(Long Island, N.Y.) When the New York Knicks last walked off the hardwood, they had a backcourt that consisted of two veterans on their last legs in Baron Davis and Mike Bibby, the electrifying Jeremy Lin, Iman Shumpert, Landry Fields, J.R. Smith, as well as a forgotten man in Toney Douglas.
My, how things have changed in such a short period of time.
Davis and Bibby were one-year stopgap moves, so it’s no surprise that they will not be brought back. Shumpert blew his knee out in the playoffs and will be rehabbing for a while, but his defensive prowess as a rookie was impressive enough to be patient for him. Fields received a three-year, $20 million offer from the Toronto Raptors that will in all likelihood not be matched by the Knicks. Smith wants to come back and the team seems to agree with him that it was a good fit.
But the biggest question is Lin, who received a big offer of four years and nearly $30 million from the Houston Rockets. Is he really worth that kind of money against a tight salary cap coming off a productive half season? He still has to prove himself over the long haul but brings certain intangibles to the table that cannot be judged by salary alone.
‘Linsanity’ lit the team and entire league last season and the fanfare surrounding Lin is akin to Tim Tebow’s rabid following. Plus he is improving and may end up becoming a very valuable player down the road. Locking him up now – even at a higher rate than most players with his lack of experience – may be a stroke of genius.
Things are all set with the Knicks bringing in Jason Kidd for Lin to learn from. Perhaps the former Maverick is the perfect teacher for Lin, with the 39-year-old considered the quintessential point guard. Kidd is not expected to log many minutes each night and the $3 million he will take home for each of the next three years in New York is expected to be as much in his presence off the court as it is on it.
For the Knicks to close the gap between themselves and the beasts of the east, they will need to do more than bring in Kidd. They also have their sights set on Marcus Camby as a backup to starting center Tyson Chandler and the former Knick can still rebound and block shots with the best of them.
The more money cleared will result in new faces sporting the blue and orange next season. But some of it may be better spent on the likes of Lin. That is the quandary that general manager Glen Grunwald is presently in. Does he tie up more cap space on him or take a chance on letting him go to the Rockets?
He will have to bring in another point guard if Lin is gone and another familiar face is currently available in Raymond Felton. So it comes down to where the money should be spent.
Either way, the group that is bringing the ball up the court in 2012-13 will be vastly improved over a year ago.