J.R. Smith First of the Knicks' Dominoes to Fall
The New York Knicks are in need of some serious rotation help, and though they won't really have an opportunity to fill out their roster until the beginning of free agency (the Knicks traded away their 2012 first round pick), we've already seen the first bit of offseason business begin to take shape.
According to Howard Beck of The New York Times, J.R. Smith has declined his $2.4 million player option for the 2012-2013 season, officially making him an unrestricted free agent. That said, Beck also reported that Smith intends to re-sign with the team for a longer-term deal, which would not use the team's mid-level exception:
Lots of questions re Smith. He qualifies as non-Bird, which means he can get 20% raise and multiyear. Won't need MLE.— Howard Beck (@HowardBeckNYT) June 25, 2012
Smith can be incredibly problematic as a player, and his shot selection even more so. Still, the Knicks are so dreadfully thin on the bench that having a resident gunner isn't an altogether horrible idea. Welcoming Smith back into the fold may be giving chaos itself a warm embrace, but considering the alternatives and the Knicks' self-imposed salary cap misery, this legitimately may be one of the best moves that New York can possibly make. That's a sobering thought in itself, but I suppose a comforting one given that the Knicks have so often scoffed in the face of logic.
Still, Smith's fate was—and is—hardly the most intriguing element of the Knicks' offseason. There were rumblings of this possibility long before it happened, and though Smith still has yet to ink a new contract with New York, it seems likely that both sides should be able to come to an agreement in short order.
What remains to be seen is where the Knicks go from there. The Bird rights of Jeremy Lin and Steve Novak are still up in the air, and the team has but a slight mid-level exception to use in order to address several glaring weaknesses—not to mention the problematic issues that exist within the already existing Knicks core.
There's a long way to go yet, but with the Finals behind us, the draft impending, and moves like this one offering minute clarity, we're closer to seeing the end product of the Knicks' offseason, constructed with minute bit by minute bit.
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