**UPDATE: After this post was published, Smith re-signed with the Cavaliers, inking a four-year, $57 million contract, according to ESPN’s Marc Stein.**
The defending NBA champion Cleveland Cavaliers are only a few weeks from the start of the regular season and they are still without controversial shooting guard J.R. Smith.
Smith and the Cavs have been unable to reach an agreement on a new contract after the former averaged 12.4 points, 1.7 assists and 2.8 rebounds in 30.7 minutes during the 77 games he started for Cleveland last season.
Cavs superstar LeBron James has noted that he wants the two sides to reach an agreement as soon as possible.
“Negotiations, there are always two sides,” James said to Cleveland.com last month. “But J.R. did his part. He showed up every day, worked his a** 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 now at the Indians games. We just miss him, man.”
Unfortunately for James and the Cavs, new reports indicate that Smith might be on his way elsewhere before the 2016-17 NBA campaign begins.
ESPN’s Marc Stein reported Thursday that the Cavs have offered Smith a contract within the $10 and $11 million per year range, but six teams other teams are thought to be waiting to offer him more.
The teams are believed to include the Minnesota Timberwolves, Phoenix Suns, Utah Jazz, Denver Nuggets, Brooklyn Nets, and Philadelphia 76ers. Each of those teams have $13 million to $27 million in available cap space.
The Boston Celtics are also reportedly interested but aren’t thought to have the cap space to actively pursue him.
Smith would certainly be an asset to any team looking for a scorer. The 31-year-old has averaged 13.2 points and two three-pointers per game over the course of his 12-year career. His career-high in scoring is 45, which came against the Sacramento Kings back in 2009.
But his unpredictability both on and off the court has forced him to move around the NBA quite frequently — he’s played in two different continents, on five NBA teams and may end up on a sixth this season if he can’t re-negotiate with Cleveland.
Smith has been known to untie his opponents’ shoelaces during games, an antic that may have led one of his seven-year old daughters to tell an ESPN reporter during the NBA Finals that she was “just proud of him because he made the championship without getting kicked off the team.”
Now Smith has made headlines for comparing himself to a certain underwater mammal that he feels he associates with.
In a piece this week from the New Yorker, perhaps appropriately titled “The Misunderstanding of J.R. Smith”, Smith discussed why the dolphin is his favorite animal:
“Kids get me,” he said. “You know the animal question? The dolphin is my favorite animal. It’s graceful. When it jumps out of the water, it’s one of the most peaceful things you can see. Especially when the sun is hitting off the water. There’s something just so calm and peaceful about it. At the same time, if it goes down, a dolphin is like, O.K., let’s go.” He smiled. “I’m a dolphin. That’s all people need to know.”
Smith’s personality is captivating, in both good and bad ways.
His heart always seems to be in the right place — he would do anything to help his team win and James and the rest of his former Cavaliers teammates seem to understand that.
But his head isn’t always there, leading to questionable decision-making both on and off the court.
Smith doesn’t care.
Take notice of his odd behaviors and see that they’ve never changed. Even when he played a year in China he continued to be himself, once ordering $3,000 worth of food and room services “just to see if they would keep bringing it.”
Smith probably won’t be a free agent much longer, but as long as he’s on a team that accepts the person that he is, he should expect to have another solid season.
After all, even Smith believes he matches the juxtaposition of the dolphin, and “that’s all people need to know.”