What seemed a certainty days ago — that the New York Knicks would match any offer sheet for restricted free-agent guard Jeremy Lin from the Houston Rockets — became quite unclear Saturday night, after the Knicks agreed to terms with free-agent guard Raymond Felton in a sign-and-trade deal with Portland. The Knicks also received forward/center Kurt Thomas from the Blazers for a second tour of duty in New York. In exchange, the Knicks sent forward Jared Jeffries and center Dan Gadzuric to Portland.
Felton reportedly signed a three-year, $10 million contract with New York, a hefty deal for someone that wasn’t going to play very much as a third point guard. The Knicks already signed Jason Kidd to a three-year, $9.5 million deal earlier this month, and also have Argentinian guard Pablo Prigioni under contract.
Bringing back Lin, the undrafted guard out of Harvard who electrified crowds in New York in a three-week stretch in early February that was quickly dubbed “Linsanity,” seemed a formality. But unless the Knicks are planning to play Kidd much more at shooting guard next season, it would appear they have at least one point guard too many around.
The Rockets, according to a source, thought there was a chance Saturday that the Knicks wouldn’t match the offer sheet. New York will have three days from when it receives the sheet to decide whether to match it or not. If it matches the offer sheet, it can’t trade Lin until next July.
Nash and the Knicks are in the critical stages of discussions on a three-year deal worth between $27 million-$30 million to be executed through a sign-and-trade deal with the Suns. The Knicks would send rookie guard Iman Shumpert and multiple players – including Toney Douglas – to Phoenix for Nash, sources said.
Nash, a two-time MVP, has been enthusiastic about joining the Knicks’ core of Carmelo Anthony, Tyson Chandler and Amar’e Stoudemire.
… The Knicks also intend to match any offer restricted free-agent point guard Jeremy Lin receives.
The potential addition of Nash would be a game-changer for the Knicks and could vault them into the conversation of teams capable of legitimately challenging for one of the top spots behind the Miami Heat in the East.
Nash has history with Stoudemire dating back to their days in Phoenix, when the Suns were contenders in the Western Conference on a regular basis. He’d also be the perfect maestro for a Knicks offense that lacked one in the time before and after Lin’s rise last season.
Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes to weigh in on the three most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.
One bonus blogtable question (non-trade department): Not even a month ago, all y’all said that the Knicks would make the playoffs. Still convinced?
[Editor's note: This question was asked and answered before Mike D'Antoni resigned as coach on Wednesday afternoon.]
Steve Aschburner: No. My hedge has more to do with the competition near the bottom of the Eastern Conference bracket than it does with the mixed-up Knicks, who might have had enough talent to qualify in spite of their drama, poor chemistry, inattention to defense and ill-fitting parts.
But Milwaukee made a move, with the Bogut trade, that could help immediately, assuming Monta Ellis gets worked into the Bucks’ schemes quickly. With forward-center Ekpe Udoh, that trade is all addition, no subtraction for Milwaukee, which was getting nothing from Bogut and Stephen Jackson. And heck, Cleveland might prove to be a little engine-that-can, in its low-profile, overlooked, Kyrie Irving way. New York’s record should have been flipped by now – 24-18, not 18-24 – and those six games in the standings will prove costly.
Fran Blinebury: To quote Gov. Rick Perry from here in Texas: “Oops!”
Scott Howard-Cooper: Yes. Still convinced they’re not as bad as Cleveland and Milwaukee. The talent level is good enough to put together something along the lines of four wins in seven games. That’s good enough to take control of No. 8 in the East.
Shaun Powell: The Knicks will make it. The schedule will lighten up, and Carmelo Anthony will figure it out, at least enough to get the seventh or eight seed. I will say this: Being unable to fend off the Bucks for a playoff spot is an occupational hazard, Mike D’Antoni. (more…)
Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes to weigh in on the three most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.
Jeremy Lin … what are you seeing? What do you like? Predict his future.
