CAMDEN — Did the Knicks mess up by not trading for Jimmy Butler?
The logic for not engaging with the Timberwolves, as outlined at the time by team president Steve Mills, is that they would no longer deal assets for a player they could acquire in free agency (the deal for Carmelo Anthony in 2011 comes to mind as the cautionary tale).
But Butler seems very happy in Philly, and every indication is that he’s off the table for the Knicks in free agency since the Sixers can — and likely will — offer him the most money in July. Butler, according to sources, included the Knicks on his preferred destinations prior to the trade and would’ve re-upped in free agency.
When I asked him about that Tuesday – a day before his Sixers host the Knicks – Butler claimed amnesia.
“I don’t know,” he said. “And to tell you the truth, I don’t talk about the trade because I’m here, I’m loving it here man and all of that is in the past so I’m leaving it just there.”
In other words, the Knicks are in the rearview. Of course, anything can happen before July but Kyrie Irving had the same sentiment after verbally committing to re-sign with the Celtics.
At least Kevin Durant is keeping his options open.
The Sixers ultimately acquired Butler for two ready-now young players with upside – Robert Covington and Dario Saric – along with the 2022 second-round pick. The Sixers plan to sign Butler to a five-year, $190 million contract in the summer, while the Knicks – or any other suitor – can only offer four years and $140 million.
The Knicks reportedly never got involved in trade discussions. They’ll likely have enough money to chase one max free agent in July, with Durant at the top of the list.
Butler, meanwhile, has made a huge impact already in Philly, connecting on a pair of buzzer-beating game winners in two of his seven appearances. The Sixers (14-8) are 6-2 since acquiring the 29-year-old.
“When you look at people who ever played basketball — sports – kick a game-winning field goal or make a game-winning shot, it doesn’t happen often even in people’s long careers,” Sixers coach Brett Brown said. “And to do that twice in such a short period of time is highly unusual.”
The Knicks (7-14), winners of three straight heading into Tuesday’s game at Detroit, will be play in Philly on the second night of a back-to-back.