If there's one thing I've been adamant about as a Cavaliers writer, it's my love for J.R. Smith. Two months ago, I explained why the Cavaliers should just pay him the alleged $15m per year that he's asking for and I still think they should do that. However, it seems like they will not, and that has fallout. What should we expect over the next month? Tristan Thompson has already shown us.
Last season, Tristan Thompson believed he was worth a lot more money than the Cavaliers thought. Tristan held out through the entire summer, the whole training camp and even most of the preseason before finally signing a five-year, $82m contract with Cleveland. Nobody else offered him anything near that contract. Thompson allegedly wanted five years and $94m or three years and $53m, but the Cavs offered well below that number, knowing that Tristan's options were to take it or leave it.
Similarly, J.R. Smith has one option on where to play basketball next season: Cleveland. Everyone knows it. Nobody (publicly, at least) has offered JR Smith any kind of contract, especially considering he's asking for that $15m per year. So, who's going to blink first?
J.R. knows that the Cavs ultimately raised their offer for Tristan last year, so he's holding out hope. Cavs GM David Griffin knows that JR wants to play for Cleveland next year, so he's holding out hope. It's a ridiculous place to be, but it's where things sit right now. Nothing is happening.
J.R. has been interviewed by various outlets over the past two months and has talked minimally about this contract impasse. He has continuously maintained that he plans to sign with Cleveland but they haven't agreed on a number yet. Both Smith's reps and the Cavaliers' reps agree that they're moving toward getting the contract signed, but no one has any real idea when or if it'll happen.
Some folks are pointing out that J.R. is represented by Klutch Sports, which is LeBron James's agency. The theory is that LeBron wants J.R. to re-sign and LeBron's agency wants J.R. to re-sign, and since LeBron should get whatever he wants, the deal should come before camp starts September 27. On the other hand, Tristan Thompson is represented by Klutch as well, so we've seen that the agency will allow a late holdout.
Tristan's holdout last year didn't seem to bother the Cavaliers. They got off to an 8-1 start to the season despite not practicing with their starting center until the final week before their opener. J.R. Smith knows that the team built tremendous chemistry and while it may take some fine tuning, this is a group that knows how to flip the switch. With that in mind, JR doesn't have a lot of worries right now; he can go enjoy time with his family and soak up the tail end of summer.
He wants to play in Cleveland. Cleveland wants him to play in Cleveland. If that's the deciding factor, the Cavaliers - and J.R. - have very little to worry about.
My personal theory is that J.R. Smith will sign in mid-October. I think he'll come down very slightly in his demands, landing something like a four-year, $56 million deal. He'll sign before the season starts because he's a fun guy who loves his teammates and he absolutely cannot miss the ring ceremony with his friends and teammates. To me, that might be the deciding factor in all of this: A chance to properly celebrate.