Steve Aschburner: His future? Jeremy Lin is going to unite with Tim Tebow to feed the hungry, heal the sick, solve the globe’s economic woes one jersey sale at a time and persuade Ahmadinejad to swap his nuclear program for one of those big foam No. 1 hands. Meanwhile, because the NBA is a copycat league, the gyms of the Ivy League soon will be crawling with scouts, eager to beat Credit Suisse and Goldman Sachs to the four-year talent … Seriously? What I like best about Lin is that no one saw this coming. No one knows when it will end. Rival coaches and players will try to crush Lin and maybe someday soon they will. But, heh heh, maybe they won’t …
Fran Blinebury: A starter in the 2013 All-Star Game. Hey, Lin would have started this year if he’d have been on the ballot and “Linsanity” had taken place maybe two weeks earlier while voting was still open. That’s because all of those itchy-fingered, left-out Yao Ming voters in China would have flooded the online balloting. I see a good story, a fun story, a kid who finally got his chance and is making the most of it. But before we start clearing out space in the Hall of Fame, let’s wait to see what happens in a few more weeks and months when teams and scouting reports catch up. He’s probably a better perimeter shooter (38.5 percent) than he showed at Golden State, though he doesn’t have 3-point range [Tuesday night notwithstanding]. I love the crossover moves and ability to get to the hoop and also his court vision and knowledge of how to play the game. In the era of the point guard, he’s a keeper.
Scott Howard-Cooper: I am seeing the perfect convergence of a team desperate for a point guard at a time when Carmelo Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire have been injured. All credit to Lin, a hard worker who was ready when the chance came. But this is about circumstances as much as the player. I predict a future with dollar signs. The player cut by two teams this season and unable to get off the bench for a third until recently just clinched a guaranteed contract as a restricted free agent in the summer, and not just for one season. And then there are the marketing opportunities. (more…)
You’re down to one guard to pick for the Eastern Conference All-Star team, and the choices are Ray Allen and Raymond Felton. Which Ray do you go?
Coming into the season, it’s a no-brainer. Allen, on the basis of a distinguished career, makes the East team hands down. He’s second all-time in 3-pointers made and the leader among active players. Nine All-Star Games on are the résumé. He’s a career 20-point scorer with more than 21,000 career points.
Not only can Allen shoot, he can shoot in the clutch with games on the line. He’s a great teammate and, perhaps most importantly, Allen has won. Two of the last three years, his Celtics have played in the NBA Finals, winning it all in 2008.
While there’s obviously a career achievement element to All-Star elections that can’t be ignored, whether through voting by fans or coaches, let’s stop and consider the half-season Felton has put together. In his first year with the resurrected New York Knicks, Felton is out-playing Allen in most meaningful stats.
New York’s playmaker is outscoring the Celtic sharpshooter (17.6 – 17.5) going into today, has an understandable huge assist edge (8.8 – 3.1), is outrebounding (3.9 – 3.7) and is doubling up on steals (1.8 – 0.9). Allen does has sizable leads in shooting percentages from the floor on all shots (51.3 to 42.8) and 3-pointers (46.8 – 34.4).
One can argue that Allen would put up even better numbers if he didn’t share the load with Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Rajon Rondo. Maybe, but it could also be presumed that playing with those guys makes it easier for Jesus Shuttlesworth to get his.
Felton is a vital second banana to Amar’e Stoudemire on Broadway. He’s not only the Knicks’ second-leading scorer, but Felton is sixth in the league in assists. The North Carolina product had always put up solid numbers, with his best season being three years ago — 14.4 points and 7.4 assists. Are his numbers now skewed by Mike D’Antoni‘s system?
On the basis of stats, I’d give Felton the slight leg up. But what about intangibles? Ah, here it gets tricky. Allen is part of the defending conference champs and Boston currently leads the East. Winning has to count for something. The Knicks are mired in a bit of a slump, but they are in the playoff picture, checking in at sixth and have made pro basketball at Madison Square Garden relevant again. That can’t be discounted in the world’s largest media market.
