Consider this an update on where things stand with J.R. Smith and his contract impasse with the Cavaliers. Nothing new here, but it’s a concise recap of where things stand right now.
And they stand $4 million apart.
Joe Varden of the Cleveland Plain Dealer did a Q&A with readers, and not-so-shockingly there were a lot of Smith questions. Starting with, what’s the deal?
The Cavs… are waiting for Smith to sign the deal they offered him. Smith is waiting for them to up their offer. The team offered somewhere between $10 million and $11 million, annually, while Smith is looking for more like $15 million annually. Isn’t this fun?
The Cavaliers have reportedly offered a deal in the four-year, $42 million range. That doesn’t work for Smith and his agent.
So, is there a timeline to get this done?
Good question. The answer is no. For example, the Cavs signed Dahntay Jones on the final day of the regular season last year. He remained on the team throughout the playoffs and played meaningful minutes in Game 6 of the Finals. Smith is an unrestricted free agent, but the Cavs have the right to give him a lucrative contract (go above the salary cap, or offer him above the veteran’s minimum) so long as he remains a free agent. Any deadline would be an arbitrary one. Either team owner Dan Gilbert draws a line in the sand, or Smith does. Or neither side does that and this thing gets worked out amicably.
Remember that the Cavaliers already have the highest payroll in the NBA, $8.6 million into the luxury tax before signing Smith — throw in the repeater tax and a $10 million Smith contract costs the team $40 million. So they are hesitant. From the perspective of Smith — and LeBron — that’s not his problem. The owners are raking in money from the new television deal as well, the Cavs sell out everything at home and on the road, and the value of that franchise skyrocketed when LeBron returned — the players think Dan Gilbert has made plenty of money off them and shouldn’t balk at paying a little back to win.
Another team could sign Smith if they have the cap room (the Sixers, Nets, and Nuggets all have close to $15 million in space) but Smith said he isn’t looking around. This is between him and the Cavs.
The Cavaliers need J.R. Smith come the playoffs, but even if he were to miss an extended part of the regular season (which I don’t expect, but it’s a hypothetical) it wouldn’t matter — Cleveland would be the top team in the East with the best record. Smith’s agent (Rich Paul, who also reps LeBron) is a guy who likes to win every deal and will push this farther than most.
But eventually, a deal will get done, and this will all be looked back on as silly posturing.