The New York Knicks took a major step towards stabilizing their backcourt yesterday as they announced that both J.R. Smith and Pablo Prigioni would be returning to Madison Square Garden for the 2013-2014 season.
Late Wednesday evening the Knicks announced that they would be bringing back point guard Pablo Prigioni for three years, 6 million dollars, a move that immediately helps to stabilize a backcourt that was turning into a weak point for the team. Following up on the good news of Prigioni’s return, was even better news for Knicks fans on Thursday morning, when JR Smith’s agent, Leon Rose, announced that the sixth man of the year has agreed to terms with the Knicks on a four year, 24.7 million dollar deal.
Both moves by the Knicks front office represent wins on and off the basketball court. On the business side of things both deals for Prigioni and Smith are favorable contracts that will not hurt the Knicks future plans to continue to bring in championship level talent around superstar forward Carmelo Anthony.
Having both players returning will pay some serious dividends for the Knicks on the court next season as well. With Prigioni back in the fold the Knicks have addressed one of their most important off season questions, which was with Jason Kidd retiring, how can the Knicks continue to be productive out of the point guard position. Prigioni, who played limited minutes off the bench for New York last season, seemed to get more comfortable playing the NBA game as the season progressed, leading to the veteran point guard playing his best basketball late in the season and during the playoffs.
JR Smith, who is coming off the best season of his pro career, gave Knicks fans even more reason to celebrate on July 4th, after allegedly leaving more money on the table to stay with the Knicks and head coach Mike Woodson. Fans who suffer from recency bias may forget just how valuable JR Smith is to this Knicks team, after watching him struggle during the post season. Although Smith’s struggles are certainly a concern, the value that JR has to the Knicks cannot be understated. At the end of the day The Knicks were able to agree to terms with JR Smith on a very fair contract that will give the Knicks flexibility going forward as they look to remain competitive in an Eastern Conference that is seeming to get better by the day.
The only negative that can be taken out of the news of Prigioni and Smith’s return it that it most likely means that breakout forward Chris Copeland is on his way out the door. Copeland, who emerged as an exceptional long range shooter last season, is reported to have offers on the table from the Indiana Pacers and the Los Angelas Lakers. Unfortunately the Knicks will not be able to top offers for Copeland, seeing as their salary cap situation means they can only offer Copeland a salary of 1.75 million per year, a number that other teams are expected to exceed.