Phil Jackson says desire to change ‘style’ among reasons for trading Iman Shumpert and J.R. Smith

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The Knicks were involved in a three-team trade on Monday that essentially amounted to nothing more than a salary dump, and won’t do anything to improve the team this season.

The players New York received in return are expected to be waived, and by losing Iman Shumpert and J.R. Smith, the team increased its available salary cap space to in the neighborhood of $30 million to spend next summer.

These moves were about changing the roster for the future. But according to both Phil Jackson and Derek Fisher, they were also about something else.

From Al Innazzone of Newsday:

“As our journey moves through this season, we will search for the type of players that fit the style we hope to exhibit for our fans,” Phil Jackson said in a statement. “Our desire is to improve our ability to compete. In addition, these transactions improve our flexibility to the current roster and the salary cap for future seasons.” …

Derek Fisher said the Knicks will try to fill their two open roster spots. “I don’t think this in any way signals the end of our transition process,” he said.

“I think our front office will continue to look at what we can do to replace a couple of these guys, but also how we’re going to build our roster going forward in the short term and the long term. I think Phil is continuing to look at how we transition as we change the culture of the New York Knicks.”

If this sounds familiar, it’s because we heard a similar refrain out of Sacramento earlier this season, when the Kings fired their head coach over what ownership described as a desire to play a more uptempo style — despite the fact that the team was doing just fine playing a slower pace where most of their points came in the halfcourt set.

It isn’t as though the Knicks had anything to lose by moving two rotation players for nothing more than cap space for the future. The team wasn’t very good when healthy, but a string of injuries to New York’s core players (including Carmelo Anthony) has resulted in the Knicks winning just five times through the first 37 games of their season.

Building around a particular style when starting essentially from scratch can be successful, if there are players available who would fit the chosen system. But more important to the long-term success of a franchise is an ability to remain flexible, in case the roster ends up consisting of guys with a variety of skill sets who may be better-suited to playing differently than was originally planned.