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – If Wednesday night is any indication, we’re going to get spoiled rotten this season.
We had a 13-game slate filled with intriguing matchups, NBA debuts and virtuoso performances.
The Cavaliers kicked off the post LeBron James era in style, knocking off the Celtics team that knocked off James and the Heat Tuesday night. The Heat bounced back, especially Dwyane Wade, with a win in Philadelphia. Meanwhile the Nuggets thumped the Jazz, so much for all the Carmelo Anthony drama being an issue, and the Trail Blazers moved to 2-0 with a win over the Clippers in Blake Griffin‘s first regular season action.
Chris Paul looked fantastic in his return to action, the Hawks’ new offense was nothing short of spectacular in their win over the Hang Time Grizzlies and the Amar’e Stoudemire era in New York is off to a winning start. The Thunder and Bulls gave us a playoff worthy matchup in their opener and the Spurs appear rested and re-energized after their playoff run ended abruptly last season.
And I sincerely hope you didn’t fall asleep before Warriors scoring machine Monta Ellis got loose … here’s the Daily Zap:
And we mentioned this was Griffin’s first regular season taste, well he didn’t disappoint.
He looked as explosive as ever from the start, rattling as many rims as he could to make up for missing last season. We have a feeling he’ll be a regular in the Top 10 this season, along with several other rookies (Wesley Johnson has lift) :
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – More often than not this season Amar’e Stoudemire will serve as the Knicks’ headliner.
The loudest roar of that Madison Square Garden crowd will be reserved for the Knicks’ All-Star free agent acquisition. The brightest lights will be his, as will the bulk of the responsibility of the Knicks’ dreams of a playoff bid.
This weekend, though, belongs to third-year Knicks forward and Italian import Danilo Gallinari.
Gallo(you’ve got to love a guy whose nickname means “rooster” in Italian) is going home in style. When the Knicks take on Milano Sunday night in a preseason game at the Mediolanum Forum, the roof will rattle with cheers for the hometown kid that made good. We’ve got big plans for him this season as well, since Gallo is the early leader for HT’sBreakout Player of the Year honor.
He is actually recognized more often on the streets of Manhattan than in Milan, where soccer is a religion and basketball is a minor sport. Among basketball icons here, Gallinari would rank well behind his coach, Mike D’Antoni, who starred for Milano in the 1970s and ’80s, leading the club to numerous championships.
Gallinari obviously has work to do to catch his coach in terms of popularity back home. He doesn’t even have one of the Top 10 selling NBA jersey in Europe (Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Pau Gasol, Kevin Garnett, Andrea Bargnani, Jose Calderon, Dwight Howard, Dirk Nowitzki and Tony Parker have those spots on lock).
But Gallo’s working on cracking the list.
He’s only 22 and the Knicks haven’t exactly set the league on fire since he’s been with them, he was the sixth pick in the 2008 draft. A playoff trip this season, starring alongside Stoudemire, could go a long way towards improving Gallo’s profile back home and here in the states.
That said, there is plenty of work to do on the court. Gallo’s rookie season was washed away by injuries. His second season, however, was a bit of a revelation. He showed off a scoring touch that screams future star. And he wasn’t shy about performing on the big stage. Only Houston’s Aaron Brooks, the league’s Most Improved Player Award winner, shot and made more 3-pointers than Gallinari’s 488 and 186, respectively.
We love his moxie here at the hideout. The two times we saw him in person last season, Gallo carried himself like a star (you have to believe it before the rest of us will). We’re predicting big things for him this season.
He’ll have plenty of chances to prove he is indeed who we think he is, starting this weekend on his home turf.
(The Clippers released a statement indicating they are just “honored” to be one of the teams making a presentation to the King. Clippers point guard Baron Davis took it a step further and penned a letter to all the free agents … check it out here.)
Yet, the Timberwolves managed to make news on opening night/morning.
That they’ve even entered the conversation reminds us all just how wonderfully twisted a time this is. The same team that acquired three new small forwards on Draft night makes it’s splash in free agency by reaching out to what else but another small forward in Gay.
