As expected, J.R. Smith re-signed with the Cleveland Cavaliers and as expected, J. R. Smith screwed himself out of some money. He was expected to make $6.3 million dollars in 2015-16 but he opted out of his deal and lost a million dollars in the process. So J.R. Smith achieved what no amount of bank fraud or manager stealing money or stock market dive could. He was his own thief.
But he’s trying to spin the damage away like its one of those paper airplanes that accidentally drifted away in the breeze.
“When I opted out of my contract, I wanted to understand the landscape of the NBA and where I fit best.” (J.R. Smith on Instagram)
There are two reasons to opt-out of a deal. Either, the marriage is nearing a divorce and getting out of town is the only option. Or, you want to make more bank. There was no reason for J.R. to leave a LeBron James- NBA Finals team so the more money landscape was what J.R. was seeking. Perhaps he could have snagged a $8 million or $9 million dollar deal, a step up for the shooting guard who has played for four NBA teams and whose relevancy ebbed and flowed. Viewing it through a greed prism, J.R. opting-out didn’t make much sense when there was so much to lose.
Patience is a virtue. J.R. could have cashed in next season when ALL salaries are expected to rise. J.R.’s summer behavior was similar to those J.R. jump shots that come too early in the shot clock and clank off the rim. When patience was needed, J.R. was overly aggressive to his own detriment. It cost him
J.R.’s time with the Cavaliers was extremely productive once he was traded from the Knicks. He accepted the reality of being a shooter and nothing else, he thrived on the wing. His only responsibility was to score. His playoff performance against the Atlanta Hawks when he couldn’t miss a shot reintroduced J.R. to a NBA that has always been skeptical of him, frequently critical and dismissive, mostly because, when under extreme stress, J.R.’s maturity rivaled a 10th grader.
It was that cynicism that closed his free agency like a box, forcing him from exile and back into the Cavaliers arms. Yes, he’s a good shooter and a streaky offensive player. But playing with LeBron James distorts the image into a much prettier picture. J.R. playing with different personnel can look rather ordinary and that was a chance NBA teams signing him this summer did not want to take since J.R.’s emotions run the gamut, from infectious to traumatizing. Sensing weakness, teams lowballed him or they ignored him and the 76ers were the only team on record saying they wanted J.R. on their roster.
Additionally, no one expected J.R. to leave Cleveland, to want to. What incentive was there for a team to overvalue him just to give J.R. leverage in dealing with the Cavs who had a full plate with Tristan Thompson wanting max money? What incentive was there for the Cavaliers to give him what he willingly threw away? If he didn’t value his $6.3 million dollar contract, why should they?
So, $5 million dollars it is. It’s not a backlash, it’s just the business of over-estimating your value.
Basketball wise, the Cavaliers are a better team with J.R. on the wing. He makes them more complete even as he will have those moments in which logic and emotion fail to intersect, are strange bedfellows, leading J.R. down some foreign path. That’s something LeBron James cannot cure. If you have J.R. Smith on your team, you have to roll with his impulsive behavior.
Nevertheless, the Cavaliers of 2015-16 are a very formidable bunch with offensive weapons on the wing able to spread the floor and knock down shots making defenses scramble. It’s a no-brainer for J.R. Smith to return to Cleveland, even if he took money out of his own pocket to secure a championship. He’s a better player when he’s with the Cavs and the Cavs are a better team with him on the wing. Both the player and the organization affect one another. The Cavs are aware of how imperfect J.R. Smith is and generously allow J.R. to be J.R., to stay cocky and shoot as much as he wants. Even if they are paying him less money to do it.
photo via llananba