CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The Knicks have secured undrafted free-agent rookie guard Allonzo Trier, signing him to a two-year contract.
Trier, who was on a two-way contract, was signed into the Knicks’ biannual exception, which will pay him $3.38 million this season and provides a team option for a second year that would escalate to $3.5 million next season.
To make room for Trier, the Knicks waived Ron Baker, absorbing the remainder of his $4.5-million salary this season.
The deal is an affirmation of the belief the Knicks have shown in Trier and the rookie’s belief in himself, as he chose to gamble on a two-way deal in New York.
“I don’t really know what happened with 60 picks,” Trier said of going undrafted. “You know what I mean? Those are all teams’ decisions. But you know people make mistakes every day. I’m just really glad to know I’m with an organization that really wants me here. I’m looking forward to getting my career started here.”
“There’s always a guy or two who falls through the cracks,” coach David Fizdale said. “He fell all the way through the cracks. That’s what was surprising.
“From the beginning, [general manager] Scott Perry kept telling me if this guy falls, we might have a chance of having a real good basketball player. The whole draft, Scott was saying, ‘We almost got him. We almost got him . . .
“We got through the draft and we got him on the phone right away. I said, ‘Look, you didn’t get drafted. We know it’s a painful day for you. We want to give you an opportunity to make the team — not just come here to be a two-way player.’
“The kid said, ‘I really believe I should’ve been drafted. I don’t believe 60 people are better than me.’ We said, ‘Why don’t you come here and prove it?’ And here we are.’’
The Knicks had discussed drafting Trier with their second-round pick, but they opted for Mitchell Robinson and were able to bring in Trier on the two-way contract. That allowed Trier to be with the Knicks for a maximum of 45 days, which was expected to be up next week. While the Knicks could have sent him to the G League, they chose to keep him with the team all season long.
Trier is averaging 11.3 points per game but has missed the last two games with a strained left hamstring. He is with the team in Charlotte while working with the training staff but is not expected to play in the remaining two games on the road trip.
Baker, who was signed to a two-year, $8.9-million deal, appeared in 92 games over three seasons but had played in only 11 games this season. Although he saw little playing time, Fizdale liked his toughness and work ethic. The final decision came down to a surplus of guards on the roster; with more of a need for an extra big man, Luke Kornet held value.
“That’s all it was,” Fizdale said. “That’s what makes these decisions so hard. It’s not the guy isn’t good enough. This was the hardest one I’ve ever been a part of. I’ve been a part of these with Miami. I would say as an assistant it was a little easier. I had to do some in Memphis.
“Cutting Ron Baker was really rough. He’s a pro. He totally understood where we were. Obviously, it goes without saying we’re resources to him. If anyone ever calls me on him, I’ll have nothing but incredible things to say about him. I even joked to him a little bit when he’s finally done, spend some time with me and I may have a coach on my hands there. I’m telling you, his understanding of the game, work ethic, communicator, leader, he’s got all those intangibles.”