Clippers to Sign J.R. Smith? With What Money?

According to a report in the LA Times (h/t ProBasketballTalk), the Clippers hope to make a run at free-agent swingman J.R. Smith.

The Clippers, still not done dealing after signing Kenyon Martin on Friday, will pursue guard J.R. Smith after the team he plays on in the Chinese Basketball Assn. finishes its season and he becomes eligible to play in the NBA, said a person not authorized to speak publicly on the matter.

Interesting, that. Perhaps the Clippers, made giddy by their recent successes in the trade and free-agent markets, have forgotten how player acquisition works in the NBA.

After signing K-Mart, the Clippers’ payroll stands at $64,421,613 – according to the records meticulously maintained by Mark Deeks at ShamSports.com. That figure exceeds this season’s salary cap by six-and-change million. That means the best they’ll be able to offer Smith is a veteran’s minimum contract – roughly $850,000 – similar to what the Knicks are paying Baron Davis and Mike Bibby.

One problem. Just last week, in an interview on SNY, Smith’s father scoffed at the idea of the Knicks signing his son, because New York can only offer the $2.5 million “space” exception.

I have no idea to what degree the senior Smith speaks for his son. But it seems fair to say that, if $2.5 million isn’t enough, $850k isn’t going to get it done.

About Charlie Zegers

Charlie is an NBA columnist on @Rotowire, @TheKnicksWall, @BallerMindFrame, and a supporter of the no-layup rule and Oakley's Car Wash.

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