INDEPENDENCE, Ohio — The Cavaliers are coming off their first championship, but LeBron James will tell you it doesn’t mean they are whole.
“We’re still missing a huge piece of our team,” James said. “Once that is resolved, hopefully soon, we can really get into what we need to do.”
James was referring to J.R. Smith, the unrestricted free agent shooting guard. Smith started every game he played last season. He hit huge shots in the Cavs’ win over Golden State in the NBA Finals. He cheered on his teammates, kept things light. But he remains unsigned four days into training camp.
Smith is represented by Rich Paul and Klutch Sports. Paul is the same man who represents James — and Cavs center Tristan Thompson, an early contract holdout last season.
But James said he doesn’t exercise his power as the league’s resident superstar, that he doesn’t stick his nose in other people’s business affairs.
“I haven’t been part of any negotiations, from the front office side or from the agent’s side,” he said. “I just hate coming into another season with one of my big guns not here. I just hate to deal with this (stuff) again. He’s just too big of a piece to our team, and now we have to deal with it in another training camp.
“Like I said, hopefully things get resolved fast. You know how important he is to our team.”
Smith averaged 12.4 points in 30 minutes a game during the regular season. He shot 43 percent on 3-pointers in the playoffs, hitting a few biggies in Game 7 of the finals.
“Negotiations are always two-sided,” James said. “But J.R. did his part. He showed up and worked his butt off every day, became a two-way player, a model citizen in Cleveland, a fan favorite. We all know that.”
James then managed a smile.
“All of a sudden, now he’s a season-ticket holder at Indians games,” he said of Smith. “We just miss him, man. They just need to get it done.”
— Spencer Davies (@SpinDavies) September 30, 2016