With the New York Knicks in the midst of a wretched season, president Phil Jackson shook up the team by trading J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert to the Cleveland Cavaliers for three non-guaranteed contracts, and a 2019 second-rounder. Jackson revealed the reasons for the trade in a conversation with Charley Rosey for ESPN, saying that Smith "had been exhibiting some delinquent behavior" throughout the beginning of the season and Shumpert's "loud, big personality" was a problem in the locker room.
Jackson didn't specify just what Smith's "delinquent behavior" was, though he did say Smith was often late to meetings and missed some entirely. Shumpert and second-year guard Tim Hardaway Jr. were also "regressing," and Jackson met with all three players separately to try to figure out what was going on.
Smith was the first player out of the three to meet with Jackson, but nothing really got resolved:
"He was supposed to carry the scoring load for the second unit and he wasn't doing the job. I also said that because of his unacceptable behavior, he had two strikes against him with this team. He didn't really respond. He's a very sensitive guy, with his big doe eyes. He looked like he was going to tear up. But he finally responded that he was going through some issues with his gal."
Not much was resolved in Shumpert's meeting with Jackson either, and when Phil asked head coach Derek Fisher which players were the biggest distractions, Smith and Shumpert were mentioned. Smith especially was a problem:
"I asked Fish what players were the biggest distractions. He said that although J.R. never talked back to him, he always walked around under a dark cloud. Derek was worried that negative energy was contagious."
With that "negative energy" poisoning the locker room, Jackson decided he had to make a move, and he thought the Cavaliers were the best spot for the two players to find their games again. That notion turned out to be right, as both Smith and Shumpert helped an undermanned Cleveland squad reach the NBA Finals.
Jackson didn't consult Carmelo Anthony before making the trade, explaining that he doesn't think it's appropriate to keep Anthony in the loop on those kinds of decisions unless there's an opportunity to bring in an NBA All-Star.
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