Knicks cutting Chris Smith?

As the Knicks inch closer to signing forward/center Jeremy Tyler, they are strongly considering cutting Chris Smith over center Cole Aldrich to open up a roster spot, sources say.

The Knicks' decision to keep Smith on the regular-season roster stirred emotion among the team's fan base because of his ties to J.R. Smith. (He's J.R.'s younger brother.) Both the Knicks and Chris Smith have acknowledged that Smith's surname was a factor in the team's decision to keep him.

Smith began the season with the Knicks' D-League affiliate, the Erie BayHawks, and was called up to the team on Dec. 17 after point guards Pablo Prigioni and Raymond Felton were lost to injury.

His salary of $490,814 is already guaranteed, according to league sources, so the Knicks would not be saving any money if they cut Smith over Aldrich.

Aldrich hasn't been used much at center, and it would seem that he'd be competing for minutes at the position with the 6-foot-11 Tyler. But the Knicks (9-21) could use depth on the front line.

Smith has appeared in two regular-season games. He played a minute late in each game.

In addition to driving some fans nuts, Chris' inclusion on the roster spurred a negative reaction from at least one NBA player.

Detroit's Brandon Jennings engaged in a Twitter spat last month with J.R. Smith after questioning Chris Smith's NBA credentials. J.R. Smith was fined $25,000 for directing hostile and inappropriate language toward Jennings in a response tweet.

Some rival agents believe Chris Smith's roster spot with the Knicks was locked in as a package deal when J.R. Smith re-signed with the team in July.

So if the team cuts Smith, it could be seen as an admission that he was signed to entice J.R. Smith to re-sign with the Knicks over the summer. That may raise eyebrows in the league office.

As for Tyler, the Knicks signed him to a partially guaranteed contract in training camp. But he suffered a broken foot before camp and was released before the regular season.

The 22-year-old has played well in recent weeks for BayHawks. He's averaged 19.8 points and 11.4 rebounds in his last five games.

If it's completed, the signing of Tyler would satisfy owner James Dolan's preseason edict that the Knicks include young players to develop on the roster.

Tyler was not in the starting lineup on Sunday for the BayHawks in their game against Canton on Sunday.

Toure' Murry, a 23-year-old point guard, and 21-year-old shooting guard Tim Hardaway Jr. also fit the mold of young player pieces the organization can work with.

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