Why is JR Smith so stupid
Who will blink first?
J.R. Smith has not signed a new contract with the Cleveland Cavaliers and could now even miss the training camp. Both sides actually want to continue working together - so what's the problem? And what has LeBron James got to do with the whole thing?
It was less than two years ago that J.R. Smith in the middle of a cul-de-sac. With a once again disappointing Knicks team, he set the worst values since his sophomore season in the 2014/15 season, he only wrote headlines off the court - and not exactly positive.
Smith was known as the weirdo who every couple of weeks noticed by opening the laces of his opponents when they weren't looking. The guy, the female fans on social media for the whole world to see things like "You trying to get the pipe?" wrote and stayed at the club every other night. Which, in important moments, kept blowing the fuses.
Smith was considered an unscrupulous gunner, an eternal talent who gradually let his career go to hell for lack of interest in professionalism and hard work. One of the last players to move straight to the NBA from high school and a prime example of why introducing an age limit in 2005 made sense - at least that is what advocates of the rule argued.
Accordingly, it was actually only considered an accessory when the Cavaliers traded for Iman Shumpert in February. His contract was, so to speak, the necessary evil that the Contender had to swallow, especially since it also included a lucrative option for the 2015/16 season (6.4 million dollars). What have times changed since then.
The struggle with one's own reputation
A short and incomplete timeline: Smith became a top performer with the Cavs, even more than Shumpert. In his first half season he blossomed alongside LeBron James and almost always remained sane when his elbow attack against Jae Crowder in the first round of the playoff was swept under the table. Only in the finals did Smith not get much more of a line against the Warriors.
Still, he thought his market value was high enough to let his option pass after the season - a mistake. After a while he signed again with the Cavs for less money (5 million, again with player option), no team wanted to invest much in him. His reputation was still a moderate disaster.
LeBron: "You heard the shit stories"
This gradually changed over the past season. Smith was a constant in the team over the entire season and this time was also able to really assert himself in the playoffs: In the postseason he increased his three-man quota to 43 percent and started every game on the way to the first Cavs Championship. Then he mutated back into a party animal - but for the first time in his career nobody could say anything negative about it.
"You heard all the shit stories," LeBron said a little later at the Masters Parade in Cleveland. "The whole thing: 'J.R. is not a team player. You can't win with him. He just takes stupid throws.' It's all wrong. "
Smith sat a few inches away from the King and nodded happily - shirtless, like almost every public appearance since winning the title. The now 31-year-old could still have been drunk, but he was definitely just happy. The one-time chaotic now feeds a family and got married in this offseason - and at that moment he probably thought that he had found his basketball home for the future.
And now you pay J.R.!
Then, however, a scenario from the previous year was repeated. Smith let his option slip. Smith watched shooting guards get monster contracts across the league - Kent Bazemore got 70 million, Eric Gordon 53, Jamal Crawford 42 over three years. Smith himself came away empty-handed.
The Cavs publicly stressed on several occasions that they would like to keep Smith and were relatively certain that this would happen. Smith said the same thing and didn't even speak seriously to other teams when, for example, the Wolves contacted him. LeBron commented on his own three-year $ 100 million contract by saying, "Now pay J.R." That was a month and a half ago.
Not too much has changed since then. Smith gave an interview in Complex, in which he named "mutual respect" as the reason for the standstill in negotiations. Smith reportedly wants $ 15 million a year over several years. The Cavs will pay the quartet of LeBron, Kevin Love, Kyrie Irving and Tristan Thompson around 85 million next season alone. No wonder that the costs around it should be kept a little lower.
LeBron remains the advocate
In contrast to last year, this time the Cavs are not at the fore. Smith has a new ace up his sleeve - or rather by his side. Earl III is now represented by Rich Paul, as is a certain LeBron. And he has gained experience with bottlenecks over the past few years.
In the summer of 2015, he made sure that Thompson missed the entire training camp - after which he was given a maximum contract of five years. It was very similar for Eric Bledsoe, who is also represented by Paul, in the summer of 2014. It is no coincidence that LeBron has recently spoken out loudly for Smith. If an agreement cannot be reached with Smith, Father Familias in Cleveland would be far from enthusiastic.
This also applies to the rest of the team, including Tyronn Lue - because a farewell to Smith would hardly be compensated for in terms of sport. On the one hand, because there is no other player of Smith's caliber on the market, and on the other hand, because the mid-level taxpayer exception has been almost completely used up. Cleveland has no money left for external free agents - that's why Smith is indispensable.
Cleveland under pressure
Actually, GM David Griffin knows that. And that's why it is actually also likely that both parties will somehow come to an agreement - Smith knows how important Cleveland and especially LeBron were in helping him to revive his career. The franchise has benefited from him, but he has grown tremendously in Ohio too.
The only question is who will buckle first. Do the Cavs accept Smith's demands or does he give them a bigger discount after all? Or does the whole thing drag on until Smith suddenly decides to at least listen to teams with Cap Space?
Both take a certain risk in these halting talks - but unlike last year, the Cavaliers have more to lose this time.
J.R. Smith in a profile
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