Less than a week after his four-year, $24.7 million dollar extension became official, the Knicks announced J.R. Smith would miss up to four months due to surgery to repair the meniscus and patellar tendon in his right knee.
The Knicks said Smith's injuries, which were treated at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City by team orthopedist Dr. Answorth Allen, were chronic and gradually worsened. His recovery time is approximately three to four months, which could make him available between Oct. 15 and Nov. 15 -- near the start of the 2013-14 season.
A league source told ESPNNewYork.com that the Knicks were aware Smith likely would need surgery for his left knee, which started bothering him during the playoffs. At the time, he had fluid in his left knee, according to a source. Last week, he re-signed with the Knicks for four years, $24.7 million.
So if this is all true, the New York Knicks knowingly gave a player with a "chronic" knee problem that "gradually worsened" about $25 million in guaranteed money just before he had a fairly significant operation on a knee that bothered him during a disappointing playoff run.
That is a fact that irked Frank Isola of the New York Daily News, who went on a Twitter rant after the news broke. Here are a few highlights:
According to Knicks "J.R. Smith's injuries were chronic and gradually worsened." So why the heck did you give him a 4-yr contract? Holy crap— Frank Isola (@FisolaNYDN) July 16, 2013
Which is worse: Not knowing J.R. had a bad knee & signing him for 4-years or as Knicks claim, knowing it and still giving him 4 years?— Frank Isola (@FisolaNYDN) July 16, 2013
The Knicks, my friends, are headed in the wrong direction. I know some in the media aren't allowed to write or say it but this ain't good.— Frank Isola (@FisolaNYDN) July 16, 2013
About that direction Frank is talking about...
The Knicks' big moves so far this offseason were the trade for Andrea Bargnani, and the re-signing of Smith. That leaves them with nine players currently locked up for the season at about $83 million of guaranteed payroll. The luxury tax line is about $71.75 million, which puts the Knicks more than $11 million over the tax threshold. At the new incremental tax rate instituted this season, the Knicks CURRENT projected tax bill for the upcoming season is about $19.4 million.
Which means the Knicks are paying $102.5 million dollars for this team, and there are still holes to fill. They have only got veteran minimum contracts available to use having spent their taxpayer mid-level exception on Pablo Prigioni and Metta World Peace, but even those will get expensive.
The NBA picks up half the tab on veteran minimum deals, but the Knicks' half will be taxed at $2.50 on the dollar because they are so far over the tax line.
What does it all mean?
It means the Knicks are in a bind.
Their $102.5 million payroll includes Amare Stoudemire, who has not really been very reliable. Carmelo Anthony, who was playing with a torn shoulder by the end of the playoffs. Andrea Bargnani, who is Andrea Bargnani. And J.R. Smith, who probably will not be at 100 percent until after Thanksgiving.
Meanwhile, their neighbors across the East River, the Brooklyn Nets, have gone on their own massive spending spree and have assembled a team that has clearly surpassed the Knicks, at least on paper.
And if that is not bad enough, the Knicks are poised to pay the "repeater tax" in the 2014-15 season. It is a tax so punitive, that the $19.4 million tax bill I was talking about for this year? It would be more than $30 million under the repeater rates.
The Knicks are looking a 4-seed square in the face at the moment. That is a lot of money to spend for a middle-of-the-pack playoff team.
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