We’re more than an hour into the greatest free agent frenzy anyone has ever seen and I’m still waiting to see the fireworks. Will Johnson spurn the maximum contract offer from the Hawks and go elsewhere? He met with the Knicks immediately after speaking with the Hawks. Could they lure him to New York to work as Robin to James wearing a Batman mask?
There are theories running rampant that Johnson is now the key to enticing James (and perhaps even Amar’e Stoudemire) to play in New York … it’s yet another of the seemingly logical but unsubstantiated reports about this frenzy that will leave us all wondering what’s really going on.
If you thought there would be some clarity to all these things just because the clock struck midnight on July 1, you were wrong. We’ve still got a week to go before anyone can sign anything.
Verbal agreements are sure to start rolling throughout the 4th of July weekend.
Who swings at that opening pitch remains the most pressing question as we continue digging deeper into Day 1.
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – This is how you close the (regular season) show.
We get meaningful games all over the place, playoff position on the line and guys turning in star turns everywhere you look.
There’s even some buzz that LeBron James will join Shaquille O’Neal on the floor for the Cavaliers’ finale tonight against the Hawks at Philips Arena, one of 14 games on the tap for finale night.
The Bulls and Suns certainly got the message, providing the Hump Day Hoops Roundup with this high quality video:
They both played lights out basketball Tuesday night to get us all warmed up for tonight’s action, which includes season-defining games for the Bulls and Raptors, who will sort out the eighth and final playoff slot in the Eastern Conference with their actions, as well as the Suns and Jazz, who will sort out the final home court slot in the West (the Suns already have at least the fourth spot).
While the Bulls and Raptors are fighting just to get in, the Suns appear to be a team on a different mission. As the Prime Minister pointed out before they dismantled the Nuggets, the Suns could be the dark horse team that upsets the order in the Western Conference playoffs.
They remind us of Orlando last year; a team that played great basketball after the All-Star break but flew under the radar until they knocked off the top-seed Cavaliers and faced off against the Lakers in the NBA Finals.
Amar’e Stoudemire has been on a mission since the trade deadline, playing like the MVP of the second half of the season. And Steve Nash remains an ageless wonder. What the Suns have going for them now it momentum and a supporting cast that is playing its best basketball since the Mike D’Antoni days.
“The Suns dominated Denver, which has lost its past 11 games at Phoenix, by jumping to an 18-2 advantage and led an entire game for the fourth time this season. The blowout gave Phoenix a 3-1 series edge against Denver, which is one of three teams the Suns could face this weekend when the playoffs begin.
The final night of the season will determine the Suns’ playoff fate.
If Phoenix wins at Utah, the Suns would be the No. 3 seed and play either Portland or San Antonio. The only way the Spurs can find their way into that matchup is to win at Dallas and have Portland lose at home tonight against Golden State.
If Phoenix loses at Utah, the Suns would be the No. 4 seed and face Denver, which has turned into a .500 team down the stretch without coach George Karl, who will not coach in the first round after recently completing chemotherapy.
One advantage of being the No. 3 seed is avoiding a potential matchup with the Los Angeles Lakers until the conference finals. The Suns also could face Portland, which could be the No. 6 seed and might be without star guard Brandon Roy, who has a torn meniscus in his right knee.
Utah is playing for a division title, home-court advantage and maybe even a No. 2 seed if Dallas loses but could be without forward Carlos Boozer, who left Tuesday’s win at Golden State because of a rib-muscle strain. Andrei Kirilenko (calf muscle) did not play.
“In some ways, (tonight) is not as important, and in some ways, (tonight) is a bigger game,” Suns guard Steve Nash said. “This team is excited to go and play in a tough environment and see what we can do. We’re not happy with where we are as far as an end result. We want to keep on going and see how good we can get.”
As fantastic as the Suns looked against the Nuggets, the Bulls might have been even more impressive in their must-win over the Celtics.
