Knicks 101, Celtics 95: The Bleeding Stops, At Least For One Night

New York Knicks 101 Final
Recap | Box Score
95 Boston Celtics
Amar’e Stoudemire, PF 26 MIN | 9-16 FG | 2-2 FT | 7 REB | 1 AST | 1 STL | 1 BLK | 3 TO | 20 PTS | +14

Really strong offense. Dominated Sullinger and Bass in the post on offense and snaggled some strong rebounds. An inconsistent outing on efense, which is actually an improvement over “Think of the children! Won’t somebody please think of the children!!” He also had a tough, Charles Smith-like sequence late when the Celtics were threatening to make it a game. But if this were the norm for STAT, you could easily see a team offering him a decent deal next year. Not the Knicks, but still.

Quincy Acy, SF 17 MIN | 0-1 FG | 0-0 FT | 4 REB | 3 AST | 2 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 0 PTS | +16

He was really good in the first half, even if he failed to score a single point, and high-larry-ous-ly airballed his one shot from the baseline. Of course, Quincy sat pretty much the entire second half, because [shrug emoticon].

Carmelo Anthony, SF 39 MIN | 9-20 FG | 4-4 FT | 5 REB | 3 AST | 1 STL | 3 BLK | 2 TO | 22 PTS | +1

Considering he wasn’t expected to play, a very nice outing, even if he was catching iron from downtown, and the refs kept their whistles in their pockets on seemingly every drive. Melo had some nice chemistry with Tim Hardaway, Jr. in the second quarter when Timmy went off, and hustled on D, racking up blocks and deflection, including the final strip of Jeff Green to seal the game. Not a superstar night, but a good night for a guy grinding on a bad knee.

Jose Calderon, PG 33 MIN | 4-10 FG | 0-0 FT | 3 REB | 7 AST | 3 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 9 PTS | +11

Started on fire on offense with 7 points in the first quarter. Ran the offense well. Played some good defense, including a successful defense of a Rondo/Zeller PnR with Stoudemire. Has a disconcerting habit of almost always “midgeting” when he penetrates, rather than taking the ball to the rim. Celtics started to expect the pass and did not respect the shot. Missed a 23′ with less than 30 seconds left that would have iced the game. Inexplicable foul on a driving Pressey late in the game.

Iman Shumpert, SG 17 MIN | 2-3 FG | 0-2 FT | 0 REB | 3 AST | 2 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 5 PTS | +1

First of all, get well soon Iman. That dislocated sholder looked like it HURT. And not to add insult to injury, but he was having a bad defensive game before prior to getting injured, getting clowned repeatedly by Evan freakin’ Turner and absolutely dying on screens when trying to defend the pick and roll. On offense, Shumpert had one really nice rhythm three on a catch and shoot, but he continues to be a horrible finisher at the rim. He blew a monster dunk on a nice pass from Dalembert and, frankly, got bailed out by a charity whistle. Rest up, Shump, and maybe work on layups with the one healthy limb you’ve still got.

Samuel Dalembert, C 22 MIN | 2-3 FG | 2-2 FT | 5 REB | 1 AST | 2 STL | 1 BLK | 0 TO | 6 PTS | -11

This is the good Dalembert. Had one AWESOME dribble-drive for a slam, played solid defense, grabbed some strong defensive rebounds, and made some nice pocket passes. Hi, good Dalembert! Take off your coat and stick around for a while, why dontcha. Make yourself at home and ish.

Jason Smith, C 17 MIN | 5-7 FG | 2-2 FT | 5 REB | 1 AST | 2 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 12 PTS | +2

Well, that’s about good as it can possibly get for Jason Smith. The midrange was sopping wet, worked the pick-and-pop perfectly, used his size effectively and (shockingly) grabbed rebounds with vim and vigor. His one assist came on a strip steal and pass to Prigioni for a breakaway layup. Knicks would be getting enormous value if this Jason Smith showed up each night.

