JR Smith Opts Out Of Contract With New York Knicks

Brian MaziqueCorrespondent IIIJune 26, 2013

NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 23:  J.R. Smith #8 of the New York Knicks celebrates during their 87-71 win against the Boston Celtics during Game two of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals of the 2013 NBA Playoffs at Madison Square Garden on April 23, 2013 in New York City.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
Al Bello/Getty Images

J.R. Smith has opted out of his contract to become a free agent. 

The NBA announced the news on their website:

Sixth Man of the Year J.R. Smith has informed the New York Knicks that he will decline the option in his contract for next season and become a free agent...

...Smith's decision was not a surprise given that he can make much more than the $2.9 million he was scheduled to earn next season.

The New Jersey product is happy in New York and is a longtime teammate of Carmelo Anthony so he would likely want to stay with the right offer.

Smith averaged 18.1 points in 80 regular-season games but his horrendous 29 percent shooting and poor decisions over the final eight postseason games could scare off potential suitors.

ESPN's Ian Begley provided more insight:

Tuesday was the deadline for Smith to inform the Knicks...

...Still, retaining Smith is the Knicks' top offseason priority, according to a league source. They can offer him a contract starting at approximately $5 million per season with standard raises over four years, using the Early Bird exception.

This was originally rumored by Jared Zwerling of ESPN New York who reported that sources indicated these were Smith's intentions during the first week in June.

The New York Knicks mercurial star and NBA Sixth Man of the Year is due a noteworthy raise after perhaps his best season. 

Despite struggling with his shooting during the Knicks' loss to the Indiana Pacers in the Eastern Conference semifinals, Smith was a valuable asset for the team during the regular season.

He averaged 18.1 points per game and took up much of the scoring slack while Carmelo Anthony was injured.

Opting out does not automatically mean Smith will leave the Knicks. This move simply means New York will have to pay Smith a base of $4.9 million for four years via the Early Bird exception with standard raises annually to keep him, Zwerling explains.

It doesn't seem like an unreasonable deal considering Smith took home the award for top reserve in the league. That said, re-signing Smith will create a bit of a conundrum for the Knicks.

If the team maintains Smith's services as well as Chris Copeland, who was extended a qualifying offer on Tuesday, and Pablo Prigioni, New York would have just 10 players under salary. It would have to fill the remaining spots on the roster with players willing to play for the veteran's minimum salary and the team's lone draft pick (the 24th overall selection).

The 2013-14 Knicks could look a lot like the team that couldn't handle the Pacers last month. However, continued chemistry would allow the team to grow and gel together as they work to get to the Eastern Conference finals in their quest to bring a championship to New York. 


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