David Lee is uncertain about the summer

The soon-to-be free agent has had a career season for the Knicks, averaging 20-12, while shooting almost 55% from the field en route to his first All-Star nod. He told the New York Times that he doesn’t have any idea what’s going to happen this summer.

“I don’t know how the Knicks are going to do timetable-wise, or if LeBron is going to have a decision made by July 1 or Sept. 1,” Lee said. “I don’t know how it’s going to work. At this point, I’m just going to look at everything as it comes to me and let my agent do his job.”

Ideally, the Knicks would sign two superstars, with James and Bosh the top targets. That would require renouncing the rights to all of their free agents, including Lee. But there are countless ways to spend the cap space. They could sign one marquee player and have enough left to sign Lee and another solid free agent. Or they could strike out entirely on the marquee players, in which case they will have plenty of room for Lee — and a long line of depressed season-ticket holders.

Chris Sheridan writes that it’s likely that another team will make him a sizable offer early in free agency and ask him to make a quick decision.

There’s a significant chance someone makes David Lee a take-it-or-leave-it offer that he’ll have to make a choice on almost instantly, and that could happen on the second or third day of July if the Knicks are still waiting on James. If Lee bolts, their best sign-and-trade asset will have disappeared, too. Gonna be an interesting July, eh?

I agree with Sheridan. Some savvy, second-tier team with cap space — I’m talking New Jersey, Washington, Sacramento, LA Clippers, Oklahoma City or Minnesota — will realize that their chances of landing a top-tier free agent like LeBron James or Dwyane Wade is next to nil, and will make a move on the Knicks’ backup plan (Lee) when they’re still wooing one of the big-name free agents. (By the way, when I say “second-tier,” I’m talking about the size of the market, the quality of the team and the franchise, etc. I would say that the Bulls, Knicks and Heat are top-tier free agent landing spots.)

If a team like the Nets makes Lee an offer averaging $10-$11 million per season and puts a time limit on it, it’s going to be tough for Lee to sit around while the Knicks figure out who they can and cannot sign. And if Lee is no longer an option, then there goes the Knicks’ best sign-and-trade chip, which is why Peter Vescey advocated last week that the franchise should re-sign Lee as soon as possible this summer.


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NBA News & Rumors: Lee, Aldridge, Ellis and the “sit down” rule

David Lee wooed by Blazers, but was worried about playing time. Portland offered $28 million over four years, but Lee didn’t think there were enough minutes to be had with LaMarcus Aldridge and Greg Oden already on the front line. It looks as if Lee left $21 million in guaranteed money on the table to stay with the Knicks and play out the season. This is a big risk, but it may pay off next summer.

Blazers, Aldridge still talking extension. While it’s good to hear that negotiations aren’t at a standstill, it’s still worrisome that a deal has not yet been finalized. Aldridge is not a no-brainer max-contract guy, so right now, the Blazers are trying to convince his agent that Aldridge is not worth the max. This can be a tough pill to swallow, expecially with all those teams sitting on loads of cap space next summer. If Aldridge becomes a restricted free agent in 2010 and gets a max deal in the form of an offer sheet, then the Blazers will probably match. But it’s their job to get him for what they think he’s worth, and right now the franchise has the leverage.

Monta Ellis warming up to Stephen Curry.
Ellis was worried that Curry was just a shooter, but he’s shown the ability to create (specifically the nine assists he had in the Warriors’ first preseason game). I’m not sure why Ellis is so concerned with the team’s front office decisions, as he should be focused on having a bounce-back year after a fairly disastrous 2008-09 season. Curry and Ellis may face some matchup problems on the defensive end, but they have the potential to create as many problems for their opponents on the other end of the court.

LeBron not a fan of the “sit down” rule. I don’t blame him. He doesn’t want to see the emotion sucked out of the game, and that’s what this rule does. The league doesn’t want its players to block the view of the fans that pay thousands and thousands of dollars for premier seats, but there has to be a compromise here. Why not have a rule where the players can stand up to cheer a play but have to sit down within some set amount of time?

Knicks re-sign Lee, Robinson

The New York Knicks have re-signed David Lee. Nate Robinson is close to a deal as well.

Lee’s agent, Mark Bartelstein, told ESPN.com on Thursday that the sides have an agreement in principle on a one-year contract.

