can ask of J.R. It’s been good because I’ve known him since he was 18 years old, just to see the growth and how he’s matured over the years.”