There have been rumblings as of late that the Los Angeles Clippers are interested in the services of veteran shooting guard J.R. Smith, who is currently finishing out his season in China, once he becomes eligible for the NBA again on Wednesday. Furthering speculation, Chris Paul is openly lobbing for the acquisition.
"I think our chances are very high," Paul said Monday night after the Clippers' 96-92 loss to the Dallas Mavericks.
Smith recently announced via his Twitter feed that he expects to be back in the States by Wednesday. Although the Knicks can offer a prorated share of the $2.5 million mini-midlevel exception for the rest of the season, whereas L.A. can't pay more than the veteran minimum, Paul believes the presence of three of Smith's former teammates on the Clippers' roster and the minutes and shots opened up by the season-ending Achilles injury suffered by Chauncey Billups will be strong lures.
"Who knows J.R. better than me?" Paul said of Smith, his teammate for two seasons with the Hornets. Referring to Kenyon Martin and Billups, both of whom played with Smith in Denver, Paul attributes his optimism to "my relationship with J.R., Kenyon's relationship with him and Chauncey's relationship with him. Also he knows he'll have the opportunity to play here," Paul said. "He can only make us better."
As noted above, the Clippers are expected to have some competition in the form of the Knicks, who can pay Smith more, but are hoping that familiarity and fit are higher on his priority list.
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