New York Knicks president Phil Jackson addressed his motivations for trading J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert in a piece by longtime Jackson confidant Charley Rosen published on ESPN.com.
Rosen’s piece is the fourth of an ongoing series detailing the Knicks’ worst season in franchise history. Monday’s installment deals largely with Jackson’s decision to trade Smith and Shumpert to the Cleveland Cavaliers in exchange for journeyman forward Lou Amundson, small forward Lance Thomas and a 2019 second-round pick.
“J.R. had been exhibiting some delinquent behavior and had gotten into the habit of coming late to team meetings, or missing them altogether,” Jackson said. “I also said that because of his unacceptable behavior, he had two strikes against him with this team. He didn't really respond. He's a very sensitive guy, with his big doe eyes. He looked like he was going to tear up. But he finally responded that he was going through some issues with his gal.”
Jackson also said that head coach Derek Fisher thought Smith “always walked around under a dark cloud” and Fisher “was worried that negative energy was contagious.”
Jackson said he liked Shumpert, “but he has a very loud, big personality. It was difficult for most of the other guys to deal with, especially if things don't go well for him or the team.”
Jackson ultimately decided to trade both Smith and Shumpert as a way to clear cap space.
“We made the trade to Cleveland because that was the best place to get J.R. and Shump playing ball the right way,” Jackson told Rosen. “The money that comes back to our cap situation is the benefit of these trades. We need to get out from under our obligations of contracts.”
Shumpert went on to average 7.2 points and 3.8 rebounds per game throughout the rest of the season in Cleveland, playing a smaller offensive role with the Cavs. Smith played more minutes in Cleveland and averaged 12.7 points per game, compared to 10.9 points in the first part of the season with the Knicks.
- Dan Gartland