J.R. Smith will no longer be going shirtless as a member of the Cavaliers.
Unable to trade the colorful but enigmatic shooting guard, the Cavs waived the 33-year-old Smith on Monday afternoon.
Smith was under contract for almost $15.7 million for the coming season, but only $3.9 million of that was guaranteed. Prior to the June 30 deadline to trade him, the Cavs and Smith agreed to increase the guaranteed amount to $4.4 million in order to give the team until Monday to move him.
Cavs general manager Koby Altman, concerned about taking back a salary that would put his rebuilding team into the luxury tax, was unable to find a suitor and decided against extending the deadline to Aug. 1.
That means Smith, an integral part of Cleveland’s 2016 championship team but basically paid $14.7 million to stay home last season, will be an unrestricted free agent when he clears waivers at 5 p.m. Wednesday.
In order to stay out of the luxury tax, the Cavs will stretch Smith’s guaranteed money over the next three seasons at $1.47 million per, which will count on the team’s salary cap each year.
The 6-foot-6, 225-pound Smith was a starter on Cleveland teams that reached the NBA Finals from 2015-18. The highlight of that four-year stretch was winning the franchise’s first — and only — title in 2016, after which Smith went shirtless for weeks, including at the team’s championship parade through downtown Cleveland.
“Swish” was pivotal in Game 7 at Oracle Arena in 2016, hitting back-to-back 3-pointers early in the third period as the Cavs came back to beat Golden State and become the only team in Finals history to win a title after being down 3-1 in the best-of-seven series.
The 2018 Finals didn’t go so well for Smith, who drew the ire of superstar LeBron James after failing to know the score in the closing seconds of Game 1 vs. the Warriors. The Cavs lost that game in overtime and ended up getting swept.
Smith was still a starter for the James-less Cavs when last season started, but when All-Star power forward Kevin Love got injured and the team went into total rebuilding mode, the organization paid him to stay away from the team for the rest of the season. He appeared in just 11 games in 2018-19.
The Cavs thought for some time that Smith’s expiring, mostly non-guaranteed contract would be a huge trade chip in the offseason, but were unable to get a deal done before, during or after the June 20 NBA Draft.
With nearly as many fines and suspensions as he has tattoos, Smith has played 15 NBA seasons and will turn 34 on Sept. 19.
He could sign with a contending team for the 10-year-plus veteran league minimum of $2.56 million, with $1.62 million of that counting toward his new club’s salary cap.
Acquired from New York on Jan. 5, 2015, in a three-team trade that also included Oklahoma City, Smith played in 255 games (222 starts) for the Cavs, averaging 10.3 points and 2.9 rebounds in 29.3 minutes.
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