It’s now been more than two months since the Cleveland Cavaliers parted ways with J.R. Smith and yet, the veteran shooting guard remains an official member of the team’s roster.
It doesn’t appear that will be changing anytime soon.
Although the NBA trade deadline is just two weeks away, it isn’t difficult to see that the Cavs have had a difficult time finding a market for Smith, who hasn’t been with the team since it announced a mutual parting on Nov. 20. Now, a new report has confirmed as much, with Kelly Iko of The Athletic revealing that trading Smith is said to be “easier said than done.”
“Good shooter, but hasn’t played up to standards in the last two seasons,” Iko wrote of Smith. “Has a partial guarantee for next season, but concerns about locker-room morale are real.”
Smith’s absence from the Cavs came as the result of an up-and-down start to the 2018-19 season, which saw him pulled from the team’s rotation on multiple occasions before publicly revealing he had asked for a trade. Following a loss to the Detroit Pistons in November that moved Cleveland’s record to 2-13, Smith accused his team of tanking during an interview with Jason Lloyd of The Athletic.
“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 said. “I think the goal is to develop and lose to get lottery picks. I think that was always the plan.”
As of Tuesday, the Cavs’ record stands at a league-worst 9-39.
With Smith reluctant to accept a buyout, Cleveland’s only choice to officially separate from the disgruntled shooting guard this season is to trade him prior to the Feb. 7 deadline. But with the 33-year-old still due the remainder of his $14.7 million salary this season, teams have appeared reluctant to acquire Smith and the damage he’s done to his reputation — perceived or real — hasn’t seemed to help.
Of course, all the Cavs need is for one team to feel that Smith is its missing piece for that to change. But with the deadline just two weeks away, time is running out. And if Cleveland can’t find a suitor, Smith’s official departure from the franchise would most likely come in the form of a $3.87 million buyout this summer.