CLEVELAND (CBSNewYork/AP) — The Cavaliers tried to make it work with Dion Waiters. They couldn’t wait any longer.
Cleveland traded the shooting guard to Oklahoma City on Monday night and acquired guards J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert from the rebuilding New York Knicks in a three-team deal.
A disappointing 19-16 after losing at Philadelphia, the Cavs dealt Waiters to the Thunder in exchange for Oklahoma City’s protected 2015 first-round pick. Also, the Cavs sent reserves Lou Amundson and Alex Kirk and their 2019 second-round pick to the Knicks, who are 5-32 and desperate to clear salary-cap space.
New York also received forward Lance Thomas from Oklahoma City.
The Cavs have been ravaged by injuries in superstar LeBron James’ first season back in Cleveland and needed to shake things up. The team had discussed moving Waiters, the No. 4 overall pick, over the past two years and finally struck a deal. Both James and All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving sat out against the Sixers because of injuries.
Waiters was pulled from the starting lineup in Philadelphia — his hometown — shortly before the Cavs lost to the lowly 76ers, who got their first home win. The 6-foot-4 Waiters began the season in Cleveland’s starting lineup, but was removed after three games. He made some defensive strides, but too often Waiters seemed mostly concerned about scoring.
“Dion is a talented player with potential ahead of him,” Cavs general manager David Griffin said. “Trades like this are always difficult to make because there are relationships and bonds built and that was the case with Dion. At the same time, we’re very excited to welcome Iman and J.R. to Cleveland. With their size and versatility, we think both Iman and J.R. can help our team on both ends of the court and we look forward to them joining us.”
The mercurial Smith, who has never been afraid to shoot, could give Cleveland’s bench the offensive boost first-year coach David Blatt has been looking for all season. Waiters had some success coming in as a reserve, but he never seemed comfortable in that role and the Cavs finally found him a new home.
Smith is a bit of a wild card, and it will be interesting to see how he interacts with Cleveland’s current roster. He has known James for several years, which should ease the transition.
Smith was the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year in 2013, but has battled injuries to his heel this season, along with his usual struggles with shot selection and focus off the court.
Shumpert, who has been sidelined with a dislocated shoulder, is regarded as a solid perimeter defender. He had been starting before his injury, averaging 9.3 points, and will probably start for Cleveland.
Griffin’s trade came a day after he offered support to Blatt, who is still adjusting in his first NBA season. It hasn’t helped that James is out for at least another week with a strained back and knee, Irving missed Monday’s game with a back issue and starting center Anderson Varejao is done for the season after tearing his Achilles and undergoing surgery.
Cleveland remains in the market for a big man and has assets remaining to pull off another deal. The Cavs are entering a tough part of their schedule with a home game on Wednesday against Houston before a give-game West Coast trip.
“We have to get as many players as we can get back,” center Kevin Love said after the loss in Philadelphia. “We’re about to hit murderer’s row now on the West Coast. We need to keep fighting. We’re down, but not out.”
The Thunder, who have had their own injury issues, believe Waiters can bring immediate help. Waiters is versatile, can score and should add some firepower to Oklahoma City’s second unit.
“Dion Waiters is a player that we’ve tracked and liked since his time at Syracuse, in the NBA, and with USA Basketball,” general manager Sam Presti said. “Dion provides another proven scorer that positively impacts our roster and adds depth and flexibility. We have a lot of respect for his toughness and competitiveness, and believe that he is a physical playmaker who will enhance the versatility of our team.”
New York’s season is as good as over, and moving Smith and Shumpert will give Knicks president Phil Jackson some future flexibility, maybe quiet the booing in Madison Square Garden and relieve some of the pressure on rookie coach Derek Fisher.
The moves will allow him to trim more millions off the salary cap, which will allow them to pursue free agents this summer. The team released center Samuel Dalembert and is expected to do the same with Amundson and Kirk.
“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. “Our desire is to improve our ability to compete. … These transactions improve our flexibility to the current roster and the salary cap for future seasons.”
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