J.R. Smith will not pick up his $2.9-million option for the 2013-14 season, a person close to the valuable reserve said. But it doesn't mean Smith won't be back with the Knicks.
The deadline for Smith to inform the Knicks whether he will opt in is Tuesday. The Knicks weren't expecting Smith to opt in after putting up career highs of 18.1 points and 5.3 rebounds and winning the Sixth Man of the Year Award this past season. Smith struggled in the playoffs, but the Knicks' plan is to try to keep him.
Smith is close with coach Mike Woodson. The two recently golfed together, according to multiple sources.
The Knicks can re-sign Smith using the "Early" Bird Exception. The most they could give him is the average NBA salary, starting at roughly $5 million for at least two years.
Of course, the Knicks could lose Smith if another team offers him more money and a chance to be its starting shooting guard and focal point of the offense. That might be something Smith wouldn't want to pass up, especially after being a reserve for most of his nine-year career.
But the 27-year-old Smith, a New Jersey native, likes playing close to home, and his relationship with Woodson could be a key factor in his decision. Also, Smith's younger brother Chris will be on the Knicks' summer league roster for the second straight year.
It might be risky for the Knicks to bring back Smith after a second straight disappointing postseason. He averaged 14.3 points and shot 33.1 percent. But the Knicks need another scorer to take some pressure off Carmelo Anthony.
The Knicks also would like to keep Pablo Prigioni and Chris Copeland. They're expected to extend both players qualifying offers by Sunday to make them restricted free agents.
The Knicks are limited in what they can spend this offseason. They have the $3.1-million mini-midlevel exception and minimum contracts. One player they could consider signing to a minimum deal is one-time Knick Shawne Williams, who worked out for them Monday.
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