Shane Larkin, PG 22 MIN | 2-3 FG | 0-0 FT | 4 REB | 4 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 3 TO | 5 PTS | -12

If nothing else, he’s the Knicks best perimeter defender, and seemingly improving each and every night. Granted, the C’s didn’t really take advantage of their guards’ height advantage down low. His jumper was falling and he moved the ball on offense, especially on the drive and kick. Had one egregious cross-court pass that was stolen, and only some nifty defense from Calderon (!) kept it from being a transition basket.

Pablo Prigioni, PG 14 MIN | 2-5 FG | 1-2 FT | 2 REB | 2 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 6 PTS | +3

In a loss, this grade might have been lower. He forced (sacrilege) a couple of long threes early in the shot clock.

Tim Hardaway Jr., SG 32 MIN | 5-13 FG | 4-4 FT | 5 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 16 PTS | +5

I was holding my breath for how THJ and Melo would get along after a howling dumpster fire’s worth of “Team Turmoil!” tabloid headlines. Naturally, Timmy responded with possibly his best all-around game of the season. He carried the offense in the first half, looked durned competent on the other end, and actually wrangled some tough defensive bounds instead of leaking out. I was shocked to see him finish only 5/13 from the field.

Derek Fisher

Lots to like, few things to question. Fish kept lots of ball handlers on the court going extensively with two points after Shump went down. Because Celtics are not going to punish small guards in the post, it resulted in a slew of steals and kept turnovers to a minimum. He made some smart offense/defense substitutions late and had all three PG’s with Acy and Melo for the key possession when the Celtics needed a trey. Carmelo defended Olynyk 25 feet from rim and forced air ball, in a way Dalembert or Amar’e were not likely to do. As previously mentioned, I have no idea why we saw so little of Acy in the second half. Also, there are a lot of plays where Carmelo is not even being used as a decoy.

Five Things We Saw

  1. First, the bad. The ‘Bockers have to get better at reacting to double and triple teams of Carmelo Anthony. The whole point of this danged geometric offense, is to react to defensive pressure and move to spots for a wide open look. It’s not complicated, but needs to happen ASAP.
  2. Boy, it is nice to win. Yes, tanking is a thing, whether it’s on purpose or not, and this team certainly needs a top draft pick, but eff that. Let’s live in the now, and the now (thankfully) includes win over the goddamned Celtics. With rumors that Carmelo might be open to trade and ugliness between Carmelo and his teammates, the Knicks needed to do something to take the pressure off, and give everyone a second to breathe. This has been a real fecal sandwich of a season, but things can definitely get worse. An certain angry, impulsive, dimwitted cable scion using his greasy mitts to grab the tiller, resulting Josh Smith in the white, orange and blue. I just threw up in my mouth. Be back in a sec.
  3. Okay, we’re back. Anyhoo, when Big Chief Triangle decided to bring in Jason Smith, he was looking for nights like tonight. Tough, rough, ready, heady, smooth shooting and defenisive looting. Don’t forget to tip your waitress at Clyde’s Wine & Dine.
  4. I cannot get used to the Celtics having cheerleaders. During the bumpers, I kept wondering why the Knicks City Dancers were in Boston, and then I would notice they were beckecked in green. Not to invoke the supernatural, but I consulted a ouija board, and I can report that Red Auerbach is not pleased (sources say).
  5. I love Clyde. You love Clyde. Pretty much everyone loves Clyde. (Clyde’s personal tailor looooooves Clyde, that’s for sure.) But there are times when it seems as if Clyde doesn’t really get how the game has evolved in the last decade or so. To wit: he disparaged Shumpert for dishing to Hardaway for a corner three (which he made) on a 3-on-2 fast break, whinging that Shump “Wasn’t even looking for his shot.” First, getting Hardaway a wide-open trey is a better choice than just about anyone on the roster trying to finish at the rim, let alone Shump (who, you know, can’t). Get well soon, oh Flat Topped one. I’m still wincing from watching his arm get wrenched from its socket.

