Let’s just say that LeBron James is not happy that the Cavaliers have failed to re-sign free agent J.R. Smith before training camp. He did little to hide his frustration after Friday’s training camp practice.
"I hate coming into another season, two years in a row, and one of my big guns is not here," James said, via FOX Sports Ohio’s Spencer Davies. "For a leader of the team, for me personally, I hate having to deal with this shit again. He’s just too big of a piece to our team to have to deal with this for another training camp."
Last season, the Cavaliers waited until Oct. 22 before reaching an agreement with Tristan Thompson, who became a key cog in their championship run. Now, another player James considers to be a core piece will begin the season away from the team. Smith started 77 games for the Cavaliers during the 2015-16 regular season, as well as all 21 of their playoff games.
"J.R. did his part. J.R. did his part," James said. "He showed up every day, worked his ass off every day, became a two-way player, model citizen in Cleveland. He’s a fan favorite. obviously we all know that. All of a sudden, he’s a season-ticket holder at the Indians games?"
Cavaliers general manager David Griffin said they have made Smith "a very competitive and aggressive offer," but Smith has declined to accept it.
Smith is represented by Rich Paul, who is also the agent for Thompson and James. Paul is known to drive a hard bargain and is likely looking for a large multi-year sum for his client. The Cavaliers are already past the luxury tax line, so bringing Smith back would be costly and could severely limit their future flexibility.
But with very few teams possessing the cap flexibility necessary to sign Smith, it should be a matter of time before the two sides reach an agreement like Thompson and the Cavaliers did last season. While James agrees that the most likely scenario involves Smith returning, he’s not making any guarantees.
"I always reference buying a house," LeBron said. "You go find a house, you do all the negotiations and all that. You never get the house until you close and get the keys."