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An ode to Omari Spellman, who was cut by the Knicks

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There’s a promising player in there, but he needs to get in shape.

NBA: Player Headshots 2021 David Berding-USA TODAY Sports

It was inevitable.

The Knicks have brought back Taj Gibson. The only surprising part is how long it took. Tom Thibodeau has coached every season with Taj with the lone exception of in 2016-17 when the dismal Wolves won just 31. It’s almost cruel to Thibs that they took so long.

The move was not without casualty — to clear up room for Taj, the Knicks waived Omari Spellman. While expected, this was a rather disappointing perceived end to the Spellman Era.

The move that brought on Spellman had me excited. The Knicks acquired him along with immediately-waived Jacob Evans and a 2026 second-rounder for Ed Davis, after having just taken on Ed Davis’ contract for two second rounders the day before. Still an impressive haul for a bad player who never suited up for the Knicks, but not the move for a young flyer that I’ve always wanted the rebuilding Knicks to do.

It is possible it is not the end and he will go the way of Myles Powell though, and remain within the Knicks family in Westchester. Like Powell, Spellman has struggled with his weight, likely resulting in his downfall. The 6’9” Spellman had been as heavy as 315 pounds before eventually getting down to as low as 259.2 with the Warriors. Unfortunately, in Omari’s 3 minute preseason appearance for the Knicks, it was immediately apparent Spellman’s weight troubles were back like mine and many others during the pandemic. In the Knicks official announcement waiving Spellman, they listed him back at 284 pounds again.

Spelman’s weight transformation with the Warriors led to what was truly a promising second year at age 22 after a disappointing rookie season with the Hawks. In 49 games, the big man stuffed the stat sheet with 7.6 points, 4.5 rebounds, 1 assist, .7 steals, and .5 blocks with a true shooting of 55% in just 18 minutes per contest. Most impressively, he made 39% of his 2.2 three pointer attempts per game.

I thought his stat-stuffing and shooting along with his hustle would have made him a fan-favorite in The Garden like it did in The Golden State.

If this move of Spellman-for-Taj had transpired during the offseason, it would have likely resulted in a thinkpiece from me of how it’s a travesty to move a promising young player for a washed vet. Though if we’re significantly under .500 and Taj is playing significant minutes, make no mistake, the whining will return. But the Knicks are 5-3 playing a 7 and 8-man rotation. Not too many minutes for an out-of-shape guy on a competitive team that demands being in tiptop shape, or too many things to complain about for bringing on the consummate Thibs vet who will bring on all the vet buzzwords that you need like mentorship and hard-nosed. We cut our Dion Waiters to bring on our Udonis Haslem.

There is a talented player in Omari Spellman. I hope we get to see it one day, and on the Knicks. But the Knicks are not setup to unlock it on the big league club just yet.