J.R. Smith is to return to the Cleveland Cavaliers after signing a new deal following a lengthy off-season negotiation for the veteran shooting guard, the NBA Champions announced on Saturday.
Smith’s contract is reportedly a four-year agreement worth as much as US$57 million, incentives potentially boosting the deal beyond the US$14 million per season he had sought.
The 31-year-old long-range sharpshooter last season played in 77 games for the Cavaliers, averaging 12.4 points, 2.8 rebounds and 1.1 steals in 30.7 minutes per contest.
“Bringing J.R. back as part of our core group was a priority for us,” Cavaliers general manager David Griffin said. “He’s a special part of this family and we are very pleased to have reached an agreement that we all can feel good about.”
Cleveland made the greatest comeback in NBA Finals history to defeat the Golden State Warriors in seven games and claim the city’s first major sports crown in half a century.
“We know he can’t wait to get back on the court with his brothers and we are certain that everyone in this organization and city feels the same way,” Griffin said.
Smith ranked seventh in the NBA last season with a club-record 204 three-pointers, shooting better than 40 percent from beyond the arc.
In the playoffs, Smith started all 21 games for the Cavaliers, averaging 11.5 points, 3.2 rebounds and 1.2 steals in 34.8 minutes per game. His club record 65 playoff three-pointers were the fourth-most by any NBA player in a post-season run.
Over more than 839 games in a 12-year NBA career, Smith has averaged 13.2 points, 3.2 rebounds, 2.2 assists and 1.02 steals for New Orleans, Denver, New York and the Cavaliers.
Cavaliers superstar LeBron James had been critical of the team taking so long to sign Smith, saying he was vital to Cleveland’s repeat bid and concerned other clubs might sign him.
Smith can join his teammates tomorrow for the Cavaliers’ final pre-season exhibition game against Washington in Columbus, Ohio, before Cleveland raise the championship banner in the Oct. 25 season opener against Smith’s former team, the visiting New York Knicks.
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