The Kristaps Porzingis era is over, with the Knicks moving him, Tim Hardaway Jr., Courtney Lee and Trey Burke to Dallas for Dennis Smith Jr., a first-round pick and the expiring contracts of DeAndre Jordan and Wesley Matthews, sources confirmed.
The Knicks get a point guard of the future in Smith, who had a triple-double at the Garden on Wednesday night, and should now have enough cap space, around $74.6 million, for two maximum free agents — with Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving squarely on their radar.
A source said general manager Scott Perry and Mavs chief Donnie Nelson were behind closed doors at the Garden discussing scenarios when the Mavericks faced the Knicks on Wednesday night.
A Thursday meeting then occurred with Porzingis and his agent/brother Janis. The Porzingis brothers expressed concern over the team’s direction and losing culture and the Knicks were set to entertain more bids before next Thursday’s trade deadline. ESPN reported the Knicks were left with the impression Porzingis would like to be traded.
A source said the Knicks didn’t want a disgruntled player who didn’t believe in their plan. Porzingis is set to be a restricted free agent this summer, and the Knicks could have matched any offer. He also could have signed a one-year deal and become an unrestricted free agent in 2020.
Durability was a major issue with Porzingis even back to Jackson’s days. Porzingis missed 10 games his rookie year, 16 his second season, 34 last year and the first 50 games of this season. Porzingis admitted himself there’s no documentation of a 7-3 player returning from ACL surgery in the NBA.
The Mavericks are willing to take that chance without giving up much but 2019 cap space. Last month, Knicks president Steve Mills said Porzingis was a giant part of their future and they weren’t going to rush him back if he wasn’t ready this season. He was going to be reevaluated in mid-February on the anniversary of his surgery.
He has missed the entire season with his ACL rehab and it is unclear whether he will play this season.
The Knicks passed on Smith in the 2017 draft for Frank Ntilikina. The uber-athletic Smith, who is averaging 12.9 points and 4.3 assists per game this season after putting up 15.2 and 5.2 as a rookie, was shopped recently, and The Post reported the Knicks had inquired about him before the season.
Hardaway and Lee have contracts that don’t expire until 2020. The Knicks shopped Lee since the summer and Hardaway since the recent downturn in his play.
According to a source, Porzingis has harbored these feelings for a couple of years, leading to his missed exit meeting after the 2016-17 season, but the Knicks’ allowing reports about Porzingis possibly being available in a trade didn’t sit well with the Porzingis camp.
A source said Janis Porzingis was anxious about the Anthony Davis rumors this week while the Knicks fell to the NBA’s bottom at 10-40.
Mills was GM at the time Porzingis blew off his exit meeting with Phil Jackson, then the team president, and now Mills is in charge. That summer, Mills made no attempt to visit Porzingis in Europe. Sources indicated a distrust still is harbored because of that.
Porzingis also didn’t get the contract extension in October because the Knicks wanted to preserve their cap space and be able to sign him by going over the salary cap.
Porzingis will be eager to re-sign with Dallas, even though his childhood idol, Dirk Nowitzki, may retire. Porzingis is friends with Slovenian rookie sensation Luka Doncic, who played last season with Real Madrid, where Porzingis rehabbed.
It’s been a nightmare week for the Knicks, falling to the NBA’s worst record, not having a representative in the Rising Stars Challenge for rookies and sophomores, and now they have given up on the 7-foot-3 unicorn. Porzingis is fond of banished Enes Kanter, who tweeted a unicorn symbol Thursday afternoon.
Porzingis’ refusal to meet with Jackson after the season eventually led to Jackson’s firing and the Zen Master still is seething over Janis’ handling of the situation.
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