LeBron James Says The Unsigned J.R. Smith Is ‘The Most Liked Guy On The Team’

Last week, LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers hosted a mini-camp in California. James spent time filming part of their workout, showing clips of everyone in the gym with one notable exception: JR Smith.

Smith opted out of his contract back in July and the free agent still hasn’t come to terms on a new deal with the team — which means that he’s absent for Cleveland’s media day, too. Despite where things stand, however, James believes that Smith will be back with the team, and a huge reason for that is that everyone loves him.

“First of all, JR is probably the most liked guy on the team,” James began when asked about whether Smith’s contract situation will play out in the same way Tristan Thompson’s did last offseason. “I’m not going to get into the contract issue or if there’s an issue at all between both sides. I believe that both sides will get it done. Well all know […] that JR is a huge piece of our team — without him we don’t win a championship last year. He brings a dimension to our team that we just don’t have. He’s a two-way player, he’s a space guy and he’s a great locker room guy — he’s been great in the community.”

James isn’t the only Cavalier who feels Smith is essential to the team’s success. Thompson shared that sentiment during his media day interview.

The general consensus is that Smith will be back with the Cavaliers at some point. Last season, Smith was making $5 million and he’s reportedly asking for triple that to come back to Cleveland. While that seems unrealistic, the two parties compromising on a deal somewhere in the middle could keep both franchise and player happy as they try to defend their title.

(via World Wide Rob)