LAS VEGAS — The clock turned to 12:01 p.m. Eastern time Wednesday, signaling the end of the moratorium on free-agent signings, clearing the way for the Knicks to officially announce the signings of Jalen Brunson and Isaiah Hartenstein. But while announcements began to trickle across the social media from other teams heralding their new additions, the Knicks were silent.
It wasn’t a cause for concern, but one that did raise some questions.
Signing Jalen Brunson was the worst-kept secret of free agency. For months, Brunson leaving the Dallas Mavericks for the Knicks was thought of as a fait accompli with family connections and fit providing an impetus for him to leave Dallas. And once the Knicks cleared cap space beginning on the night of the draft it gave the opening for the deal to be done, a four-year deal worth $104 million being spread across Twitter an hour before talks were even allowed to begin on June 30.
And the deal will be announced in the coming days, but just not yet. The Knicks were not commenting on what the delay was, but there are a number of reasons it could be delayed. One person with knowledge of the situation confirmed that Brunson had an already-scheduled vacation and a camp appearance and would then head to New York for his physical and finish the paperwork.
The delay does leave the possibility of a sign-and-trade if the Knicks and Mavericks could find a suitable exchange. That would allow the Mavericks to recoup something in return for Brunson, although helping the Knicks salary cap situation might not be of interest to Dallas executives who were unhappy with some of the Knicks pursuit of Brunson — particularly the front-row playoff game appearance of Knicks executive vice president William Wesley, along with Allan Houston and Julius Randle.
A sign-and-trade would help the Knicks finish off their roster planning. With the salaries of Brunson and Hartenstein the Knicks would run up to the limit of the cap again, needing to waive the non-guaranteed contract of Taj Gibson to fit the two newcomers on the roster. If they do waive Gibson’s $5.2 million deal, they could still bring him back and he has expressed not only a desire to remain in New York, but also to serve as a coach when his playing days are done.
The Knicks don’t need to be done with moves, particularly with teams still interested in moving on from contracts — and disgruntled players, hello Brooklyn. The players who have been rumored to be available from the Knicks remain the same — Cam Reddish, who is on the final year of his rookie deal which pays him $5.95 million, and Evan Fournier, who has two guaranteed years left totaling $36.8 million with a team option for an additional year.
Fournier was a starter last season and set a franchise record for most three-point field goals in a single season, a crucial need for the Knicks in a lineup with ball-dominant pieces in Brunson, RJ Barrett and Julius Randle. But Fournier’s defense is not great and that was enough for Tom Thibodeau to often keep him on the bench in fourth quarters. And with Brunson now in place as the starting point guard it might mean that Fournier’s role would possibly change with Thibodeau needing to pair Brunson with a better defender like second-year wing Quentin Grimes, who also is a solid catch-and-shoot three-point threat.
The Knicks did have one deal become official Wednesday with the draft day trade of Kemba Walker to Detroit for the 2025 Milwaukee Bucks first-round pick completed. The separate deals that sent Nerlens Noel and Alec Burks also to Detroit were expected to be completed when the players have finished taking their physicals with the Pistons.