Cavaliers 90, Knicks 87

Cleveland Cavaliers 90 Final
Recap | Box Score
87 New York Knicks
Amar’e Stoudemire, PF 30 MIN | 8-13 FG | 2-2 FT | 9 REB | 2 AST | 1 STL | 1 BLK | 5 TO | 18 PTS | +8

It was mostly good. The MONSTER SLAM at the beginning of the 4th Quarter over Varejao was a thing of beauty that sent visions of fall 2010 running through MSG. STAT unleashed some crafty low post moves and played some good defense in space on PNR, leading to a clanged Marion corner 3 and then a Shumpert/Carmelo two on none fastbreak. He grabbed a bunch of tough rebounds, and even made two nice passes out of the post to Larkin and Hardaway. Really, I saw it happen and everything. But early on, Stat was clowned by Varejao off the dribble, leading to an easy Love basket, The turnovers are still a problem, though. Still, it’d be nifty to see this version of Amar’e every night.

Quincy Acy, SF 31 MIN | 6-8 FG | 3-4 FT | 6 REB | 3 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 3 TO | 15 PTS | -15

. That was Quincy’s best, manimal-est game as a Knick, starting with the hard/borderline cheap hit on LBJ early set the tone. He had some great leak outs and dashes to the rim for easy points, played strong defense, banged home rainbow jumpers and even dumped off a pocket pass or two. Sometimes, though, he crossed over from aggressive to “aggressively dumb” with his hackery, and we’re going to knock a point off his GPA accordingly. Speaking of cats we’d like to see every night… this guy!

Carmelo Anthony, SF 30 MIN | 4-19 FG | 0-0 FT | 10 REB | 4 AST | 1 STL | 1 BLK | 5 TO | 9 PTS | -13

Some nice rebounding and passing, but ooh boy. His shot was off, and for some reason that only emboldened him to force it even more. He looked slow and in pain, frankly, which might make one question the wisdom of playing him 40+ minutes in the first two games back from injury. Going ISO and running out the clock with a chance to tie, only to fling up a contested, no-hope trey was really the crappy icing on a poopy game.

Jose Calderon, PG 28 MIN | 1-5 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 3 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 3 PTS | -9

Absolutely could not keep Kyrie Irving in front of him after the first quarter, when Irving was inexplicably went scoreless. He moved the ball on offense quite well, but we’ll need better than this from Calderon sto make up for the turnstile defense (which was expected).

Iman Shumpert, SG 25 MIN | 0-4 FG | 0-0 FT | 6 REB | 4 AST | 2 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 0 PTS | -16

Solid game for a guy with no points. The jumper’s still broken or he’s lost the confidence to take it altogether, and the botched tip dunk early is just another reminder of what we already know–he really can’t score in traffic. Still, a decent outing as the secondary ballhandler, setting up Acy, Carmelo (2x) for easy baskets rather than trying to finish himself.

On defense, Shumpert has three big problems. First, he just plain dies on screens. Second, because he fears screens, he gets wrongfooted by quick guards like Irving–particularly on the shot that put Cleveland up three–who reject the screen.

For example…

Third, he is not strong enough to keep SFs (especially Lebron James) from backing him down in the post.

Samuel Dalembert, C 18 MIN | 3-6 FG | 0-0 FT | 9 REB | 0 AST | 2 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 6 PTS | -11

We can debate whether Phil actually thought Dalembert was a reasonable plug in for Tyson, but this is more or less what the Knicks hoped for. Strongish defense, good rebounding, a few garbage points, and he does seem to understand the Triangle, even if he lacks the skills to execute it well. And yeah, that backdoor pass we’ve all been lauding can just as easily go awry.

Speaking of ways that Dalembert is definitely not Tyson, alley oops. Please don’t try, Sammy.

Jason Smith, C 13 MIN | 1-3 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 2 PTS | +15

“Jason Smith, tough guy.” Hmm. No. “Jason Smith is a tough hombre.” Nah. “Jason Smith, a bad-ass motherfluffer.” Close, but no. Jason Smith is not tough. He tries, though!

