J.R. Smith Finally Agree On 4yr $57 Million Contract with | The Champions Cleveland Cavaliers
Smith back in fold with Cavaliers: The holdout of Smith was the only real “drama” of the NBA preseason and it ended rather predictably and quietly Friday when the veteran guard signed a four-year, $57 million deal.
The Cavs are now whole and ready to begin defense of their NBA title. They were in a weird situation with Smith; while he had no real leverage (all but a few non-contenders were too capped to sign him), the Cavs had no real replacement for him. Anyway, he will likely end his career in Cleveland and what a career it has been. The saga of JR was captured recently by Charles Bethea of the New Yorker:
During J.R.’s first two years in the league, his father lived with him in New Orleans, in a house that J.R. bought, enforcing most of the rules his other children obeyed in Millstone. “I bought a house and cars, but I was sleeping in the guest room,”J.R. told me. “My dad got the master!”He had a curfew: midnight if there was no game the next day, otherwise earlier.
When the veteran players invited him somewhere, he’d say, “I gotta call my dad.”His father had final say on cars, too. “I wanted to get this BMW that had just come out,”a model that his friend Dwight Howard, who went first in the draft, had just purchased. “My pops said, ‘No. He was the No. 1 pick. You were eighteen. You’re gonna work for that.’ ”
Smith put up decent numbers in his first few seasons, but he was criticized for poor shot selection and questionable decision-making. One of his first coaches, George Karl, said, of Smith’s play, “I just love the dignity of the game being insulted right in front of me.” After several years in Denver, and one in China, Smith was acquired by the Knicks, in 2012. In his first full season with the team, he won the Sixth Man of the Year Award, given to the league’s best bench player. But there were signs of an impending collapse. He’d helped get his younger brother Chris on the team, and then posted the word “betrayal”on Instagram after the Knicks cut him. (Smith says the post was unrelated.) He’d thrown an elbow at the Celtics’Jason Terry during the Knicks’playoff run, in 2013, which earned him a game suspension that nearly cost the team the series.
“Nothing I did in New York was working by the end, before going to Cleveland,”he told me. He couldn’t get the balance right between work and life. “At one point I thought I was at the gym too much.”He’d spend hours there working on his fundamentals, but it didn’t help. “So I started going out a lot, thinking I was taking the game too seriously. Then I partied too much. That wasn’t working.
So I started messing with this girl, changing things up relationship-wise. That wasn’t working. Then I was having trouble with my daughter’s mom. And I’m like, Man, what’s going on? I couldn’t get out of my own way. I tried to have fun on the court, pulling somebody’s shoestring: fifty-thousand-dollar fine. I’d been doing that for years. Then the weed: suspended five games. It was like, This thing will not stop.”
On the subject of shoelaces, Smith became almost agitated, leaning forward in his swivel chair, his sleepy eyes widening. “Dwight was untying laces for four or five years,”he said, “but nobody said anything! They’re just like, ‘Look how much Dwight enjoys the game!’Then I do it, and the same people are like, ‘Look at J.R.: he doesn’t take the game seriously.’
Why is it that Dwight loves the game and I don’t? Why can’t I have that much fun playing? How can you say one person can do something and another can’t? Because he gets paid more? Smiles bigger?”
A young boy tiptoed into the room, with his mother, to ask for an autograph, and one for his grandma, too, who, he said, was a big fan. Smith happily obliged, performing the name-signing ritual with what appeared to be genuine pleasure. After they left, Smith continued. “When I was the best player growing up, my dad never treated me like I was special. Nobody treated me that way, until I got to the N.B.A. To this day, probably one reason they call me a knucklehead is that I can’t understand: Why can’t you treat everybody the same?”
Lately, Smith has spent a lot of time reading. “There’s a book called ‘Black Rednecks and White Liberals.’ It’s amazing,”he said. The book is by the economist Thomas Sowell, who grew up in Harlem in the nineteen-forties and is now a fellow at the Hoover Institution, at Stanford. “I was talking to ’Bron, James Jones, and a couple guys in the locker room—a lot of us like to read—tossing around ideas about books and, from a political standpoint, how people came to be ‘ghetto’or ‘urban.’That book has twisted my mind. ‘Ghetto’was first used to describe white folks!”
Smith would like to speak out, as his friends LeBron and Carmelo have recently, about police violence against African-Americans. But he worries about how he’d be interpreted. “I can’t say what I want and how I want,” he told me. “Because it’s me. When I try to explain myself or express myself, it seems to come off the wrong way. Like, when I was in New York, four or five years ago, the anniversary of September 11th comes up and I make an Instagram post for all the people who died, to celebrate their lives.”
The post read, “Celebrate the deaths of the people in 9/11!”“I was trying to say, We shouldn’t mourn as much. We should celebrate their legacies,” Smith explained. “Don’t get me wrong: it’s terrible what happened. The families going through it still—it’s horrible. But we should celebrate. That’s what I said. And the way it was interpreted by the New York Post was ‘Yay! They knocked down the towers!’ ”
For a few years, Smith’s business partners have been trying to fund a reality-television show about him, which—according to one rationale—would help correct misperceptions. “That show was something I was going to do when I was in New York,”. During the N.B.A. Finals, a fund-raising campaign for the show appeared on Kickstarter.
Smith says he wasn’t behind it, and doesn’t particularly care whether the show ever comes to fruition. “But now it doesn’t matter what other people say or think or do, as long as my daughters know what’s going on, how I feel about them,”Smith said. “I used to say it all the time: ‘I don’t care what people think.’ Well, I did. But, at this point, I’ve got my family, who’ve been my friends my whole life. They know where my heart is.”