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Update, 1 p.m. ET: J.R. Smith is reportedly done playing with the Cleveland Cavaliers, per The Athletic, while he vies for a trade.
JR Smith will no longer be actively with the Cavs, a league source tells me. He is working with the team to trade him, and in the meantime will work out on his own
— Joe Vardon (@joevardon) November 20, 2018
Original post: J.R. Smith leaves no doubt in his latest comments about the Cleveland Cavaliers: the team is tanking and he wants no part of it.
The 15-year-veteran has already said publicly he wants to be traded. He was even more clear in that stance for a story by Jason Lloyd of The Athletic regarding LeBron James’ return to Cleveland with the Los Angeles Lakers and the “rubble and emotions” he left behind.
Smith doesn’t think Cavs want to win
The Cavs insisted all summer they intended to compete after James left, but it wasn’t long into the young season the ruse was up.
“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 is well on its way, at 2-13, the worst record in the league. Two games in, before Kevin Love’s surgery and Tyronn Lue’s firing late last month, the team began benching veterans. Smith is averaging 20 minutes a game and started four.
Even teams “developing” will try to win games and the veteran guard/forward doesn’t want to be a part of a team that doesn’t, according to The Athletic.
“Not if the goal isn’t to compete, to win,” he said.
Smith doesn’t think a buyout is fair
Smith and the Cavs could come to a deal that would send him out, but Smith refuses to negotiate a buyout. He told The Athletic it would taint his legacy and give the wrong statement.
“I don’t think that’s fair to the people I see every single day walking around the arena,” he said. “I don’t think that’s fair to the trainers or equipment guys. … I just look at it differently than being traded.”
Everyone sees the tanking
George Hill, an 11-year veteran who acknowledged he could be gone by the trade deadline, reiterated Smith’s claims, telling The Athletic the move from competing to developing happened before the season opener.
“In the summer, it felt like politically you have to say we can still do these things because you want everyone to buy in to being here,” Hill said. “Once everybody is here, I don’t know. The directions change.”
Smith called it a move to “save face with everybody else.”
The Cavs owe the Atlanta Hawks their No. 1 pick in the 2019 draft if it falls outside of the top 10, per their January 2017 trade for Kyle Korver. That’s a lot of incentive to lose.
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