Shane Larkin, PG 16 MIN | 2-6 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 1 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 5 PTS | -5

First half was an F. He was getting torched on defense and could not get the Knicks into their offense. The second stanza, though, was much, much better. He hit a nice three and made slick good passes to get Knicks into their offense. Despite his speed, he couldn’t stay in fromt of Kyrie either, which, to be fair, the guy with the best odds of doing so was wearing a lovely suit and streaking out to midcourt flapping his arms like Michael Keaton in Birdman trying to call a timeout.

Pablo Prigioni, PG 8 MIN | 0-2 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 4 AST | 3 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 0 PTS | +8

Pablo’s crafty – he’s gets around
Pablo’s crafty – he’s always down
Pablo’s crafty – he’s got a gripe
Pablo’s crafty – and he’s just my type
He’s crafty.

J.R. Smith, SG 19 MIN | 4-8 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 3 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 9 PTS | +13

JR was much better than he was against Miami. He carried the offense when STAT and Carmelo were on the bench. He took JR Smith shots (step back long 2s) and hit them. Also made a couple of nice passes for assists.

Tim Hardaway Jr., SG 22 MIN | 8-14 FG | 0-0 FT | 3 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 20 PTS | +10

A spectacular first half in which it looked like he’d regained his shooting touch from last year. No idea why he did not get more run in the second half.

Derek Fisher

Sigh, yes. They lost another close game, but if we’re looking for a page to tear out of the silver linings Knickbook, they were generating good looks out of the triangle. I counted six misses that were great shots generated by the Triple Post. I dig that he kept the team’s head in the game when breaks went badly in mid-4th quarter, but at the other end of the spectrum, I can’t feel good about going ISO-Melo to try to tie it with 10 seconds left.

Five Things We Saw

  1. After joining my fellow citizens in Foley Square (wrong forum to discuss this too serious subject), I came to this game just hoping for a close, entertaining game. I had little hope that it would happen, but the Knicks delivered a tense, hard-fought effort, even if they fell short. I’m not going to complain. (Feel free to complain in the comments.)
  2. As I noted above, the triangle generated a lot of good looks including some serious highlight-worthy baskets off of three or even four passes. Amar’e is getting enough space in the post to operate, backdoor passes are starting to click, and nicks are making the weakside handoff work. It’s still not resulting in, you know, wins, but there is a foundation being laid.
  3. The Knicks cannot win games where Carmelo shoots 4/19 and does not get to the foul line. It’s just that simple.
  4. Something was seriously wrong with LeBron tonight. I do not know if it was the after-effects of the whomping he took from Quincy Acy, but Lebron missed easy layups and lots of foul shots. There’s been a lot of chatter the last year plus about LBJ losing a step. Seeing him in person… well… I’ve gotta agree. Right now, for whatever reason, this isn’t the dude that would destroy people. And his defense? It’s bad. Not, “Bad for LeBron James” bad. Just plain not good.
  5. You know who is good? Kyrie Irving. Yes, FARTDOG, but he’s exactly the sort of quick point guard who has torn, does tear, and for the foreseeable future will continue to tear the Knicks up. As much as I wish Shumpert was an answer to this problem, he is not. And that’ll do it. The rest of the schedule is just brutal. Take a look.

    Okay, stop looking. That hurt. But if they keep playing hard and making incremental gains, maybe, they won’t get lapped by the Sixers. Go Knicks!

State Of The Knicks’ Salary Cap

The state of the Knicks’ salary cap was summarized by Lennon & McCartney more than 40 years ago:

I‘ve got to admit it’s getting better (Better)
A little better all the time (It can’t get more worse)
I have to admit it’s getting better (Better)
It’s getting better since [Phil’s] been mine
Getting so much better all the time
It’s getting better all the time
Better, better, better

Sure, the Knicks are light years above the salary cap for this season but, for the first time since the Summer of 2010, they are looking ahead at a summer that will feature significant cap space at their disposal. And, with the new national television deal expected to add up to $30 million to the salary cap starting in the Summer of 2016, the Knicks have the prospect of tremendous cap room when LeBron, Durant and others seek their next long-term deals.

