J.R. Smith opts for free agency; LeBron 'very engaged' with Cavs

INDEPENDENCE, Ohio - J.R. Smith did not inform the Cleveland Cavaliers he planned on opting into his $6.4 million contract for next season by Thursday's 11:59 p.m. ET deadline and thus will become an unrestricted free agent on July 1 by default, according to Cavs general manager David Griffin.

"If it's the right situation for us, yeah," Griffin said late Thursday night when asked if the Cavs are interested in re-signing Smith. "We certainly intend to pursue those conversations."

The 11-year veteran was acquired in a trade with the New York Knicks in January and fit in seamlessly from the jump, helping the Cavs finish the regular season 34-13 once the deal was made.

Smith was instrumental in the Cavs' Eastern Conference finals sweep of Atlanta, averaging 18.0 points on 50 percent shooting from the field and 47.1 percent from 3 along with 7.5 rebounds in four games, but struggled mightily in the Finals against Golden State. He averaged 11.5 points on 31.2 percent from the floor and 29.4 percent from 3, along with 4.3 rebounds in the Cavs' championship-round loss to the Warriors.

Smith, who turns 30 in September, is one of several key members of the Cavs team that came two wins short of a ring that will be seeking new contracts this summer. They include Kevin Love, who opted out of the final year of his contract earlier this week, as well as Tristan Thompson, Iman Shumpert and Matthew Dellavedova, who will be seeking new deals this offseason.

LeBron James also has until June 29th to opt in to his contract for next season, worth $21.6 million, or join that aforementioned pool as an unrestricted free agent.

Griffin said James has yet to tell the Cavs his plans "relative to free agency" but added that there has been frequent communication between James and the franchise since the Finals ended.

"We've heard from him every day, pretty much, relative to our roster," Griffin said. "He's very engaged with us."

When a reporter suggest that James has a history of going dark this time of year, Griffin retorted it's been just the opposite this June. "He's not dark," Griffin said. "It's been great. He's been very much engaged with us on a lot of different levels, so it's positive."

When asked if he was concerned that Love could visit with other potential suitors -- the Los Angeles Lakers, Portland Trail Blazers, Boston Celtics, Phoenix Suns and Houston Rockets have all been reported to have some interest in the power forward's services -- Griffin said, "not really, no."

"Again, I think he's been very clear with what his intentions have been all along," Griffin said. "Certainly, anytime he's stood in front of anybody, he's said that. I'm not concerned about it, yet at the same time, we're very much intending to pursue him the instant that we're able to."

Griffin also openly admitted to the team's intention this offseason to try to find a trade partner for Brendan Haywood, whose salary balloons to $10.5 million for next season with a qualifying offer.

"I hate thinking of it as the 'Haywood chip,' because we really like Brendan and he knows that," Griffin said. "I think it's really important to us that we get the right piece for advancing ourselves in any trade we make, and obviously, we're hopeful that as we head into free agency, the flexibility we have because of the way his contract is structured will allow us to get somebody that's the right fit for us and fills a need for us, I guess. But we're not going to choose need over great players. So we're going to do whatever we can to increase the talent level of our team, whatever that looks like."