TORONTO — The Knicks’ big-ticket offseason possibilities may be dwindling.
First, Kyrie Irving said he plans to re-up with the Celtics, and then, Jimmy Butler was traded to the 76ers on Saturday, with reports stating he likely will remain in Philadelphia.
The disgruntled Butler, a four-time All-Star, reportedly was dealt, along with forward Justin Patton, from the Timberwolves to the 76ers in exchange for forwards Robert Covington and Dario Saric, guard Jerryd Bayless and a 2022 second-round pick. ESPN reported Butler and the Sixers have “every intention” of agreeing to a long-term agreement this summer. A new deal, however, cannot be negotiated until Butler opts out of the final year of his contract. The 76ers would be able to offer the dynamic, 29-year-old wing more money — a max deal worth $190 million over five years — than anyone else (four years and $141 million).
At one time, there was a dream both Butler and Irving could end up in New York this summer. Butler even liked an Instagram comment that suggested he and Irving play for the Knicks, and when he requested a trade in September, he listed the Knicks as one of his preferred destinations.
The move also further bolsters the already stacked Atlantic Division. The 12-1 Raptors, who beat the Knicks on Saturday, own the best record in the NBA, the Celtics are loaded, and now the 76ers have a big three of Butler, Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. The Knicks, meanwhile, are looking to snap a string of three straight 50-loss seasons under first-year coach David Fizdale, without star Kristaps Porzingis, whose timetable for return following a torn ACL last February remains uncertain.
Enes Kanter, who in the past has been vocal about recruiting prospective free agents, declined to speculate about Butler, saying his focus is on the Knicks.
“The Sixers have a very good team, a very young team, and it will be a good add for them,” Kanter said. “It’s going to bring a lot of leadership, and him and Embiid and Ben Simmons are going to be very fun to watch.”