NBA News and Notes: Mikki to the C’s? Camby almost a Spur?

– The Celtics (and others) have offered Mikki Moore a contract. He had a solid 2006-07 season, but the 33-year-old’s career has gone downhill since then.

– Stephon Marbury and Knicks GM Donnie Walsh are going to meet tomorrow to try to hash out a buyout agreement.

– The Warriors are going to shut Monta Ellis down for a week due to stiffness in his ankle, the same ankle he injured mopeding around Mississippi.

– The Spurs were reportedly close to trading for Marcus Camby before last week’s trade deadline. Apparently, the Spurs would have sent Bruce Bowen, Fabricio Oberto and George Hill to the Clippers. That’s basically a Hill-for-Camby swap, and I’m surprised that the Clippers didn’t jump on it. Hill is on track to be a starter-quality point guard in the NBA.

– Mike Dunleavy might miss the rest of the season with an injured knee.

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What are the Knicks going to do with David Lee?

During a chat yesterday, Chad Ford had this to say about David Lee:

Donnie Walsh is trying to find a home for Eddy Curry or Jared Jeffries that frees up some cap space so that he can re-sign Lee. It sounds like that’s close to Mission Impossible, though I said the same thing about Zach Randolph this summer. If he can do that, I think Lee stays. If he can’t, he’d be smart to get something now instead of losing him in the summer. There is LOTS of interest in Lee both now and in the summer. He’s one of the few restricted free agents teams think they can steal away because of the Knicks cap situation.

Let’s be clear — the Knicks don’t have to trade anyone away to re-sign Lee. Ford is talking about clearing cap space so that the franchise doesn’t have to pay a luxury tax next season. They are currently on the hook for $69.3 million and that doesn’t count new contracts for Lee or Nate Robinson. With the the luxury tax threshold unlikely to change much from this season ($71 million), Walsh would need to move a contract or two to clear space for signing Lee and/or Robinson. Lee is the priority because he’s such a good fit in Mike D’Antoni’s up tempo attack. He is averaging 16.0 points and 11.7 rebounds per game, and is shooting almost 57% from the field.

Eddy Curry will make $21.7 million over the next two seasons but has only appeared in one game this season. The Knicks desperately need to get him some minutes if they hope to trade him before the Feb. 19 deadline. Jeffries is getting some minutes, but he has been horribly unproductive (PER: 7.39), though he was never much of a stat guy.

The bottom line is that if the Knicks want to re-sign Lee, they can. Their projected payroll goes down to $18.2 million for the 2010 season, so they would only take the luxury tax hit for one season if they chose to sign Lee to a multi-year deal (or matched another team’s offer this summer, when he becomes a restricted free agent).

What’s he worth? I’d say his play this season has put him into the range of $10-$11 million per season. I’d be careful not to pay too much more, because right now he’s putting up great numbers on a bad team that plays at a blistering pace.

Concerns over Mobley’s heart condition holding up Randolph trade

Zach Randolph has joined the Clippers, but he can’t play until Cuttino Mobley sees a heart specialist.

The source said Mobley would see a heart specialist on Tuesday.

When asked about’s report by reporters after the Clippers game on Monday, coach Mike Dunleavy said: “From the standpoint of Cuttino’s concern, there’s nothing they have or don’t have that hasn’t been known to us or hasn’t been approved by us and all the other teams he’s played for. Neither one of those guys has had any issues with any of the things that are even being talked about.

“All I know is that if Cuttino has anything, he’s been asymptomatic,” Dunleavy said. “He’s never had any issue with us. There’s never been one time that he missed a practice or missed a game or had any issues in any physical of any kind for us. I mean, I’ve been told by our doctors that the things that are under concern is not something that we haven’t known about or have had any issues with. So hopefully, it won’t be an issue.”

Another source told that Mobley’s condition has been present throughout his career and has never been a grave concern, although the Knicks were prudent in their diligence.

On the surface it would be hard to imagine the Knicks wanting to void the trade because they achieved their goal of clearing Randolph’s contract (which carried two more years and $33.3 million after this season).

No disrespect to Cuttino Mobley, but why would the Knicks even care if he has a heart condition? This trade is mostly a salary dump, though there is the possibility that Mobley and Tim Thomas may see some minutes this season. But really, if Mobley weren’t able to play, would the Knicks really take Randolph (and his salary) back?

If your goal is to free up cap space to make a run at LeBron James in 2010, and you’ve successfully found a sucker to take on Zach Randolph’s contract, then why would you jeopardize it by holding up the deal?

