Are the Cavaliers tanking? It sure feels like it. After firing Tyronn Lue, and potentially shutting down Kevin Love for an extended period of time, the Cavs have now informed J.R. Smith that they’re not going to guarantee his minutes. With Cleveland moving in a more developmental role this leaves veterans like Smith in that kind of situation.
Smith was apparently unhappy with the decision, as to be expected, but what followed is a little unclear at the moment. ESPN’s Brian Windhorst is reporting that Smith requested to take time away from the team following the minutes reduction while Smith says that he was given the option to leave, but he chose to stay.
While that situation plays out, the Cavs had to manage another issue on the team Tuesday with veteran guard JR Smith. For the second time this season, Smith was informed he would be removed from the rotation and not receive guaranteed playing time, sources said. Smith was upset by the news and considered taking some time away from the team, sources said. Smith decided to stay for the time being, but he didn’t play in Tuesday night’s 136-114 win over the Atlanta Hawks.
So whether Smith considered the possibility of leaving himself, or if the Cavs offered it to him, it’s clear that Smith is not in the Cavs future plans at all. They would probably be best trading him sooner rather than later before the veteran wing becomes too disgruntled with his situation, but he’s being professional by choosing to stick around with the Cavs which should look good to any teams interested in trading for him.
The Cavs midseason restructuring is extremely odd, but it’s at least finally establishing a direction for the franchise. They entered the season unsure of what they wanted to be, but it’s becoming clearer with every decision that they’re going to take the longterm route and rebuild. That starts by moving on from veterans like Smith.