The Los Angeles Clippers players who had played with J.R. Smith were confident that the free agent guard would eventually sign with the Clippers.
In the end, those who didn’t know Smith as well but predicted he would sign with the team that offered him the most money proved to be right.
Smith signed with the New York Knicks Friday for a pro-rated share of their $2.5 million mini-midlevel exception and a player option for a second year. The Clippers were only able to offer Smith the veteran's minimum for the rest of this season.
Smith, who returned to the U.S. Thursday after playing in China, had spent the past two weeks hinting that he could sign with the Lakers, Clippers or Knicks on Twitter. He even tweeted Thursday night that he was watching the Clippers game at the airport and retweeted several tweets about the Clippers.
Chris Paul and Kenyon Martin said Wednesday night that they were confident Smith would sign with the Clippers and help replace Chauncey Billups, who was lost for the season last week with a ruptured Achilles tendon. Smith played with Martin and Billups in Denver and played with Paul in New Orleans. All three, along with Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro and general manager Neil Olshey, had been recruiting Smith to sign with the Clippers.
“I talk to J.R. all the time, whether he comes here or not,” Paul said Wednesday. “J.R. stays with me during the summer, he was at my wedding. He’s one of my really good friends and he knows we’d love him to be here.”
With Smith now in New York, the Clippers will turn their attention to possibly signing another shooting guard. Yahoo! Sports reported the team would hold workouts Friday for free agent guards Bobby Simmons and Jermaine Taylor. Simmons, who averaged a career-high 16.4 points and 5.9 rebounds with the Clippers during the 2004-2005 season, has been averaging 12.9 points and 6.9 rebounds for the Reno Big Horns of the NBA Development League this season.