Written by James Herbert at CBSSports.com
Cleveland Cavaliers guard J.R. Smith will be an unrestricted free agent in July, as he has decided not to pick up his $5.4 million player option for next season, according to cleveland.com’s Chris Haynes. This does not mean that he wants to leave Cleveland, however.
“This is where I want to be,” Smith told cleveland.com. “The fans love me; I love them and my teammates.”
Smith signed a one-year deal with a player option last September. Free agency did not go well for him. He had a $6.4 million option for this season, but ended up costing himself $1.4 million by testing the market. He was coming off a suspension in the playoffs and a disappointing performance in the NBA Finals.
“The market was going crazy, I mean it was ridiculous,” Smith told ESPN’s Brian Windhorst. “You see so many people getting paid. I started to look at myself in the mirror and was like, ‘Damn, am I really what everybody saying I am? Am I really a cancer?’ We’d just gotten to the Finals and I’m not trying to toot my horn, but I thought I’d had a major part in that.”
This time, things should go better. Smith averaged 12.4 points this season as a full-time starter for the Cavaliers, making 40 percent of his 3-pointers and earning rave reviews from coach Tyronn Lue and superstar LeBron James for his effort on defense. Lots of teams need 3-and-D players, and lots of teams will have cap space. Smith will likely sign the biggest contract of his career.
It might seem like peculiar timing for this news, considering Cleveland will try to force a Game 7 in the NBA Finals against the Golden State Warriors on Thursday, but it just so happened that Smith’s deadline for picking up his player option was June 16.
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