Now that the New York Knicks are in offseason mode, there are many questions about which way the franchise is headed. Can Carmelo Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire co-exist on the court together and succeed? (The Knicks have a 29-41 record when the duo play together.) If not, can they find a team to take on STAT’s contract? There are already rumors of horrendous contract swapping involving the Atlanta Hawks’ Joe Johnson, which would include Stoudemire in the exchange.
Another question is, who will lead the Knicks and be the head coach? Does Mike Woodson deserve a legitimate and official shot to coach the team? I think so, but James Dolan will only consider it if Woodson changes his agent. Two words: Larry. Brown. In any case, it looks like this will be a done deal soon enough. However, there’s always the shadow of Phil Jackson looming because of the prestige he would bring. And if James Dolan doesn’t even give him a call, Dolan is all about doing just enough to make the playoffs and to make the fans pay money.
Oddly enough, perhaps the biggest story of the 2011-12 NBA season, particularly to mainstream culture, has taken a bit of a backseat to the two previous questions of superstar chemistry and coaching — Jeremy Lin. Remember him?
Starting in February of this year and lasting through most of March, we were all following, whether it was with love or hate, the phenomenon generally known as Linsanity. Ask TIME, who has a history of calling it right. So, have we all taken our dose of reality medication and are no longer Linsane? Are we not all in on Lin? Puns aside, what uniform will Jeremy Lin be wearing next season?
Note that if the Knicks choose to, they can match any offer made to Lin by another NBA team and because of a clause in the CBA, teams can only offer Lin their Mid-Level Exception (which will be around $5 million, depending on taxpayer status). Pending a current appeal, the Knicks do not own the Bird’s Rights to Lin and cannot overpay if they wanted to make it a “done” deal without any competitors in the marketplace. So, who are potential competitors for Lin’s services?
Stan Van Gundy is no longer the head coach of the Orlando Magic and if former Knicks head coach, Mike D’Antoni, decides to head down south, Lin is a possibility for the Magic. This may be a great thing for Lin when you consider his numbers with D’Antoni as Knicks head coach compared to his numbers with Woodson:
D’Antoni: 18 Starts; 9-9 W/L Record; 20.1 PPG; 44.8 FG% (7.0-for-15.6); 35.8 3PT FG% (1.0-for-2.9); 75.2 FT% (5.1-for-6.7); 8.6 APG; 2.4 SPG; 5.1 TO
Woodson: 7 Starts; 6-1 W/L Record: 13.3 PPG; 42.9 FG% (3.9-for-9.0); 29.4 3PT FG% (0.7-for-2.4); 94.4 FT% (4.9-for-5.1); 5.4 APG; 1.0 SPG; 3.7 TO
The numbers show that while Lin had his best individual statistics with D’Antoni, the Knicks weren’t a great team, compared to when Woodson was the coach. Lin substantially scored more points, took more shots, dished more dimes and ripped the rock a lot more often while playing for D’Antoni. However, he also turned the ball over a lot, something he’ll still need to improve upon if he’s going to be a lead guard for any team.
Furthermore, Jameer Nelson will opt-out of his contract in hopes of getting a long-term deal, which will open up the starting spot for Lin should he decide to head to Orlando. Of course, while the Nelson move would free up $7.9 million, the Magic would still be in the luxury tax range at $78.0 million with the prospect of re-signing restricted free agent Ryan Anderson. However, if any team wants to secure Lin’s services, they’d have to backload a four-year contract in the double-digits and the Magic may not want to touch any more long-term contracts that tie them up from having cap space (See: Hedo Turkoglu and Jason Richardson). I’d put the odds at slim, but have it up go to good if D’Antoni coaches in O-Town.
In any case, even though Jose Calderon is still owed $10.6 million for his final season in 2012-13, the Raptors will have the cap space to add Lin and hope that Linsanity continues up north. The team could always look to move Calderon at some point to a team that has the room to accommodate his contract and needs a solid-shooting, pass-first point guard. However, a move doesn’t seem likely until the trading deadline, so if the Raptors sign Lin, he’d have to share time, plus the Raptors would surely let young guard Jerryd Bayless, an unrestricted free agent, go.
The team seems to be in flux without any strong identity, so Lin could prove a shot in the arm for T-Dot, especially when you consider the significant Asian population in the city. Lin at his best would be a combination of Calderon and Bayless — a scoring point guard (Bayless) with the ability to pass the rock (Calderon). However, that’s based on a small sample of games and there’s no guarantee that Lin can recreate the magic, but for a team like the Raptors in need of some sizzle, Lin could be a player to gamble on. Odds are solid.
