By now, J.R. Smith knows it was a huge mistake to opt out of his deal. The Cleveland Cavaliers still want to sign him, but for less than money than he was going to make, and there aren’t many offers for him out there.
Smith was a hit in Cleveland after arriving via trade from New York. After outplaying his welcome with the Knicks, Smith become the epitome of a role player, starting in the lineup next to Kyrie Irving and LeBron James, shooting well, defending well and staying out of trouble during his off-basketball hours, saying it’s much better for him in Cleveland without the distractions.
After a good postseason but a poor finals performance, Smith had the choice of opting in to make $6.4 million and stay with a team that’s basically the same one from last season only now with Mo Williams and Richard Jefferson joining and still waiting for Tristan Thompson to re-sign in some form, long term or short.
But Smith thought the demand for him would be greater considering his reformed state and persona after last season. Turns out he was wrong, and now, after giving up on the above mentioned amount, he’s pretty much being forced to sign a one-year deal for less money (somewhere between $4 million and $5 million) and hope that the 30% rise in the salary cap next year will help make up for the lost cash.
The Cavaliers want him back, but don’t need him as badly as before after signing Williams. Smith is probably the more capable and also younger player, but he has gotten himself into a tight spot through bad decision making or simply listening to the wrong person. The Cavaliers are trying to bring back the same, slightly upgraded team that was stopped in the Finals last year. Smith wants to be a part of that, but will have to swallow some of his pride in order to make it happen.