J.R. Smith, Pablo Prigioni agree to terms with Knicks
The Knicks brought back two of their own free agents Thursday, coming to terms on multiyear deals with J.R. Smith and Pablo Prigioni, their respective agents said.
Smith, 27, will get a four-year deal for roughly $25 million, the most the Knicks can pay under the "Early Bird" exception, Leon Rose said in a text message.
"Bird rights" are salary-cap exceptions that help teams re-sign their own free agents.
The deal includes a player option for the fourth year.
Prigioni, 36, is getting a three-year deal for just under $6 million, George Bass said. The third year is a partially guaranteed team option.
The official numbers won't be determined on Smith until after the NBA moratorium ends Wednesday and the salary figures are set. The Knicks also can't make any announcements on either move until then.
These two moves give the Knicks eight players under contract plus first-round pick Tim Hardaway Jr. The Knicks, who acquired 7-foot shooter Andrea Bargnani from Toronto earlier in the week, still have holes and spots to fill. They need to add a small forward, multiple power forwards/centers and another point guard for insurance.
Keeping Smith and Prigioni were two of the Knicks' main priorities this offseason. They had to dip into their $3.18-million mini-midlevel exception for Prigioni. His starting salary next season will be roughly $1.5 million.
"He's thrilled," Bass said. "It's where he wanted to be."
The Knicks should have about $1.75 million left on their mini-midlevel exception plus as many minimum contracts as they need to fill out their roster.
They remain interested in re-signing restricted free agent Chris Copeland, but the remainder of the mini-midlevel might not be enough. The Knicks could decide to use that on a more proven veteran forward.
There are several teams interested in Copeland, including the Cavaliers, Pacers, Mavericks, Nuggets and Lakers. Indiana and Cleveland are showing the most interest and can offer more than the Knicks. But Copeland hasn't received an offer sheet yet, and his agent isn't ruling out a return to New York.
"The Knicks have a really good core and those guys were good to Chris," John Spencer said. "It's not about money with Chris. It's going to come down to fit. Chris loves New York and loves the fans of New York."
Smith had said his desire was to stay with the Knicks. The enigmatic, sometimes electrifying, sometimes maddening shooting guard has a good relationship with coach Mike Woodson and other Knicks officials and has the chance to play in front of his family and friends. Smith is from New Jersey.
Smith flourished under Woodson last year, averaging career bests of 18.1 points and 5.3 rebounds, earning him the Sixth Man of the Year Award. He struggled in the playoffs, particularly after being suspended one game for elbowing Boston's Jason Terry in the chin in their first-round series. Smith shot 34-for-117 (29 percent) from the field after that.
Locking up Prigioni, a smart, savvy floor leader from Argentina, was critical for the Knicks because Raymond Felton is the Knicks' only other point guard under contract. Prigioni averaged 3.5 points and 3.0 assists in 78 games. The Knicks went 16-2 when Prigioni started.
The Knicks still have work to do to complete their roster. They could try to bring back Kenyon Martin and have expressed an interest in veteran forward Elton Brand.
Point guards Will Bynum, Aaron Brooks, Earl Watson and Devin Harris and small forward/swingmen Matt Barnes, Francisco Garcia, Carlos Delfino and Dahntay Jones are also on the Knicks' radar.
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