J.R. Smith

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Report: As expected, Cavaliers waive J.R. Smith; ‘unlikely’ he joins Lakers

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As we warned readers was coming earlier in the day, the Cleveland Cavaliers have waived J.R. Smith.

This was expected as they could not find a trading partner looking to save money for a pick, so rather than pay him his full $15.7 million the Cavaliers will pay Smith $4.4 million and make him an unrestricted free agent. Shams Charania of The Athletic broke the news.

There has been an assumption among many fans that if he became a free agent Smith would reunite with LeBron James on the Lakers, adding another big personality and flawed player to an interesting bench.

But not so fast my friend, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

Smith will turn 34 before next season starts and his skills are in decline, he shot just 30.8 percent from three last season. I can see a playoff/contending team making a run at him for the minimum, but there is not a lot of demand for his services because he’s not expected to be able to contribute a lot.

Report: Cavaliers waiving J.R. Smith

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The Cavaliers really hyped J.R. Smith as a trade asset.

For most contracts, only the guaranteed portion of a player’s salary counts toward matching in a trade. But because Smith signed his deal under the previous Collective Bargaining Agreement, his full $15,680,000 salary counts even though just a small portion of it is guaranteed.

That structure would’ve been helpful for another team looking to shed salary. That team could trade a similarly expensive player for Smith’s contract, waive Smith and pay only his small guarantee.

The Cavs were so confident they’d deal Smith, they even increased his guarantee from $3.9 million to $4.4 million in exchange for him pushing back his guarantee date from June 30 to July 15. That bought more time to find a trade.

But a trade like that has long seemed unlikely for Cleveland.

The Cavaliers are near the luxury-tax line, and using Smith’s contract as a trade chip that way would’ve increased their payroll. By enabling another team to unload salary, the Cavs would’ve taken on that money. They would’ve had until the final day of the regular season to escape the tax, but they’re reportedly not interested in trading their most expensive player, Kevin Love. They have other burdensome contracts that aren’t easy to move. There just isn’t appetite for even risking paying the tax on such a lousy team.

So, Smith’s time in Cleveland will reach its predictable end today.

Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com:

The Cavaliers must stretch Smith’s guaranteed salary to get under the tax line now. That will lock in a $1,466,667 cap hit the next three seasons.

Smith will become an unrestricted free agent. There had been talk of him joining the Lakers, but they now have 14 players with standard contracts – only one short of the regular-season limit. I suspect Kyle Korver will be a bigger priority.

In Cleveland, Smith will always be remembered for helping the Cavs win the 2016 championship and his shirtless summer of celebration. It went south for him after that. He struggled on a long-term contract, threw soup and spent nearly all of last season exiled as the Cavs eyed trading him this offseason.

That idea fizzled, and Smith’s career could, too. He’ll turn 34 before the season and hasn’t played well in years. Maybe another team will take a flier on him. This also might be the end.

Lakers open up max cap space through trade with Wizards, Davis waiving trade kicker

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The Los Angeles Lakers will open free agency with more than $32 million in cap room — enough to sign Kyrie Irving, Jimmy Butler, or other players to a max level contract — thanks to a couple of moves made Thursday.

Whether they should chase that max player or spread the money around to get two or three good role players — Danny Green, J.J. Redick, Bojan Bogdanovic, Trevor Ariza, others of that ilk — is another question entirely. What matters is the Lakers will have the money to spend.

It took two moves to get there (and technically it will not get there until July 6 when a series of moves can be made). First, the Lakers are trading the three smaller salaries on their books next season to the Washington Wizards, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

The Wizards were higher on Wagner than most at the draft, this lands them a guy the organization likes.

The other Laker move, getting Anthony Davis to agree to waive his $4 million trade kicker (something there was push back on when it was first mentioned).

That gives the Lakers the cap room they need to chase a max contract star. Give Laker GM Rob Pelinka credit for pulling this off, he has gotten his team into position.