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J.R. Smith Salary Cap Possibilities

There is lots of speculation in the press about JR Smith’s future with the Knicks.  I have zero inside information, but I know how the salary cap works, and how it works with respect to Smith in particular.

Current  Situation:

JR Smith was paid $2.8 million this season, and holds a $2.93 million player option for next season.  If he exercises it (which is highly unlikely), he would be a free agent next season and the Knicks would hold Full Bird rights, which would allow them to offer up to the maximum salary.

 

If JR Smith opts out:

 

Knicks hold Early Bird rights.  Under Early Bird rights, the Knicks can exceed the salary cap to offer up to 104.5% of the League Average (which is basically the mid-level exception) for the first year (about $5.3 million) with potential raises of 4.5% per year for up to 4 years. The catch: the the contract must be for a minimum of two years. The New York Post story is speculating that JR Smith will take a four-year Early Bird Deal. The Knicks could give JR Smith an option on year 4 of the deal, so that he would only be locked in for three years.

 

Knicks also hold non-Bird rights on JR.  Using those, the Knicks could offer JR up to a 20% raise on $2.8 million, meaning they could offer him $3.36 million for next season.  They could also offer Smith an option on year two of the contract at a 4.5% raise ($3.51 million).  That $3.51 million would essentially be an insurance policy on JR blowing up or blowing out his knee.  If JR signed this deal, he could get a full Bird contract after next season.

 

Competing bids from other teams.  Other teams can offer JR Smith up to the league maximum (not saying they will or should — just a possibility).  Since JR Smith has nine years of service under his belt, his maximum salary for year one is roughly $16.4 million (new numbers will come out over the summer). Additionally, a new team could offer annual 4.5% raises.  Minimum length of the contract is one year, but the team must have the salary cap space to fit JR.

If JR Smith signs the non-Bird Knick Contract:

If JR Smith signs the non-Bird Knick contract ($3.36 million plus $3.51 million player option on year two), the Knicks would hold Full Bird Rights on JR Smith after next season.  Because he would be a 10 year veteran, the Knicks could sign him to a contract starting at $19.1 million (numbers will change slightly because of revenues). The maximum length of the contract would be 4 years, with a maximum 4.5% raise each year.

Conclusion:

If JR Smith signs for four years at the Early Bird price, he would receive a $2 million raise this year and forego the possibility of cashing in for up to 5x his current salary starting in 2014-15.  I would be shocked if he took that deal, but if we’ve all learned anything, it’s that Smith is one of the most unpredictable players in the league.  If he rolls the dice by signing the non-Bird Knick deal, he could cash in huge starting in 2014-15.  And if there is a competing bidder, they could make JR Smith an offer this year that the Knicks could not match.

I have no idea what he will do.  If you do, you either (1) work for CAA, (2) are related by blood to JR Smith, or (3) are fooling yourself.

The State of the Knicks Salary Cap

Now that the Knicks have formally cemented a sign-and-trade agreement with Marcus Camby for Josh Harrellson, Jerome Jordan, Toney Douglas and 2nd round draft picks in 2014 and 2015, the cap picture is coming into focus. In short, the Knicks face significant restrictions, but as a result of the ingenuity of Glen Grunwald and the favorable Jeremy Lin/Steve Novak Early Bird arbitration, the team is in much better shape than Knicks fans had hoped at the end of the playoffs.

