- Ian Begley, ESPN Staff Writer
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NEW YORK -- New York Knicks president Phil Jackson was asked on Thursday night if he had any regrets about his first full season at the helm.
In a bit of a surprise, he mentioned departed shooting guard Iman Shumpert.
“I had really high hopes for Iman as a player,” Jackson said during a chat with season ticket holders moderated by MSG’s Alan Hahn and Al Trautwig. “He started out the season as one of the great guns and showed part of the development that we thought he could possibly have on the floor.”
As it became clear that this Knicks’ season was going nowhere, Jackson opted to trade J.R. Smith and Shumpert to Cleveland in exchange for two second-round picks and two trade exceptions.
Jackson explained that he wanted to get rid of Shumpert, in part, because of his pending free agency. The Knicks declined to extend Shumpert’s contract so he’s set to become a restricted free agent this summer. Instead of losing him for nothing, Jackson decided to move him in a trade.
It's fair to wonder why Jackson wasn’t able to get more back in a trade for two starting-caliber shooting guards.
Jackson didn’t address that issue on Thursday night, but he did say that Shumpert’s injury history played a role in the organization’s decision to make the trade.
“The whole complex of Iman always seeming to get hurt, always seeming to have another injury kind of led us to the frame of mind of 'maybe he’s going to have to take his career into another place,'" Jackson said.
Shumpert missed five weeks (three with the Knicks) due to a shoulder injury this season. He also missed two games at the beginning of the season due to a hip injury. Shumpert was also out for the first three months of his second NBA season while recovering from knee surgery.
Why move Tyson? Jackson also commented on his first big trade as Knicks president. But the Zen Master offered a curious explanation as to why he decided to trade Tyson Chandler.
Jackson dealt Raymond Felton and Chandler to Dallas in the offseason for a package headlined by Jose Calderon and Samuel Dalembert. Dalembert was waived in early January and Calderon has been hurt for much of the season. Chandler has played well in Dallas, leading many to question Jackson’s trade.
Jackson explained on Thursday that he wanted to deal Chandler in part because he didn’t want to sign him to another contract that would have ended when Chandler was in his mid-30s.
“I felt like this was not the time to get into that aspect of [his career],” Jackson said.
This is a strange explanation because Jackson could have kept Chandler on the roster and let his contract expire at the end of the season. Any money owed to Chandler wouldn't have factored into the Knicks' cap space this summer. So, in theory, Jackson could have kept Chandler on the roster and dealt him during the season.
Given that option, it’s worth wondering whether Jackson could have gotten more in a trade for Chandler had he waited until the trade deadline.