CLEVELAND -- Brandon Knight had big plans for this past NBA All-Star Weekend.
They just might not have been as big as he hoped they would have been a few years ago.
Rather than heading to Charlotte for the league's annual festivities, the Cleveland Cavaliers point guard rerouted to Houston for one last clean up to complete yet another move.
“Try to get my stuff together," Knight said of his All-Star Weekend plans at Cleveland Clinic Courts last week. "That’s the biggest thing -- going to Houston, getting my stuff and just trying to get situated here."
It wasn't necessarily a break so much as it was a return his new normal.
Joining his fifth team in six seasons, the 27-year-old Knight is hoping to revive a once-promising career that has been derailed by injuries. Prior to being dealt to Cleveland at the trade deadline two weeks ago, the former lottery pick had appeared in just 12 games this season after missing the entirety of the 2017-18 campaign with a torn ACL.
In fact, Knight's primary value in the deal that brought him and big man Marquese Chriss to Cleveland from the Houston Rockets came not in his ability, but rather his sizable salary. In a three-team trade that also involved the Sacramento Kings, Cleveland took on Knight -- and the $15.6 million he is owed next season -- in order to acquire the Rockets' 2019 first-round pick.
It's possible -- perhaps likely -- that figure will ultimately be what defines Knight's Cleveland tenure. But in the meantime, the Cavs are giving the former lottery pick the opportunity to re-find his NBA footing, as evidenced by the two starts he received prior to the All-Star break.
"That didn’t even come to my mind. For me, it was just getting minutes, getting minutes and getting on the court," Knight said. "When I haven’t played, you don’t care about starting. You just want to play whether it's 10, 15, 20 minutes. Like I said, I’ve been away from the game for two years. Every minute I’m excited, I’m happy about it. So starting or not was irrelevant. It was just about getting on the court."
For the Cavs, the reasoning behind Knight's starting role is twofold.
On the one hand, it's simply a numbers game. Although winning may not be the current priority in Cleveland, the Cavs still have to field a suitable team. After trading Rodney Hood and Alec Burks in the days leading up to the trade deadline, Knight could simply be considered the "last man standing" in Cleveland as far as viable options at shooting guard are concerned.
Plus, if they're going to pay a player what the Cavs are now playing Knight, they might as well get their money's worth.
But in addition to Cleveland's need for warm bodies and Knight's salary cap figure is the sixth-year pro's obvious upside. A former 5-star prospect, Knight was selected by the Detroit Pistons with the No. 8 pick in the 2011 draft after leading Kentucky to the Final Four in his lone season at the college level.
In fact, there was even some talk that Knight could have begun his career with the Cavs, who owned the No. 1 and No. 4 picks eight years ago. But rather than take Arizona forward (and fellow future Cav) Derrick Williams at 1 and Knight at 4 as some suggested, Cleveland opted for Kyrie Irving and Tristan Thompson with its top two picks.
"It’s a little bit strange. I remember my draft workout here. I remember leaving here feeling really good," Knight said. "Of course Kyrie went No. 1 and they had the fourth pick. Not saying they would have taken another point guard, but I was very happy with my workout here."
The 6-foot-3 point guard wound up in Detroit, where he averaged 13 points and 3.9 assists before being traded to Milwaukee Bucks. Knight's scoring (17.8 points per game) and assists (5.1) climbed in Milwaukee, but that didn't stop the Bucks from dealing him to the Phoenix Suns at the 2015 trade deadline.
Although Knight appeared in just 11 games for Phoenix after the deal, that didn't stop the team from inking him to a 5-year, $70 million contract the following summer. And for the first 52 games of his new deal, Knight seemed to live up to the hype, averaging a career-high 19.6 points and 5.1 assists per game.
Injuries, however, soon derailed Knight's career year -- and soon, his career itself. After scoring 21 points and grabbing 8 rebounds and 4 assists in a loss to the Indiana Pacers, the South Florida native suffered an adductor strain that initially cost him seven weeks and after a brief 9-game return, the remainder of the season.
Knight returned in time for the start of the following season but his playing time and production waned. Appearing in 54 games -- just 5 starts -- he averaged 11.0 points and 2.4 assists and was a healthy scratch for the Suns' final 25 games.
The following summer, he tore his ACL, costing him the entirety of the 2017-18 season.
By the time he arrived in Houston in another cost-cutting trade Knight was already considered a reclamation project -- and a high-priced one at that. Between Feb. 16, 2017 and the day he was traded the Cavs on Feb. 7, 2019, he had appeared in just 12 NBA games.
But whereas others might see a trade to Cleveland this season as a dead end, the Cavs can provide Knight with the one commodity he may not have been able to find anywhere else: opportunity.
"I just wanted a chance to play," Knight said. "That was my biggest thing -- being healthy, working for two years to get back on the court, you don’t want to just sit on the bench. So for me, it was just about trying to get the reps in, get the time in and you know, they have the time here, had some injuries, traded some guys as well.
"So the opportunity was here. I’m just happy to be here, excited to take advantage of that opportunity and just want to use it to the best of my ability."
Having yet to play more than 16 minutes in a single game for the Cavs, Knight has only gotten a small taste of that opportunity, but there should be plenty more to come. Starting with a matchup against his former team, the Suns, on Thursday night, Cleveland has 24 games left this season -- and little left to play for outside of seeing what it can get out of young players like Collin Sexton and Cedi Osman and once promising prospects like Knight.
"It’s not just about me, it’s about trying to help the guys that are here, continue to help the team grow," Knight said. "It’s not just about this year, it’s about building for the future as well.”