When you can renege on an agreement with the San Antonio Spurs to become the fourth power forward this month to sign with the New York Knicks, you gotta do it, right?
Well, it probably helps if there is also some financial incentive. Such appeared to be the case Thursday with Marcus Morris, who opted for a reported one-year, $15 million offer from New York over the two years and $20 million to which he’d agreed with San Antonio.
“I had to make this decision based on the best situation for me and my family,” Morris, 29, told The Athletic. “This is no knock on the Spurs. I have respect for them.”
What Morris did not respect was his verbal commitment to San Antonio, arrived at early in the free agency period. To create the necessary salary-cap space to accommodate his expected arrival, the Spurs traded to the Washington Wizards Davis Bertans, a talented shooter who averaged 21.5 minutes for them last season, and reportedly reworked a contract with forward DeMarre Carroll.
After learning that Morris would be joining the Knicks, the Spurs quickly pivoted to 23-year-old power forward Trey Lyles (per ESPN), who spent his first four seasons with the Utah Jazz. and Denver Nuggets.
Morris played for the past two seasons with the Boston Celtics, and he is coming off a campaign in which he averaged 13.9 points and 6.1 rebounds in 27.9 minutes, while shooting 37.5 percent from three-point range.
The Knicks found the cap space to add Morris after they began reworking an agreement with free agent swingman Reggie Bullock, to whom they had offered a two-year, $21 million contract. However, an issue that arose during his physical exam reportedly caused both sides to reconsider, although Bullock may still join New York at a lower figure.
Bullock was among a passel of mid-tier players brought in by the Knicks after they struck out on elite free agent targets, most notably Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, who chose instead to team up in the Big Apple on the Brooklyn Nets. Among the new arrivals were three players most commonly thought of as power forwards: Julius Randle, Bobby Portis and Taj Gibson.
Now Morris is joining the rotation, and second-year Knick Kevin Knox could also get some minutes at power forward, particularly if and when this year’s No. 3 overall draft pick, RJ Barrett, settles in at small forward. Portis and Gibson could end up with some playing time at center behind another promising second-year player, Mitchell Robinson, as could Randle in some small-ball lineups.
New York reportedly values Morris’s veteran leadership and talent, though, and at a one-year deal, he does not represent a major investment. For Morris’s part, putting up good numbers with the Knicks could allow him to return to free agency next summer and earn at least as much in salary, if not more.
Morris could also make for an attractive target for another team around next year’s trade deadline, allowing the rebuilding Knicks to flip him for future assets.
In the meantime, they’ve gone from KD and Kyrie to a cornucopia of power forwards, while the Spurs can only fume about getting spurned.