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Report we all expected: J.R. Smith to test free agency

Apr 24, 2013, 2:01 PM EDT

John Starks, J.R. Smith AP

Strike when the iron is hot. It’s not just advice for blacksmiths; it applies to NBA free agency as well.

The iron is never going to be hotter for J.R. Smith, the freshly minted NBA Sixth Man of the Year. He averaged 18.9 points per game and was one of the key reasons the Knicks are considered a threat in the playoffs.

The man wants to get paid, and his option with the Knicks for next season will pay him a below market $2.9 million. So as expected he will test free agency, reports Chris Sheridan at

Smith has a player option for next season, and a source close to Smith tells that it is “very, very likely” that he will opt out of his contract and become an unrestricted free agent this summer.

If you’re thinking the Knicks will just pay whatever to re-sign him, welcome to the world of the new NBA CBA.

The Knicks are over the tax apron but have the “early Bird” rights to re-sign Smith, which means how much they can offer is limited. Sheridan explains it well.

An incumbent team (the Knicks in this case) can re-sign an early Bird free agent for the greater of either: (A) 175 percent of his salary under the terms of his immediately expired agreement, or (B) 104.5 percent of whatever the league’s average player salary is for the first year of the new deal….

Because Smith would be an early Bird free agent if he opts out this summer, under the first calculation, the Knicks can offer him a starting salary of $4.9 million by using the 175 percent rule….

But for all intents and purposes, we can safely assume that the average player salary will end up being around $5.34 million. Under the second calculation, the Knicks could give Smith a starting salary of $5.58 million.

What that means is the most the Knicks can offer is four years, $24.8 million (after raises). A team under the salary cap — say the Dallas Mavericks or Houston Rockets or a number of others — can come in over the top and offer more.

Not that any of them will, and it’s not to say Smith wants to jump ship. He likes New York. But the possibility is there and it’s tough to walk away from money on the table.

  1. jimmymarlinsfan - Apr 24, 2013 at 2:51 PM

    Come to Miami if he wants to win a title! 😉

  2. senorpapino - Apr 24, 2013 at 3:07 PM

    I think he only stays if he wants to be in New York. 19/5/3 per game with the potential to be the focal point of an offense has to be worth more to somebody than 5.58 million per.

    • fventricle - Apr 24, 2013 at 3:13 PM

      I think he fits well with NY. I do not think he can be the focal point of an offense for 48 minutes. I think he’s found his niche coming off the bench or being the 2nd scorer on a team.

      • fm31970 - Apr 24, 2013 at 10:17 PM

        I couldn’t agree more. He’s found the perfect fit, and he’s getting a $2M raise to boot, plus he gets a three year extension for all practical purposes. If the Knicks offer it, TAKE it.

  3. chrismt79 - Apr 24, 2013 at 3:10 PM

    After readying the second sentence my first thought was, he should be testing the waters regardless what color he is.

    • eboneseagles - Apr 24, 2013 at 3:19 PM

      Haha, booooo

    • eventhorizon04 - Apr 24, 2013 at 3:21 PM

      J.R. Smith is a black “Smith”


  4. eboneseagles - Apr 24, 2013 at 3:18 PM

    One of the main reasons he’s done so well this year is due to the mature players around him and perfect coach for him. With high character players like Kidd and Chandler pushing him and a coach that’s incredibly hard but believes in him, it’s easy to see how he flourished to become the 2nd best scorer on the team. I think if he was built around like Harden he’d put up almost 30 a game but would be wildly inefficient and have consistency issues. I think the situation he’s in is the best for him.

    • jaysay3178 - Apr 25, 2013 at 11:50 AM

      I like your point, the guy was a knuckle head. But the “Jason Kidd is a high character” remark struck a nerve. With Spouse abuse and a DUI which was recent on his resume this guy is far from “high character”. Oh how easily we forget.

  5. bifford - Apr 24, 2013 at 3:19 PM

    This guy is signing the biggest check he can cash. Cuban is desperate enough to throw a near-max deal at him too.

  6. Mr. Wright 212 - Apr 24, 2013 at 3:21 PM

    “We all expected” him to decline the option. However, that DOES NOT mean he’s “testing free agency.” It just means he has to do that so that he can have his salary doubled.

    Family, playing with Melo and other friends on the team and being close to his daughters means more than going to play with some also-ran. He is going nowhere.


    “On Friday’s episode of The Mike Woodson Show, I suggested Woody could be coaching JR out of affordability. His response:

    ‘JR is not going anywhere,’ Woodson replied.

    He then repeated it, looking right into the camera, as if speaking directly to Smith.”

    • eboneseagles - Apr 24, 2013 at 3:35 PM

      Yeah I doubt any other coach could get out of him what Woody has. That’s what people don’t realize. No other coach was able to get through to him prior to this year.

      • money2long - Apr 24, 2013 at 7:41 PM

        he needs the right support cast around him as well. smith has acknowledged the veterans in the locker room for having an impact in his growth as a player. coach woody has done that as well as helped him as a man off the court. jr smith’s dad has stated a noticed difference in his son when it comes to that.

    • heat256 - Apr 24, 2013 at 5:18 PM

      You discount the possibility a whacked out GM won’t offer him a max deal knowing his skills don’t translate as a starter and he flames out but has many years and a cap cloggin deal. This is the history of sports. Dumb personnel moves followed by regret and the clamoring to change the labor deals by the dumber owners.

    • anhdazman - Apr 25, 2013 at 11:18 AM

      Didn’t Woodson us the same comment about Lin at the end of last season?

      • Mr. Wright 212 - Apr 25, 2013 at 4:28 PM

        Completely different situation.

  7. eventhorizon04 - Apr 24, 2013 at 3:25 PM

    I think Smith is near certain to stay with the Knicks, unless some other team swoops in and makes a ridiculous offer like $11+ million per year (which I doubt).

  8. qpoiu1 - Apr 24, 2013 at 3:31 PM

    He can’t be the focal point of the team, but he will end up going somewhere he can be the 2nd or 3rd option with a much better salary, unless he loves NYC so much

  9. dysraw1 - Apr 24, 2013 at 8:55 PM

    we all know that there wasn’t a bunch of offers last summer after D Wade destroyed him in rd 1, and the fact he has 360ed his attitude an game has increased his value. we also all know that its not about loyalty in this business. but for a guy who was deemed the second coming of Jordan coming out of high school. yet to almost getting blackballed out the league, to becoming the sixth man of year. i think he knows were the bread is butter for him best. i just hope he gets the chance to see D Wade again and give what Wade gave him last year

    • fm31970 - Apr 24, 2013 at 10:22 PM

      “but for a guy who was deemed the second coming of Jordan”

      I think you meant Harold Miner. 😉

      I remember hearing about how George Karl tried to focus Smitth’s talent in Denver but couldn’t, so it’s nice to see it happening in NY.

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