LeBron James, like everyone else back in Cleveland, wants to see a deal worked out between the Cavaliers and J.R. Smith.
With training camp around the corner, Smith and the team remain in talks, but to date there’s been no deal. Having had the entire offseason to hammer one out, their awkward stalemate is leaking over into Cleveland’s title defense.
James, who shares the same agent as Smith, wants to see the two sides reach an agreement, and gave a glowing endorsement of Smith as a player.
“First of all, J.R. is probably the most liked guy on the team. I’m not going to get to the contract issue, or if there’s even an issue at all between both sides. My belief is that both sides will get it done,” James said.
“But we all know, from you guys, to us in the locker room, and the organization, that J.R. is a huge piece of our team, and without him we don’t win a championship last year.”
“He brings a dimension to our team that we just don’t have. He’s a two-way player. He’s a space guy. And he’s a great locker room guy, and he’s great in the community and things of that nature as well. We look forward to getting him back, and hopefully we can do it as soon as possible because we miss the guy. We missed him last week at the minicamp out in California, and we miss him today.”
Smith is reportedly seeking a deal in the $15-million-per-year range, which is more than reasonable given his talents, but the Cavaliers are already $20 million over the luxury tax and are the lone bidders for Smith’s services. Nevertheless, regardless of the financial fine points, it appears inevitable that Smith would eventually return.
After flaming out in New York, Smith has taken his game to new heights in Cleveland. He’s blossomed into an elite spot-up 3-point shooter, and last season even demonstrated a newfound devotion as a defender. He’s a player Cleveland can’t afford to lose – especially not when the rival Golden State Warriors reloaded this summer by adding Kevin Durant.
“We’re optimistic that both sides can figure it out sooner or later so we can get to work,” James said.