In the next 24 hours, J.R. Smith will be on the long flight from China — where he signed to play during the lockout — back to the United States. He tweeted this the other day.
Ladies and Gentleman I am happy to tell you my return to the United States is offical! I will be home Febreuary 15, 2012! #Hyped!
But what is interesting is what is written in his bio area at the top of his twitter home page:
NYK? LAL? LAC? CHI? ORL? iNDI?
Those are the known teams interested in signing Smith for the rest of the season.
So, when his plane lands, where does he go next?
The Knicks are considered the frontrunner because they can offer him the $2.5 mini mid-level exception plus plenty of minutes as the starting two guard. I’m not sure even Jeremy Lin can distribute the ball enough to keep Carmelo Anthony and Smith thinking they got enough shots, but there certainly is a fit there. And a big stage to be on.
Chris Paul is taking on the job of lead recruiter for the Clippers, and they too can offer him a starting spot (with Chauncey Billups out injured for the season). The Clippers are a better team than the Knicks, but they can’t offer as much money — L.A. can only offer the veteran’s minimum, and it is pro-rated over a longer period of time than the Knicks offer so it’s considerably less money.
The Pacers are a team whose name popped up in an ESPN article as having interest, and with them being listed by him clearly there has been some contact. The Pacers are below the salary cap and can offer more money than any other team. However, Mike Wells of the Indy Star says the Pacers are not as interested anymore.
ESPN mentions interest by the Timberwolves, but they don’t show up on Smith’s twitter list.
The Lakers need outside shooting and could give Smith minutes at the two (and start Kobe Bryant at the three), but they too can only offer the veteran’s minimum. The Bulls would have fewer minutes to offer once Rip Hamilton comes back, but they are a contender so a ring is involved. Orlando needs another shot creator and certainly has the minutes to give out. None of those teams has much money to give, however.
Look for a decision to be made by the end of the week. And most likely Smith will become part of the “Linsanity” in New York. But Smith can be a bit unpredictable, so don’t bet the rent money on that.