Derrick Rose and Kirk Hinrich put on show worthy of some of the league’s great guard tandems, only to be overshadowed by a previously unreported spat between the VP of basketball John Paxson and head coach Vinny Del Negro that came to light earlier in the day.
“Inside Vinny Del Negro’s office March 30 after a frustrating loss to the Suns, the differences between John Paxson and Del Negro became irreconcilable. A fight ensued. And Paxson’s Chicago legacy was stained.
The Del Negro-Paxson relationship already was beyond repair. This gave it a time of death and a paper trail.
How many pink slips will it ultimately produce?
“Things happen, there are a lot of emotions in this game,” Del Negro said Tuesday night after the Bulls beat the Celtics 101-93 to maintain control of their playoff destiny. “That stuff is irrelevant.”
There is less debate that the details are irresistible. A source late Tuesday night confirmed Yahoo! Sports’ version that Paxson grabbed Del Negro’s tie and poked him in the chest because he was upset Joakim Noah played more minutes than management wanted because of Noah’s plantar fasciitis.
Paxson, according to an independent source, also called Del Negro selfish and at least two Bulls assistant coaches had to restrain him. There was the cursing and yelling often overheard when men act like Neanderthals. A more detailed blow-by-blow account may emerge.”
In the meantime, we’ll focus on Rose and Hinrich and the 69 points they combined for to wear out the Celtics, who were locked into the fourth seed with the loss:
We appreciate Noah’s attitude about the whole thing, which speaks to the mission the Bulls have to be on tonight when they travel to Charlotte:
“Things happen in an organization,” he said. “We deserve not to have these problems talked about right now. We’re fighting as players and that’s all that matters.”
‘NEXT-STOP LARRY’ ON THE MOVE AGAIN?
The Bulls have company in the off-the-floor drama department.
“The Bobcats want Brown, 69, to be in Charlotte again next season. No, it’s more than a want. They need him to be here.
And he told the Observer’s Rick Bonnell on Tuesday he will be.
“I’m not coaching anywhere but Charlotte,” Brown said, responding to the latest spate of rumors that has him becoming the coach of either the Philadelphia 76ers or the L.A. Clippers within weeks.
I want to believe him.
Until proven otherwise, I’m going to. But could Brown change his mind?
The Bobcats are his ninth NBA coaching stop. He has already coached the 76ers and the Clippers before. His wife and his two youngest children still live in Philadelphia. He misses them desperately, and hasn’t been shy about broadcasting that fact.
Anyone who has ever been in a commuter marriage can vouch for its difficulty. Brown is old enough that the 76ers rumors, at least, have a certain logic.
But the Bobcats need him. Brown has rebuilt the team’s roster the way he always does – a master chef assembling ingredients that don’t always seem to make sense but do so in concert. Suddenly, a Bobcats team that has never made the playoffs has 44 wins and will begin its first playoff series in Orlando this weekend.
From a basketball standpoint, it makes so much sense for Brown to stay. He’s just getting started here.
But it has made sense for him to stay in other places before, and he’s left. Those nine NBA stops don’t even include his various college jobs (which included a couple of months as coach at Davidson in 1969. Brown left in a dispute with the administration before coaching a game).
He has long been a bumblebee, always in search of the next tempting flower.
Michael Jordan knew about his wanderlust when he hired Brown in 2008 as Bobcats coach. Jordan correctly grabbed the hall of famer anyway, willing to take the risk because of Brown’s talent.
I like Brown. If you’re a writer, it’s impossible not to. He is insecure, honest and funny. He supplies more material in one postgame interview session than Panthers coach John Fox does in a month.
But you must take a clear-eyed view of Brown. Even if he doesn’t leave Charlotte in the offseason – and again, I hope he doesn’t – you have to realize that he’s going to leave sometime.”
JACKSON STARTS MIND GAMES EARLY
Lakers coach Phil Jackson is preparing early to face Thunder All-Star Kevin Durant, who could become the yougnest scoring champ in league history with a big game against Hang Time’s Grizzlies tonight.