The New York Knicks, oddly enough, find themselves in a similar predicament they were in a year ago. They have a free agent they want to retain, and he does what in his best interest and opts out of being the biggest bargain in the league despite wanting to star.
Yesterday, J.R. Smith stated that he intended to opt out of his player option of $2.9 million to explore his free agency. He has stated in the past that his desire is to “retire a Knick”, but this declaration seems all too familiar.
In 2012, Jeremy Lin was the darling of the Knicks franchise. The player who saved the team’s season was coming into his free agency, and the owner stated that anything “under a billion dollars, he would match.” Well, the Houston Rockets came in with $25 million over three years with a poison pill year of 15 million that would send the Knicks into cap hell, leading to departure of the franchise darling.
Which brings us back to J.R. Smith, a free agent just coming off the best year of his professional career who may now be targeted by owners who’ve haven’t shown restraint with their money in the past.
Who is to say that Robert Sarver, owner of the Phoenix Suns, won’t throw $10 million a year at a guard who hit a game-winner against his team? What is to stop the Philadelphia 76ers from strengthening their back court with Smith and also damaging their I–80 rivals in the process?
Smith and the Knicks have said the right things up to this point, but history has shown that after July 1, words are only as good as your signature on the dotted line.