CLEVELAND — J.R. Smith can being launching away for the Cavaliers.
After sitting out most of training camp, the free agent shooting guard re-signed Saturday with the defending NBA champions, who now have all their starting pieces in place to begin defending their title.
Smith made a franchise record 204 3-pointers last season and was a major contributor during the Cavs’ run to the first championship by a Cleveland team since 1964. His agents were in a stalemate with the Cavs for weeks, unable to come to terms on a deal to keep him in Cleveland.
But the sides were able to come to terms Friday on a four-year, $57 million contract, a person with direct knowledge of the negotiations told the Associated Press on Friday night. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the team’s policy is not to divulge contract terms.
Smith’s deal guarantees him more than $45 million in the first three years of the deal, the $15 million per season he was looking for when negotiations opened this summer. If he stays four seasons, he will get $57 million.
“Bringing J.R. back as part of our core group was a priority for us,” Cavs 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. 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.”
Smith is expected to practice Sunday and he could play in the preseason finale Tuesday night in Columbus against Washington. The Cavs open the regular season on Oct. 25 against New York.
The 31-year-old Smith has become not only a valuable player, but one of the most popular among Cleveland’s fan base. The tattooed-adorned Smith, nicknamed “Swish” by his teammates and fans, was a huge hit when he rode shirtless in the team’s championship parade last June. Smith has also been a regular at Indians games in the past month.
He averaged 12.4 points and shot 40 percent on 3-pointers in 77 games regular-season games. At 6-foot-6, he was also one of the team’s best defenders, able to handle smaller guards on the perimeter.
When the Cavs came back to beat Golden State 3-1 in the NBA Finals, Smith made two critical 3-pointers in the opening minutes of the second half in Game 7 to spark Cleveland’s rally.