“We’re on the verge of getting this done,” Bartelstein said. “I believe David will sign the contract tomorrow.”

The contract is believed to be worth $7 million for the 2009-10 season with incentives that could take it to $8 million if the Knicks reach the playoffs.

Fellow restricted free agent Nate Robinson has also reached terms with the Knicks on a one-year deal, according to a source with knowledge of the talks, that will pay him a higher salary than Robinson’s $2.9 million qualifying offer.

The Knicks’ stance has been clear all along. They are very reluctant to sign players to contracts that run longer than one year because they want to have as much cap flexibility as possible next season when they hope to woo a big-name free agent to New York.

If Lee’s contract demands were more reasonable, he would have signed a multi-year deal with another team a long time ago. But his camp has demanded $8-$10 million per season this entire time, and the market just won’t bear it. He’s a great rebounder, but he’s just an average defender and his numbers are a bit inflated because the Knicks play at a frenetic pace. By signing a one-year deal, he is risking the financial security of a mid-level deal that he no doubt could have signed had he been willing to reduce his asking price.

Would you rather have a guaranteed $7 million with a shot at a long-term deal averaging $8 million next summer or a mid-level deal that runs five years and a guaranteed $34 million starting this summer? If he suffers a career-ending injury this season, his decision to sign a one-year deal will cost him $27 million.

That’s a lot of risk. After all, 27 million birds in the hand are better than 47 million in the bush, right?

Lee to sign one-year deal next week?

Yes, according to ESPN’s sources.

Knicks president Donnie Walsh said he doesn’t think a Lee sign-and-trade is possible. Even though the Knicks like Lee, Walsh said he is not interested in signing the forward to a long-term contract at this point; he wants to maintain as much payroll flexibility as possible for next summer, when LeBron James, Chris Bosh and other prominent players will be free agents.

“We can’t get a deal” for Lee, Walsh said.

Contract discussions are expected to heat up next week. Many league officials think the deal will fall in the $6 million-to-$8 million range, but the two sides will exchange more concrete numbers soon. Lee could be rewarded more generously since it will be just a one-year contract.

When Walsh says that he “can’t get a deal” for Lee, he means that he can’t get a deal that either 1) brings them a player they covet, like Chris Bosh or Amare Stoudemire, or 2) brings them an asset of value (a first round draft pick, a young cheap player) while still allowing for financial flexibility next summer, when they hope to make a run at LeBron James and/or Dwyane Wade.

This is a nice move by the Knicks, who will reward Lee for his performance thus far while at the same time reserving the right to trade him during the season if a deal comes along that they like. He’ll become an unrestricted free agent next summer, and the Knicks could bring him back or he could sign elsewhere.

Knicks pursuing Rubio?

It seems like an obvious match on paper. The Knicks have a well-documented need for a point guard and Ricky Rubio is threatening to play another year or two in Spain so that he can avoid playing in Minnesota, at least for the time being. Then, of course, there is the T-Wolves’ decision to draft point guards with back-to-back picks in this year’s draft. Throw in the Knicks’ reluctance to sign a point guard this summer and it all adds up — they’re pursuing Rubio.

One insider tells RealGM’s Alex Kennedy that Kahn could be working out a scenario where Rubio would be dealt to the New York Knicks.

“Kahn and [Knicks’ President] Donnie Walsh are close and New York is looking for a cheap point guard who could help attract free agents next summer. Rubio fits that mold. I think that’s what this latest trip to Spain is about, working something out with New York.”

First, let me state that this is all speculation. An “insider” told Real GM that Kahn “could be” working out a deal that would send Rubio to New York. This isn’t exactly substantial stuff.

Regardless, it’s not clear what New York would have to give up in this scenario, as they don’t have too many assets to offer. David Lee is a possibility, but the T-Wolves are pretty set up front with Al Jefferson and Kevin Love. Nate Robinson is a good scorer, but wouldn’t be equal value for the potential that Rubio brings to the table. Wilson Chandler is a nice (though not particularly efficient) small forward, which is the same position that LeBron James plays.

Lee would seem to be the best that the Knicks have to offer, but would the T-Wolves want to pay him $8-$10 million per season when he’d likely come off the bench? Thinking about it, Chandler plus an unprotected first round pick might do the trick.

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