 

A Little History

For the past thirty years, if the Knicks’ salary cap were a painting, it would be Picasso’s Guernica. Horrors abounded and the closer you looked, the more grotesque it became. Red Auerbach twisted the Knicks into a pretzel to prevent them from signing away Kevin McHale, and for the next twenty five years it felt like the Knicks never had any cap space.  When Patrick Ewing neared the end of his career, New York traded his expiring contract for a series of bloated deals (Glen Rice and Luc Longley) that put the Knicks on a losing treadmill for a decade. Despite MSG’s vast financial resources, the team could only attract fast-food quality players at four-star restaurant prices: Shandon Anderson, Howard Eisley, Penny Hardaway, Stephon Marbury, Eddy Curry, Stevie Francis and Zach Randolph to name a few.  The Knicks compounded those cap-draining moves with ridiculous MLEs:  Clarence Weatherspoon, Jerome James and Jared Jeffries (love him at the vet’s minimum, but what a bust on the first go).

Four years ago, under the leadership of Donnie Walsh, the Knicks bit the bullet and finally decided to clean up the cap situation in an effort to have enough cap room to sign LeBron James as a free agent in the summer of 2010. The Knicks gathered Al Harrington, Larry Hughes, and anyone else with a pulse and a contract that expired in 2010.  Their hopes rose to a fever pitch when LeBron James elected to announce The Decision just thirty miles from NYC. And after their hopes were cruelly dashed, they consoled themselves with Amar’e Stoudemire.

Getting Carmelo Anthony took more cap room than expected, because the Nuggets insisted that the Knicks take back Chauncey Billups (good player, bad contract) and Renaldo Balkman (returned like a bad penny). After getting eliminated in 2011, New York had to quickly decide whether to exercise a $13 million option on Chauncey Billups.  If not, the Knicks would owe him a $3.7 million buyout, which under the 2005 CBA would not leave enough room for a maximum bid.  So, just before the lockout, the Knicks extended Billups one more year.

 

2011-12 Season – Glen Grunwald Gets Creative

After the new CBA was signed, it appeared that the Knicks were consigned to more years of cap room purgatory. The salary cap was reduced, meaning that the max contracts awarded to Stoudemire and Anthony under the old CBA would take up more than 60% of the Knicks’ cap room. With Billups’ $13 million contract, it appeared that the Knicks’ nose would once again press against the window, watching as other teams feasted on free agents. But New York’s front office creatively engineered a sign-and-trade for future 2012 Defensive Player of the Year Tyson Chandler, using the amnesty clause provided by the new CBA to shed Chauncey Billups contract and $3 million from the Dolan’s bank account to move Rony Turiaf.

At the same time, the Knicks made a series of moves that led to major salary cap benefits: Signing Steve Novak off of waivers, signing Jeremy Lin off of waivers and signing J.R. Smith to a $2.3 million contract with a player option for a second year @ $2.5 million. Although the conventional wisdom assumed that the Knicks did not obtain Early Bird rights to resign Novak and Lin by claiming them off of waivers (foolishly accepted as gospel by yours truly), the NBPA won an arbitration finding that the Knicks held Early Bird rights to Lin and Novak. This victory had three important consequences.

  • First, the Knicks would be able to spend up to 104.5% of the league average salary ($5.3 million) to resign each of Lin and Novak without utilizing the Mid-Level Exception;
  • Second, because the Knicks would not use the Mid-Level Exception to resign Lin or Novak, they would not be subject to the $74 million hard cap imposed on any team that uses the full Mid-Level Exception; and
  • Third, because Jeremy Lin was coming off of his second year contract, under the Gilbert Arenas rule, no other team could offer Lin more than $5.0 million per year for the first two years of his contract. If a team wanted to bid more, it would have to back-load the deal with up to $15 million starting in year 3 of the offer.

GM Glen Grunwald made three other shrewd moves at the back end of the roster. He signed Josh Harrellson and Jerome Jordan to two-year minimum contracts, with the second year non-guaranteed. Near the end of the season, when Jared Jeffries was injured, he signed Dan Gadzuric to a two-year veteran’s minimum contact, with the second year non-guaranteed. Because Gadzuric was more than a ten-year veteran, his minimum salary was over $1.3 million (although the Knicks would only have to pay $750k (the second year veteran’s minimum)). As we will see below, the Gadzuric, Jordan and Harrellson contracts provide the Knicks with wiggle room to use trade exceptions to bring in veterans through sign-and-trade transactions at a salary above the veteran’s minimum.

