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Those Knicks fans concerned about the length of J.R. Smith's new contract can breathe a little sigh of relief.
Smith's deal was originally reported by ESPN and other media outlets to be a four-year pact worth $24.7 million dollars.
But according to Smith's agent, Leon Rose, the terms of Smith's deal changed between the time both sides agreed to the deal on July 4 and when it became official on July 11.
Rose, confirming news first reported by the New York Times, said the Knicks originally offered Smith a four-year contract but the reigning Sixth Man award winner opted to sign a three-year contract with a player option in the third season so he could test free agency sooner.
Smith's pact is now a three-year contract worth approximately $18 million over the length of the deal.
This is significant for several reasons.
When the Knicks announced on Monday that Smith underwent knee surgery that could sideline him for three to four months, many wondered why the team would sign him to a four-year deal.
A three-year pact for Smith makes sense because it removes a bit of the risk from the Knicks' commitment. The contract, though, is still a bit of a gamble, given the nature of Smith's knee surgery.
GM Glen Grunwald said on a conference call Tuesday that he was comfortable giving Smith a four-year contract despite the player's knee issues. Though he hedged on the length of the deal in his comments on the call.
“We’re pretty comfortable that this is something that’s fixable and won’t present any problems, in certainly the foreseeable future, over the next four years or whatever,” he said. “We’re O.K. with that.”
The shorter contract gives Smith an opportunity to seek a bigger payday on the free-agent market after the 2014-15 season. He tweeted on Monday that he'd been playing under contract in New York for three years, so it makes sense that he'd seek free agency as soon as possible.
The Knicks will have Smith's full Bird Rights, so they can exceed the salary cap to retain him. Also, Smith's salary can potentially come off the books in the summer of 2015.
That's significant because several big contracts (Amar'e Stoudemire, Carmelo Anthony, Tyson Chandler and Andrea Bargnani) will come off the books that summer.
The Knicks could remodel their roster around Anthony (presuming he stays in New York), Iman Shumpert, Tim Hardaway Jr. and Raymond Felton (who has a player option for 2015-16) in the summer of 2015. If Smith opts out and decides to test the market, the Knicks will have to weigh the impact of his new contract on their books -- and how it might affect rebuilding plans -- when they decide whether to re-sign him.
It's possible that the Knicks will have enough cap space to add one max player that offseason.