Click here for an in-depth analysis of how the Randolph trade affects the Knicks’ future salary cap flexibility.

For Knicks, Randolph trade is all about 2010

GM Donnie Walsh has pulled the trigger on another trade. After trading Jamal Crawford for Al Harrington, Walsh sent Zach Randolph and Mardy Collins to the Los Angeles Clippers for Cuttino Mobley and Tim Thomas. The Knicks have long been looking to rid themselves of Randolph and his fat contract (which runs an additional two seasons at the tune of $33 M), even going so far as to “feature” the forward this season, allowing him to post near-career numbers (20.5 points, 12.4 rebounds), despite shooting just 43% from the field. If there are any Knicks fans wondering why Mike D’Antoni was playing Randolph 35 minutes but only giving 28 to David Lee, this is probably the reason why.

By allowing Randolph to lead the team in scoring and rebounding, the Knicks were simply baiting another team to trade for him. In this case, it was the Clippers that came knocking. The team is 2-11, and still clearly reeling from offseason loss of Elton Brand. Randolph is sort of a “Brand Lite,” in that he can do a lot of the same (offensive) things as Elton, he just can’t do them very efficiently.

But this trade should be examined from a fiscal standpoint, because in this case it’s all about the money. Mobley and Thomas both have contracts that expire in the summer of 2010, when a number of high-profile free agents (including LeBron James) should hit the free agent market. By trading away Randolph, the Knicks are now only on the hook for $20 million. In fact, no Knick is currently under contract for the 2010-11 season, but Eddy Curry ($11.3 million) and Jared Jeffries ($6.9 million) are likely to exercise their player options. And based on his improved play this season, the team is likely to exercise its option on Wilson Chandler’s rookie contract. These three deals roughly equal $20 million. There is also Danilo Gallinari’s rookie contract to consider, but the team will likely take a wait-and-see approach given the young forward’s balky back.

The trade also allows the Knicks to re-sign David Lee and Nate Robinson if they choose to do so. Over the past couple of seasons, the conventional wisdom was that the franchise would not be able to keep both players if they hoped to have the necessary salary cap space to make a run at one or two big-name free agents in 2010. With only $20 million committed, the Knicks could sign one or both players, but they need to be careful not to overpay.

Lee’s Player Efficiency Rating (PER) is down from a terrific 18.18 last season to a below-average 14.25 this season. Looking at his stats, his numbers have taken a dive in two categories: rebound rate (17.5 to 12.9) and true shooting percentage (60.6 to 56.2). The TS% is not guaranteed to bounce back, but with the departure of Randolph, there should be plenty of rebounds for Lee to gobble up.

So what is he worth? Well, it would be a coup if the Knicks could sign the 6’9” forward to a deal somewhere in the range of $6-$7 million per season. He’d be a nice fit alongside LeBron on the front line, but the truth is that Lee is the kind of player that can fit in with just about anyone.

While Lee has struggled with some of his numbers this season, Robinson is having a career year in D’Antoni’s system. His PER (18.07) represents a healthy jump from his numbers last season (15.70) and is currently the 12th-best amongst point guards. This rise can be mainly attributed to his better shooting and passing under D’Antoni.

Robinson has shown promise, he’s still just 5’9”, so the Knicks need to be careful not to pay him the kind of salary that a bigger guard (posting similar numbers) would command. Still, his production in D’Antoni’s offense has been terrific, so a salary in the $5-$6 million range seems appropriate if the team views him as its point guard of the future.

So, conceivably, the Knicks could have a core of Lee, Robinson and the improved Chandler, along with a payroll of about $33 million heading into the summer of 2010. Assuming a salary cap of $60 million (which is a conservative estimate), that’s plenty of space to sign LeBron. Given the Nets struggles with the move to Brooklyn, it suddenly looks like the Knicks are LeBron’s most likely landing spot. Playing in Manhattan would only serve to boost his monstrous profile – remember, he said his top goal is to be a “global icon” – and he’s already comfortable with D’Antoni after the two worked together the last few summers as part of Team USA. Moreover, D’Antoni’s up-tempo attack would be a perfect (and attractive) fit for LeBron’s skill set.

The Knicks would have an additional $18 million in 2011 once the contracts of Curry and Jeffries are off the books, but if the team is able to rid themselves of those contracts prior to that fateful summer, or if they elect just to re-sign only Lee (or only Robinson) they would have the cap room to sign not one, but two superstars.

Just imagine a lineup of LeBron, Lee, Robinson and Chandler along with the likes of Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh or Amare Stoudemire, and D’Antoni’s decision to move to New York instead of Chicago becomes much more clear.

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