There’s a war going on for New York basketball supremacy … OK maybe it’s not as dramatic as that, considering that the Knicks have been the team of choice for decades in the NYC metro area and the Nets haven’t yet played a single game in Brooklyn. However, when the Nets put up their “Blueprint For Greatness” billboard across the street from Madison Square Garden, it signaled the beginning of a fight. That said, they’ll have a lot of work to do before they’re taken seriously. And stealing Lin, a Knicks hero, would be a solid punch.
The Nets will have a lot of cap space and Lin would come cheap at $5 million per, but only for the first two years. The team would need to consider how much they would put up on the back end of a contract, but as has been noted by many, Deron Williams, an unrestricted free agent, will likely leave the horrible Nets to play with Dirk Nowitzki and no one else in his hometown of Dallas.
Yes, that’s a bit of sarcasm there from this Nets fan. But, my loyalties aside, let’s assume that D-Will does leave. It’s very possible that the Nets would go after Lin to replace their All-Star point guard. And the reasons mostly have to do with off-the-court stuff — Lin’s established popularity with New Yorkers, as well as the what seems the world, the hope of converting Knicks fans and the marketing possibilities. When you consider how many isos Avery Johnson seems to run, Lin could fit in perfectly. Odds are “eh,” but jumps to “oh yeah” if Williams breaks out of Brooklyn.
New York Knicks
Granted the above mentioned Lin stats we’re dealing with are from small sample sizes, but Lin didn’t become relevant in any significant manner except for that two-month period. So the question remains, is Lin a legitimate starter in this league or a product of a point guard friendly D’Antoni system?
The Knicks have to be considering that very question as they contemplate re-signing the restricted free agent. Lin’s recent knee surgery is also a consideration, although that doesn’t seem to be too much of an issue. Obviously, Lin’s sudden and worldwide “fame” is something in the franchise’s thought process as many die-hard Knicks fans, as well as casual fans, love the story and have embraced the player. Is it going to be about filling seats and raising prices for Dolan, which seems to be a regular routine anyway for the owner, or about the production on the court?
At this point, the Knicks are committed to the following players for 2012-13 (per Hoops Hype):
Carmelo Anthony – $19.5 million
Amar’e Stoudemire – $19.9 million
Tyson Chandler – $13.6 million
Renaldo Balkman – $1.7 million
Iman Shumpert – $1.7 million
Toney Douglas – $2.1 million
Jerome Jordan – $0.8 million
* J.R. Smith – $2.5 million player option
* Josh Harrellson – $0.8 million team option
Let’s assume Smith doesn’t opt in so that he can seek a multiyear deal and that the Knicks pick up Harrellson’s option. That would put them at $60.1 million for eight players. The salary cap for the 2011-12 season was a little over $58 million and we’ll assume it’ll be around the same for 2012-13. But, again, does the team still want Lin or do they go another direction, like say, towards Steve Nash?
Nash, an unrestricted free agent, lives in New York City during the offseason. He’s older (38) than Lin, but is a former two-time MVP with a solid pedigree, particularly with former teammate Amar’e Stoudemire. Steve and STAT pick-and-roll, anyone? Amar’e has already given his pitch to Nash publicly and the Nash possibility will hover over Lin’s shoulder until free agency begins in July. The Knicks’ amnesty provision is gone thanks to Chauncey Billups, but if Nash agrees to take a cut in salary, it’s possible for the Knicks to add him. However, it seems nearly impossible as both the Suns and Raptors will have cap space to offer him double-digits in millions per year. The Knicks’ chances look tiny.
The inordinate hype around Lin will never be matched by Lin’s production on the court, and the best shot he seems to have is if D’Antoni takes on a job somewhere with Lin as the starter. However, from the Knicks perspective, it seems to make sense to keep Lin, as he generates more interest in the team and is nearing legend status among the Knicks fan base, especially the more casual fans.
From an on-the-court perspective, Lin’s numbers with both Melo and STAT aren’t too impressive, but they’re not terribly heinous either:
17 Starts; 15.0 PPG; 40.1 FG% (4.8-for-11.9); 31.8 3PT FG% (0.8-for-2.6); 85.9 FT% (4.6-for-5.4); 6.8 APG; 1.9 SPG; 3.8 TO
Sure there’s room for improvement and it seems that with Lin’s work ethic and ability to rise above being the underdog, which he still is, Linsanity will survive. Plus he’s stated that he would like to return to the team and signing him for the MLE will be a solid value for the Knicks, not only because he’s capable of putting up 15 and 7, but also because of his popularity and marketing value to bring in more money and attention to the franchise.
While it’s still up in the air if Lin is going to be truly starter-worthy, he’s at least proven that he’s rotation-worthy and belongs in the league. But, a valid question still remains — is Lin’s appeal basically as a sideshow attraction? For the Knicks, that sideshow factor is just gravy on the meat.