 

The Current State Of The Knicks Salary Cap

The Knicks must have at least 12, and up to 15, players signed to the active roster.  They also must carry Renaldo Balkman’s $1.675 million salary, despite the fact that he was waived last year. (All figures via HoopsHype)

Knicks are well over the $58 million salary cap, the $70 million luxury tax and the $74 million “apron.” Because they are over the salary cap, the Knicks cannot sign a free agent without using an exception to the salary cap: trade exceptions, Bird exceptions, Mid-Level Exceptions and Bi-Annual Exceptions. Because the Knicks are over the luxury tax, they cannot utilize the full $5.0 million Mid-Level Exception or the $2.0 million Bi-Annual Exception. Rather, the Knicks can only use the Taxpayer Mid-Level Exception (the “mini-MLE”) of $3.0 million.

Currently Signed & Staying – $57.1 million

These are the players who are currently signed and who will stay on the salary cap for next year.

 

Player Salary
Amar’e Stoudemire $19,948,799
Carmelo Anthony $19,450,000
Tyson Chandler $13,604,188
Iman Shumpert $1,680,360
(Renaldo Balkman) – waived $1,675,000

In addition, the Knicks signed James White to a one year deal.  Although his agent said it was for “just less than” the veteran’s exception of $1.4 million, since he only has 2 years in the league, I believe he could not be signed for more than $864,000.

Will Be Signed As Of July 11 – $19,040,000

These are the five players that the Knicks will sign as soon as the July Moratorium lifts on July 11.  Jeremy Lin is signing a 4 year/$28.6 million contract (5/5/9.3/9.3(team option)).  Steve Novak is signing a 4 year/$15 million contract (average of $3.75 million).  Marcus Camby is signing a 3 year/$13.2 million sign-and-trade with Houston.  Grunwald pulled this off by sending Toney Douglas ($2 million – guaranteed), Jerome Jordan ($762k – non-guaranteed) and Josh Harrellson ($762k – non-guaranteed) to Houston along with second round picks in 2015 and 2016.  Jason Kidd is signing a 3 year/$9.3 million mini-MLE contract.

Finally, a moment to discuss the return of JR Smith – announced yesterday.  He will sign a contract to return for $2.8 million.  There is a player option for a second year at $2.9 million, which functions as injury insurance for Smith.  Last December, when Smith sought to return from playing in China during the lockout, Grunwald convinced Smith to take a $2.3 million contract with a player option for a second year at a 4.5% raise.  Because Smith did not have two years on this contract, the Knicks did not hold Early Bird rights (which would have allowed the Knicks to offer a starting salary of $5.3 million), they could only offer $2.8 million — a 20% raise from last year’s salary.   That salary was close enough to the mini-MLE of $3.09 million that Smith did not entertain offers from other teams.  It is not clear whether Smith would have considered a full MLE offer (starting at $5.0 million) from another team.  It is safe to say that Smith bonded with the Knicks and Coach Woodson.

At the end of this year, the Knicks will hold Early Bird rights to Smith, which would allow them to offer a two – four year contract starting at $5.3 million.  Another team still might swoop in with a much bigger offer, so it is uncertain whether Smith will be a Knick after this year.

Player Salary
Jeremy Lin $5,000,000
Steve Novak ~$3,750,000
Marcus Camby ~$4,400,000
Jason Kidd ~$3,090,000
JR Smith $2,800,000

 

Hoped For Returnee – $762k against salary cap

The Knicks hope to bring back Jared Jeffries, but have serious limits on what they can pay.  Jared Jeffries can only be brought back with either a 20% raise under non-Bird rights (which would bump his salary to $1.4 million) or for the 10+ year veterans minimum of $1.3 million.  If Jeffries takes the veteran’s minimum, the Knicks will only pay $762k of his salary (the second year veteran’s minimum) and the NBA will pay the balance.  Equally important, the Knicks will only pay tax on the first $762k.

