You would have been forgiven for wondering, even assuming. LeBron likes his guys, those role players he has repeatedly gathered around him at every stop in his role as shadow GM. J.R. Smith is one of his guys. Yes, even after that.
At exactly 5 p.m. on Monday, the deadline arrived for the Cavaliers to either waive or trade Smith before his $15.6 million deal became partially guaranteed. They’d been trying to trade him since last fall with no takers, and none emerged in the final minutes. So they’ve waived him, and because no one wants him on that contract, he’ll soon be an unrestricted free agent, free to sign with any team he likes, and that would like him.
We were given just 17 minutes to get those jokes off about Smith reuniting with LeBron before Woj poured water on the whole thing.
Now who could “league sources” possibly be? Not Smith or his agent; he’d be delighted to reconcile with LeBron in L.A. No, this was the Lakers getting out ahead of the story, publicly informing not just Smith but all of us that he’d better consider some other options.
It was a rough year for Smith, who played just 11 games before the Cavs shut him down in November because, as the AP not-so-delicately puts it, “he wasn’t happy with his role and the Cavaliers didn’t want him to be a negative influence on their young players.” Smith turns 34 in September, and the Cavs needed to get out from under his contract in order to get below the luxury tax (how that roster was above the luxury tax line, I’ll never know), so it was a sure thing that he was gone one way or another. Maybe he’ll catch on somewhere, given that he’ll likely come relatively cheap, but it won’t be with his old friend LeBron. Maybe he and Carmelo can run it back for the Knicks.