The organization attempted several times to trade Smith, but never found the right deal. In releasing Smith, the Cavaliers opened valuable salary-cap space and will move under the luxury tax threshold starting in 2020, according to NBA.com.
After several weeks of speculation surrounding a potential Smith trade, the Cavaliers made it official in a statement released by the front office.
Thank you, @TheRealJRSmith 🏆
Smith’s time with the Cavaliers is officially over, but he’ll be remembered as a legend in Cleveland.
The legend’s time in Cleveland
While he’s remembered significantly more for his gaff in the 2018 NBA Finals, Smith will go down as one of the most important players in Cleveland’s history… or at least he should.
Acquired from the New York Knicks during the 2014-2015 season, Smith became the Cavaliers starting shooting guard. While this trade furthered Cleveland’s chance at their first NBA championship, Smith wasn’t seen as the centerpiece of the deal.
As time developed, Smith would play an integral role in the Cavaliers four consecutive Eastern Conference titles, but more importantly, their first ever championship.
During the 2016 NBA Finals against the Golden State Warriors, Smith appeared in and started every game. He averaged 10.6 points, 2.7 rebounds and 1.6 assists. Smith shot 36% from three-point range, helping the Cavaliers overcome the first ever 3-1 finals deficit. Without Smith’s incredible stretch during Game 7, the Cavaliers don’t win the championship.
Shortly after the Cavaliers won Game 7, The Undefeated released a report of Smith’s top-five moments from the NBA Finals. The top moment came from Smith’s daughter, Demi, who was asked what it was like to see her father play on the sports’ biggest stage.
“I’m just proud of him because he made the championship without getting kicked off the team,” she said.
Before arriving in Cleveland, Smith’s career had been under scrutiny. His only post-season accolade to that point, came during the 2012-2013 season. Smith was named as the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year with New York.
While the Game 1 moment in 2018 will still live in infamy, Smith can eventually retire as an NBA Champion, helping Cleveland finally overcome their previous title drought.
At the championship parade, Smith celebrated without a shirt. The “shirtless JR” emblem personified the Cavaliers first championship. Before the team’s visit to the White House as part of the celebratory championship tour, former President Barack Obama told former coach Tyronn Lue; “Tell J.R. and everybody to put on a shirt, though. He can’t be just walking around without a shirt for a whole week.”
By requirement, Smith wore a shirt to the White House. However, his shirtless escapade will forever symbolize the Cavaliers first championship.
Smith’s future remains uncertain
After his release from Cleveland on Monday, Smith’s future remains uncertain. The 14-year veteran will likely fit best as a role player with a championship contender. The Los Angeles Lakers won’t be one of those destinations, however. A reunion with former teammate and champion LeBron James always seemed likely, but ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported the Lakers aren’t a destination for Smith.
If he chooses to continue his professional career, Smith will likely garner interest from teams like the Houston Rockets, Milwaukee Bucks and Philadelphia 76ers among others.
Should Smith decide to retire, a possible career with the BIG3 league would be an entertaining watch for fans. The league is primarily composed of former NBA players; Smith would fit in perfectly with the types of players and game style this league contains.
During his five seasons with Cleveland, Smith gave the fans several unforgettable moments, for better or worse. While he didn’t participate in much action last season, it still stings to see one of Cleveland’s most beloved athletes officially leave the franchise.
“I’d rather take a contested shot than an open shot any day,” Smith once said. “It’s kind of boring when you take open shots.”
Thank you for everything, JR!
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