There are some Knicks fans who are still wondering why Phil Jackson traded J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert to the Cavaliers last season for, essentially, nothing. Both players went on to play big roles in Cleveland's run to the 2015 NBA Finals, so those fans don't understand why Jackson couldn't have found a better way to use them last season. Or at the very least, found a way to max out their potential on the Knicks before trading them away for valuable assets.
But Jackson's reasoning behind trading Smith and Shumpert becomes slightly more clear once you read Part 4 of "The Phil Files" on ESPN.com, which is written by Jackson's former assistant/longtime friend Charley Rosen. For the piece, Jackson told Rosen that both players became problematic in the locker room towards the end of their Knicks' tenures. Jackson also mentioned that he didn't appreciate the reaction that he received during a face-to-face meeting with Smith about his behavior.
"J.R. had been exhibiting some delinquent behavior and had gotten into the habit of coming late to team meetings, or missing them altogether," Jackson explained to Rosen back in early January. "Also, Shump and Tim [Hardaway Jr.] were regressing, so I decided to meet with them separately and try to find out what, if anything, was bothering them."
Smith was up first. "We talked about his statement to the press that our shooting guard depth was going to be the team's asset, but so far it hadn't worked out that way," Jackson said. "He was supposed to carry the scoring load for the second unit, and he wasn't doing his job. I also said that because of his unacceptable behavior, he had two strikes against him with this team. He didn't really respond. He's a very sensitive guy, with his big doe eyes. He looked like he was going to tear up. But he finally responded that he was going through some issues with his gal."
Basically, it sounds like Jackson almost made Smith cry before Smith admitted to him that he was having issues with a girl. And then, when Jackson didn't see any progress over the next couple of weeks after their talk, he finally decided to pull the trigger on the trade to the Cavs. You can read Rosen's entire account here. It puts the entire situation with Smith and Shump into perspective.
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