Knicks/Marbury reach buyout agreement

Well, the Stephon Marbury saga is over, at least in New York.

Marbury is now eligible to play in the playoffs for another team because his release from New York comes before the league’s Sunday deadline.

With Marbury expected to sign for a pro-rated share of the league’s veteran minimum, Boston’s financial risk is minimal if the experiment doesn’t work and the Celtics decided to subsequently cut Marbury.

It’s believed that Marbury will be forfeiting in excess of $2 million from his $20.8 million salary this season, which would net the Knicks twice that much because of the luxury-tax savings involved.

The conventional wisdom here is that he’ll soon sign with the Celtics, who have been trying to shore up their bench all season after losing James Posey to free agency and P.J. Brown to retirement last summer.

I’m happy that Marbury and the Knicks have been able to part ways. If he does sign with Boston, it will be interesting to see how he fits in with the defending champs.

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Did the Celtics agree to sign Marbury?

Stephon Marbury and the New York Post say “yes,” but a Boston Herald source says “no.”

According to sources, the Celtics have had talks with Marbury (the Knicks gave him permission to speak with other teams in hope that it would hasten his desire for a buyout), but one source close to the situation said yesterday the club has made no firm commitment to him on a deal.

For his part, Marbury doesn’t understand the Knicks unwillingness to reach a buyout agreement.

“The question to be asked to the Knicks is: Are they fearful for me playing for another Eastern Conference team? My thing is, they shouldn’t be fearful,” Marbury was quoted as saying. “They’re trying to get under the cap for 2010. They shouldn’t be worried about me. You had guys saying I was a distraction, I’m a cancer. If I’m all those things, wouldn’t you want me to go to another team?

“It shouldn’t matter that I go to Boston if you’re the eighth seed and Boston is in the front. It can’t be about money. The Knicks got plenty of it. It’s got to be personal. If it’s personal, then how is business being done there?”

What Marbury is glossing over, however, is that the Knicks did make a buyout offer ($3 million less than his total salary), but it just wasn’t enough money for Marbury.

So, really, who’s being unreasonable?

Expiring contracts…who’s got ’em?

The NBA trade deadline is less than a month away, so it’s a good time to talk expiring contracts. These are players that are in the final year of their deals, which makes them trade fodder for teams looking to cut salary this summer. I’ll list each player by contract size, whether or not he can still play, and discuss the possibility that they’ll be traded by the trade deadline. I’ll also dig into the strategy that their current teams should and/or could be utilizing when considering a trade.

All salary data is from HoopsHype, and I’ll assume – given the bad economy – that the cap will stay at about $59 million next season. (In fact, it might even be lowered.)

Allen Iverson, Pistons
Salary: $21.9 million
Detroit is 20-15 since trading for AI, and considering the franchises successful run over the past few season, that’s disappointing. But the Pistons didn’t make this trade to acquire AI, they made the trade to rid themselves of Chauncey Billups’ contract, which runs through 2011. Was this wise? Probably not, at least in the short term. Billups is one of the top point guards in the league and is doing great things with his new team. But since the Pistons like what Rodney Stuckey can do (and justifiably so), Billups became expendable. GM Joe Dumars made the deal to give the team the financial flexibility to retool the roster over the next two summers, and with Iverson and Rasheed Wallace coming off the books, the Pistons will have about $26 million to spend this summer. They could opt to sign Carlos Boozer, but would likely have to pony up big bucks to do so. He would probably start at $14 million, so that would leave $12 million to re-sign the 34 year-old Wallace or another center. The team could conceivably sign Boozer, then wait a year, let Rip Hamilton’s contract expire, and then sign Chris Bosh or Amare Stoudemire in the summer of 2010, giving the team a core of Stuckey, Boozer, Tayshaun Prince and either Bosh or Stoudemire to build around. Not bad. Considering the main reason the Pistons traded for AI was to cut salary, the chances of them trading him (and taking on salary in return) aren’t good. (Though a Marion-for-Iverson swap might help both teams in the short term.)
Chances of being traded: Low

Read the rest after the jump...

Marbury renews offer to give $1 M back in buyout deal

The Stephon Marbury Buyout Watch continues.