Player Salary
Jared Jeffries $1,352,181 ($762k against salary cap)

 

One More Slot

The Knicks still need to fill at least one more slot on the active roster.  They could bring back Dan Gadzuric at $1.35 million, which is currently non-guaranteed.  More likely, they will try to trade for one more player, who can have salary of up to $1.79 million (($1.35 million x 125%) + $100,000). A team looking to drop $1.79 million in salary  would take Gadzuric, waive him and not be responsible for any of his salary.  For example, the Lakers could rid themselves of $1.1 million owed to Christian Eyenga, and thereby also shed $1.1 million in additional tax liability.  The Knicks can also need to sign at up to three veteran’s minimum free agents.

Likely Departing

Landry Fields will sign a 3 year/$20 million offer sheet  ($5 million/$5 million/$10 million) with Toronto on July 11.  The Knicks will have until July 14 to match, but that is unlikely now that JR Smith is staying.  Resigning Fields would carry a hefty tax burden ($5 million this year/$12.5 million next year/$25 million in year 3), which would not make sense if Fields is going to be a third string wing player.

TOTAL – Around $79 million

 

The Taxman Cometh

The NBA has announced the salary cap for the coming year  is once again $58 million.  The salary cap is set at 50% of Basketball-Related Income (“BRI”).  David Stern has broadly hinted that although per game revenues went up this year, because teams only played 66 regular season games (instead of the normal 82), BRI went down.  Ordinarily, that would mean that the salary cap would go down, but the new CBA guaranteed that the salary cap would not be reduced this year.

Because the salary cap remains at $58 million, the luxury tax will kick in at $70.4 million.  That means teams must pay $1 in tax for every dollar of salary over $70.4 million.  So, the Knicks are looking at approximately $9 million in taxes.

After this year, the luxury tax becomes much more punitive.  It will be a graduated rate starting at 150%.  Once a team is more than $5 million over the tax threshold, the marginal tax rate moves up to 175%.  Once a team is more than $10 million over the tax threshold, the marginal tax rate moves up to 250%.  So, if the Knicks were $15 million over the tax threshold next year, they would pay $28.75 million in luxury tax.

Starting in 2014-15, there is an even more punitive “repeater” tax scale.  It applies to teams that exceed the tax threshold for four years in a row in 2014-15.  Because the Knicks did not exceed the tax threshold last year, they cannot be “repeater” taxpayers in 2014-15.   But after 2014-15, any team that pays tax in four out of five years (and the Knicks almost certainly will in 2015-16 if they keep Carmelo, STAT, TC and Lin) must pay the repeater tax.  The repeater tax rate starts at 250% (100% higher than the ordinary tax rate) and remains 100% above the ordinary tax level in all brackets.  So, if the Knicks were to exceed the tax threshold by $15 million in 2015-16, they would pay $43.75 million in luxury tax.

Other than taking a big chunk of Jim Dolan’s money, the luxury tax will provide a strong incentive for less flush teams to stay below the tax threshold.  Only teams that do not pay tax are eligible to receive tax payments from the league.  The NBA will distribute 50% of tax revenues to non-taxpayers. (The other 50% will be used in revenue sharing).  If the Knicks and Lakers each pay $45 million in luxury tax in 2015-16, each of the other 28 teams would forfeit at least $1.5 million in tax distributions if they exceed the tax threshold by even one dollar.  For close-to-the-bone teams like Milwaukee, Utah, New Orleans, Phoenix and Sacramento, the tax threshold will pretty much function as a hard cap.

 

Conclusion

If you liked last year’s roster, you will love the Knicks for the next three years.  Glen Grunwald has figured out a way to keep last year’s team together, plus add Kidd and Camby.  But for the next three years, the Knicks will be limited to their current roster, plus one mini-MLE player per year.