The team issued a statement Tuesday acknowledging the arrangement.
“The organization wishes JR and his family well and appreciates and thanks him for his contributions in the community, to the team and his role in the 2016 NBA Championship,” it said.
Smith and the Cavaliers’ front office have been at odds all season. General manager Koby Altman previously discussed him leaving the team and Smith had chosen to remain. But the situation was inflamed Monday when Smith gave an interview to The Athletic in which he essentially accused the Cavs of tanking.
“I don’t think the goal is to win. The goal isn’t to go out there and try to get as many wins as you can,” Smith told The Athletic. “I think the goal is to develop and lose to get lottery picks. I think that was always the plan.”
Cleveland star Kevin Love, appearing on The Jump along with teammate Channing Frye and former teammate Richard Jefferson, said the Cavs are skewing younger, but it’s hard to see a veteran like Smith leave after four consecutive trips to the NBA Finals.
“It is tough to lose a guy like that when you have been in the trenches with him and you have been to war with him,” Love said. “[Frye and Jefferson] know what JR has meant to this team and this city. He was one of the fan favorites and he was a guy who played both sides of the ball.”
Smith, who played just six minutes in the Cavs’ loss in Detroit on Monday night, had already requested a trade and now will work out privately until one can be implemented. The two sides are not currently considering a buyout arrangement, sources said. Smith is earning $14.7 million this season, and $3.8 million of his $15.6 million salary for next season is guaranteed.
Playing time for Smith had a role in coach Tyronn Lue being fired by the franchise earlier this season. Lue favored veteran players like Smith, Frye and Kyle Korver, whereas the front office preferred that the Cavs play younger players, including rookie point guard Collin Sexton.
The Cavs are 2-13 and Love is out indefinitely following toe surgery, though he did say on The Jump that he expects to be back “sometime after the new year.” If the Cavs’ draft pick doesn’t fall in the top 10 this season, the selection goes to the Atlanta Hawks as part of a 2017 trade for Korver. That factor could incentivize the Cavs to make sure they finish with one of the worst records in the league.
Smith’s contract is grandfathered in to a quirk in the collective bargaining agreement allowing for his full salary in the 2019-20 season to be counted in possible trades. Under the new rules, only the guaranteed portion of a salary can be counted for matching purpose. So Smith’s contract has a measure of value in trade next summer, and because of this the Cavs have been reluctant to proceed with a buyout, sources said.
Smith, 33, is averaging a career-low 6.7 points and shooting just 34 percent this season.