The banished Marbury told The Post yesterday his $1 million giveback is back on the table. Marbury said he’s waiting to hear back from Knicks president Donnie Walsh on his proposal.

Marbury, who is training in Los Angeles, says he has a firm offer from at least one club, allowing him to change his negotiating stance for the first time in seven weeks. The Celtics are the leading candidates to sign Marbury, according to a source.

Marbury had taken the $1 million giveback off the table during their stormy Dec. 1 meeting. Marbury put it back in play because at least one team has now made a commitment to him, allowing him to make the $1 million back.

Walsh last offered Marbury to take $3 million less. Marbury has been told by Knicks officials the matter is in owner James Dolan’s hands and he’s been awaiting word for several days.

Marbury also fears Dolan won’t accept his offer until after March 2, when he’d be no longer eligible for a playoff roster.

Let me get this straight — all this drama for a measly $2 million? I realize that this is a ton of money to normal people, but this is pocket change for James Dolan. Is $2 million worth the distraction of keeping Marbury on the roster? My guess is that the Knicks main problem with buying out Marbury is that they might be helping the Celtics in the process. But it’s not like the Knicks are a serious playoff contender — why not get rid of the headache?

As for Marbury, I don’t know why he hasn’t taken Dolan’s offer of a $3 million pay cut. He’s jeopardizing his ability to prove he’s worth a three- or four-year contract after this season. No one is going to sign him to a long-term deal if he doesn’t play (and play well) for the remainder of this season. Surely that’s worth $2 million to Starbury, right?

What’s wrong with the Celtics?

The Christmas Day loss to the Lakers was understandable. And maybe even the next night’s loss to the Warriors was forgivable, since it the second of back-to-back games and Oakland is always a tough place to play. But what about consecutive losses to the Knicks and the Bobcats, each with a day’s rest beforehand? After racing out to the best start in league history, the Celtics are now 2-5 in their last seven, and have lost back-to-back games to teams with a combined record of 26-42. Ouch.

It’s tough to be the defending champs, because every night you’re going to get your opponent’s maximum effort. It’s also important to note that all five of those losses were road games, and it can be tough to win on the road in the NBA, especially when you have a big bull’s eye painted on your back.

A quick look at the Celtics’ season stats reveals a few things:

1. Other than Eddie House, they don’t have a legitimate three-point threat on their bench. This is an area where they miss James Posey (along with what he brought to the table defensively).

2. Glen Davis is shooting 37% from the field, which is absolutely dreadful for a power forward. Despite bigger minutes, his points and rebounds are down. Not good.

3. Rajon Rondo and Kendrick Perkins are holding up to their end of the deal. Rondo is averaging 11.1 points, 7.6 assists and 4.9 rebounds a game, and he’s fourth in the league in steals. He is quickly developing into one of the best all-around point guards in the league. Perkins hasn’t made as big of a leap, but he’s a few minutes away from averaging a double-double. Right now he’s at 8.9 points and 8.5 rebounds per contest.

Given how important James Posey was to the Celtics’ title run, we knew heading into the season that it was a big risk to let the Hornets sign him away. He brought solid defense and good three-point shooting, which are two things that are lacking on the Boston bench right now. The C’s are toying with the idea of bringing Stephon Marbury in for a trial run (if he ever agrees to a buyout with the Knicks), and he would provide some long-range punch off the bench. I don’t see a lot of other options for the Celtics, considering they don’t have a substantial expiring contract or tradeable players. Garnett and Pierce are untouchable, and the team can’t do without Ray Ray’s outside shooting. Rondo is too good and he would leave a gaping hole at point guard, and the same goes for Perkins in the middle. What are the C’s going to get for House, Tony Allen or Glen Davis? Leon Powe would be good trade bait, but the Celtics need his toughness and rebounding off the bench. Besides, it’s doubtful that Danny Ainge would make any major changes to this group since it got them to the Promised Land last season.

I don’t think this 2-5 stretch is a sign that the Celtics aren’t for real. They are. The NBA season is a grind and they’ll be there at the end. It’s going to be interesting to see how they play at home tonight against a good Houston team and then on Friday at Cleveland.

Thursday (1/8) Update: The Rockets did indeed beat the Celtics in Boston.

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