In a bid to make major changes within the basketball team, New York Knicks president Phil Jackson engaged in a fire sale on Monday with two other teams as he cleared the roster in order to improve the Knicks' fortunes in an otherwise lackluster NBA season.
According to Marc Berman of the New York Post, Jackson shipped shooting guards J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert to play with LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers and, in a separate transaction, waived center Samuel Dalembert, whose contract would have been guaranteed in stone Saturday. The trade became official on Monday night.
"As our journey moves through this season, we will search for the type of players that fit the style we hope to exhibit to our fans," Jackson said in a statement. "Our desire is to improve our ability to compete."
Peter Botte of New York Daily News reported that Jackson added future cap flexibility during the trade, which will also send guard Dion Waiters from the Cavaliers to the Oklahoma City Thunder. In return for the "salary-dumping deal," the Knicks get Lance Thomas from the Thunder and Alex Kirk and Lou Amundson from Cleveland, along with a second-round pick in 2019; all three players have non-guaranteed contracts.
"These transactions improve our flexibility to the current roster and the salary cap for future seasons," Jackson said.
Berman reported that the deal was made to clear out more cap room for free agency this summer, which is an estimated $33 million. Smith, who had been a controversial figure within the Knicks roster, was due to make $6.4 million this season, despite the fact he had an opt-out clause in his contract.
Knicks coach Derek Fisher commented on the trade of the players made by Jackson.
"I spoke to each of them before the game and told them how much I appreciate the efforts made in the transition process," Fisher said. "Those guys made the effort to do so."
Fisher added that players with expiring contracts "don't necessarily have possibly a long-term future," noting that Jackson "is continuing to look at how we transition as we change the culture of the New York Knicks."
Botte reported that Jackson's moves would help save the Knicks another $2 million of Dalembert's $3.8 million deal for the remainder of the year. In addition, Smith will receive a trade "kicker" worth more than $533,000 from the Knicks.
The changes came during an awful season for the New York team; the Knicks lost their 12th straight game Monday to the Memphis Grizzlies 105-83. According to the New York Post, this loss placed the team at a 5-32 record, tying a franchise record.
However, Fisher thought that Jackson was not done rebuilding the Knicks yet.
"I don't think this is the end of this process," Fisher said. "Although right now we're losing some pieces, I'm hopeful that our front office is still being very aggressive to try to add some guys that can help us build this team going forward."