Iman Shumpert and J.R. Smith Sent Packing
By Shane DiMaio
The New York Knicks and Team President Phil Jackson aren’t being coy about the team’s intentions regarding this season: they want to tank, and they want to tank hard.
On Monday, the Knicks played their part in a three-team trade that sent struggling N.Y. guards J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert to the Cleveland Cavaliers–a team with championship aspirations looking for a jumpstart to their starting lineup.
The Oklahoma City Thunder acquired former first-round pick Dion Waiters from the Cavs, and the Thunder, in turn, provided a protected first-round pick for Cleveland in next years upcoming NBA draft.
The New York Knicks received Lou Amundson, from the Cavs and soon to be waived, Alex Kirk from the Cavs, soon to be waived, Lance Thomas from the Thunder, also soon to be waived, and a 2019 second-round pick for the Thunder, four years away.
It’s clear that Smith and Shumpert weren’t having their best statistical seasons this year while wearing the orange and blue–Smith is averaging 10.3 points per game and Shumpert, just 9.3 points.
But what’s also clear is that Jackson didn’t decide to ship them off just because of their recent struggles. Jackson referenced both players in a statement to the media following the blockbuster trade, continuing to elaborate, as he has all year, on the notion that he wants guys who are a fit for his system.
“As our journey moves through this season, we will search for the type of players that fit the style we hope to exhibit for our fans” Jackson said in an interview.
Jackson, who has had total control over the Knicks roster since being hired as team president last summer, mostly inherited players from the previous regime, led by former General Manager, Glen Grunwald and former Head Coach Mike Woodson.
“Obviously I didn’t do the right thing in picking the group of guys that were here,” Jackson added, when asked if he feels partially responsible for the Knicks disastrous play all season. “A lot of it was etched in stone, we had guys with guaranteed contracts.”
The “Zen Master” continued to preach a message of calm and patience to disgruntled Knicks fans in a press release late Monday night, who now see their team sitting at an unbearable record of 5-32, after their most recent loss to the Memphis Grizzlies.
While the Knickerbockers sit all alone at the bottom of the NBA’s Eastern Conference standings, Jackson continues to remain positive when discussing the future of the organization.
“In addition, these transactions improve our flexibility to the current roster and the salary cap for future seasons,” Jackson divulged.
Jackson’s “big picture” approach to restructuring the core of this team starts with dumping long-term contracts that carry along guaranteed money, while preparing to free up cap space for this upcoming offseason in order to sign another marquee name to play alongside Melo–who just signed a 5-year extension last summer and isn’t getting any younger.
At the end of this season, the New York Knicks will likely be parting ways with all seven of their soon to be free agents: Quincy Acy, Travis Wear, Cole Aldrich, Andrea Bargnani, Shane Larkin, Jason Smith, and Amar’e Stoudemire.
Not only will New York be able to sign another max-salary player this summer, but if their atrocious play continues for the remainder of the season, the Knicks are likely to have the first overall pick in this year’s 2016 NBA draft–which will likely net them the highly coveted Duke center, Jahlil Okafor, who, in Knicks-fan-talk is “the second-coming of Patrick Ewing.”
So what do the Knicks really have to lose with this strategy in place? Nothing, but game after game, which they were already doing anyway. If all goes well, the Knicks will be looking at a completely refurbished roster come next season with Carmelo healthy, La-Marcus Aldridge starting at power-forward and Okafor donning the next number-one selling jersey in New York!
Or, the Knicks could tank all year and still somehow miss out on the draft-lottery. They can draft a bust in the middle of the first-round, not sign a big-name free agent, lose Melo for an extended amount of time due to knee surgery, and find themselves in the same position they’re currently in this year–minus two fan-favorite players, Smith, Shumpert, a former NBA Defensive-Player of the Year at center, Chandler, and hundreds upon hundreds of fair-weather fans who have decided to keep their money opposed to wasting it at The Garden to watch a bunch of D-leaguers play basketball.
Until then, there is only one thing left for Knicks fans to do: Hold on tight, pray, brace yourselves, pray some more, and prepare for non-stop trolling from Brooklyn Nets fans for the remainder of your team’s misery.