NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — It appears Kristaps Porzingis had just about enough of his time in the Big Apple.
In a shocking move, the Knicks traded the injured All-Star forward, Tim Hardaway Jr., Courtney Lee and Trey Burke to the Mavericks on Thursday for DeAndre Jordan, Wesley Matthews and Dennis Smith Jr. The Knicks will also receive two future first-round picks.
ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski first reported the blockbuster deal.
“As is standard for this time of year, we were exploring various options on potential trades,” Knicks general manager Scott Perry said in a statement. “Considering the uncertainty regarding Kristaps’ free agent status and his request today to be traded, we made a trade that we are confident improves the franchise. We thank Kristaps, Tim, Courtney and Trey for their contributions and wish them all the best.”
The about-face decision to trade Porzingis, the face of the franchise despite the fact that he’s missed nearly a year while recovering from a serious knee injury, came just hours after the 23-year-old met with the Knicks’ front office and expressed his dismay over the direction of the team.
Plans of a long-touted rebuild took a back seat when the utility-knife big man tore the ACL in his left knee in a game against Milwaukee last February, dealing a devastating blow to a team that was already holding on to respectability by its finger tips. Porzingis had to be helped off the court, as did the Knickerbockers’ dreams of playing postseason basketball any time soon.
What’s followed has been a year of futility under new head coach David Fizdale. The Knicks, which boast both the worst record (10-40) and youngest roster in the NBA, and have continued their longstanding tradition of being one of the league’s most dysfunctional teams.
Despite all that, hope springs eternal in the halls of the world’s most famous arena. With the ninth overall pick in last June’s draft, the Knicks kick-started their current youth movement by selecting Kentucky’s Kevin Knox and used the 36th overall pick on center Mitchell Robinson. They’re also staring at a top draft pick in this year’s draft, which could land them Duke sensation Zion Williamson.
Jordan and Matthews both have expiring contracts, which coupled with unloading Hardaway Jr. and Lee means the Knicks are staring at a projected $79 million in cap space heading into the 2019 offseason. With that, they have the tantalizing flexibility to make a serious run at two max free agents, such as Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard, or Kyrie Irving to add to a roster already sprinkled with high-ceiling young talent.
Porzingis, who will be a restricted free agent this summer, is averaging 17.8 points and 7.1 rebounds in 186 career games since being drafted with the number 4 overall pick in the 2015 NBA draft by New York.
(© Copyright 2019 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)