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J.R. Smith says Cavs’ goal is to ‘lose to get lottery picks’

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Smith tells The Athletic that he still wants out of Cleveland.

NBA: Oklahoma City Thunder at Cleveland Cavaliers David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

J.R. Smith may be playing more lately, but that doesn’t mean he’s any happier with his situation.

In an interview with The Athletic’s Jason Lloyd, Smith reiterated his desire to leave the Cavs via trade — he doesn’t want to be bought out — and said he does not have a relationship with GM Koby Altman. Smith also said he believes that the Cavs are tanking, and that it was always the plan to do so despite public statements indicating otherwise.

“I don’t think the goal is to win. The goal isn’t to go out there and try to get as many wins as you can,” Smith said, per The Athletic. “I think the goal is to develop and lose to get lottery picks. I think that was always the plan.” He also said that Cavs said they wanted to win to “save face.”

George Hill agreed with Smith, per The Athletic.

“I think it recalibrated before Game 1 was even played,” Hill said. “In the summer, it felt like politically you have to say we can still do these things because you want everyone to buy in to being here. Once everybody is here, I don’t know. The directions change.”

What Smith is saying here makes an uncomfortable situation with him even more uncomfortable. There is clearly tension here that isn’t going to be resolved and it’s telling that Hill backed up Smith. If veterans in the locker room believe the Cavs are tanking — and it certainly seems like they might be right based on how this season has gone — then it’s tough to see why they’d buy into the organization.

The problem here, though, is that trading Smith is much easier said than done. He was a small guarantee on his deal for next season that may make trading him harder. Plus, he’s making $14.72 million this year. That’s a decent sized salary to match.

So, unless a team does come calling, maybe Smith will have to accept a buyout to get his wish and leave the Cavs. But if not, and he sticks around, it doesn’t seem like he’ll be any happier about it.