Kawhi Leonard is on the top of their list, and the Lakers are expected to get a meeting with him at the start of free agency. They have their foot in the door, but I have heard from multiple sources going back to last summer he is not interested in joining a superteam or being part of the circus that can be the Lakers in a very bright spotlight.

Los Angeles has been linked to Kyrie Irving, although most reports now have him locked in on going to Brooklyn, likely with Kevin Durant. LeBron and Irving have patched up their differences, although league sources have told me that’s different from saying Irving wants to play with LeBron again. On the court, he would be the best fit in terms of style with LeBron and Davis.

Los Angeles also has the money to get Kemba Walker (who league buzz says is a lock for Boston unless Hornets’ owner Michael Jordan significantly ups his offer), Jimmy Butler (Philadelphia wants to max him out with five years, $191 million, but Houston is making a hard push for him via a sign-and-trade), or bringing back D'Angelo Russell, who will have a number of suitors and the Nets can match any offer (if they don’t get Irving Brooklyn likely keeps Russell).

If the Lakers land any of those stars, the rest of the roster will be filled out with players on minimum contracts such as J.R. Smith (once Cleveland waives him), Kyle Korver, Nerlens Noel, and others. Those players are taking minimum contracts for a reason, but with the stars that may be enough to make the Lakers a threat.

However, after watching a finals where role players were critical for Toronto to win it all — or thinking back to the Shaq/Kobe Lakers were players such as Robert Horry and Derek Fisher were essential to the team’s success — the Lakers may well be better off landing role players who can just defend and shoot. Los Angeles will need those guys to contend in a West where the Warriors may be slowed but teams such as Houston, Utah, and Denver will make it a tough road out of the conference no matter what.

After Damon Jones tries to roast him, Richard Jefferson: This is why he got soup thrown on him

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In 2007-08, the Nets went 34-48 then traded Richard Jefferson to the Bucks for Yi Jianlian and Bobby Simmons that offseason. New Jersey went 34-48 the next year then 12-70 the following year.

Appearing on ESPN, Jefferson was telling the story of getting dealt when Damon Jones interrupted:

Jones:

Guess what? The Nets got better.

Jefferson:

J.R. Smith infamously threw soup on Jones, who was a Cavaliers assistant coach. Jefferson also played for Cleveland while Jones worked there.

Jones:

Jefferson wasn’t having it:

Jefferson:

Oh shut up, Damon Jones.

I do not accept the apology. Not from him.

I honestly can’t tell whether this is kayfabe. But it’s definitely great content.

Rumor: Heat want to trade Dion Waiters, James Johnson

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We already told you about the report the Miami Heat have interest in J.R. Smith.

Why? As a salary dump. Trade for him around the draft, waive him before July 1 and his $15.7 million non-guaranteed salary becomes $3.9 million against the cap.

Miami is looking to make some other moves to free up cap space this summer, trying to trade some of their bad contracts. From Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald:

NBA officials who spoke to the Heat say Miami remains intent on trying to trade one of a few contracts with multiple years remaining, with James Johnson and Dion Waiters considered available on the trade market.

There is a lot of buzz around the league that the Heat will be ultra aggressive this summer, but to do that they will need more financial flexibility. Even if the Heat buy out Ryan Anderson (as expected), they will be roughly $5 million into the luxury tax next season. Which is why these rumors make some sense.

The question becomes what sweeteners are the Heat going to throw in to get a team to take on Waiters $24.8 million over two seasons, or Johnson at $31.5 million over two seasons?

If you’re thinking about a Smith for Waiters or Johnson trade with the Cavaliers, that sweetener question is still the same. Cleveland isn’t giving up one year of Smith for two of Waiters or Johnson without getting something else of value back in the mix (and a second-round pick isn’t going to cut it).

Trading the Goran Dragic or Hassan Whiteside contracts (entering their final years) will also be on the table for the Heat this summer, but it will not be easy to find those players a new home.