NBA free agency rumors: Cavaliers to release JR Smith

The rebuilding Cavs will release Smith, who they’ve been unable to trade, to remain under the luxury tax line for 2018-19.

The Cavaliers are dribbling out the final seconds of JR Smith’s time with the team.

The Cavs plan to waive Smith on Monday evening, barring an unexpected trade involving the exiled shooting guard, cleveland.com reported, citing unidentified league sources.

The team has the option to extend to Aug. 1 the date at which his 2019-20 contract would be fully guaranteed. However, the Cavs feel it’s unlikely they’ll be able to trade him at this point so, instead, will waive him and spread his $4.3 million guaranteed over the next three years.

It ends an era in Cleveland in which Smith was part of NBA Finals teams. His shirtless celebration of the Cavaliers’ 2016 title was among his most memorable moments (Smith opened the second half Game 7 by making three 3-pointers in the first three minutes of the second half, erasing most of a Warriors lead).

His most meme-able moment? Game 1 of the 2018 Finals, when he grabbed a rebound at the end of the game and, forgetting that the Cavs weren’t winning, dribbled out most of the final seconds of the fourth quarter. It was a gaffe followed by LeBron James yelling at him and then walking away.

 

Smith also will be remembered for being visible on the city’s sports scene, a regular at Browns and Indians games. He even played in the celebrity softball game as part of this month’s MLB All-Star Game in Cleveland.

When Smith is officially waived, making him an unrestricted free agent, the Cavaliers will remain about $22 million over the cap, set at $109 million for the upcoming season but still under the luxury tax line of $132 million.

Talks of trading Smith began shortly after he was asked to leave the team in November, when the Cavs considered him a trade asset. Instead, they have been unable to complete any deals involving him (Cleveland had hoped to get a future first-round pick) and eventually saw waiving him and staying under the luxury tax line as a benefit itself.

It allows the Cavs to stay out of the repeater tax until they are ready to be competitive again, and it also gives them financial flexibility, something they view as important during this rebuild, according to cleveland.com.

Smith, 33, played in only 11 games in 2018-19 after agreeing to leave the team in November to await a trade or his release. A 15-year NBA veteran, he is a career 37 percent 3-point shooter.

 

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