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News » New York Knicks Getting Inside 2009-10-02

New York Knicks Getting Inside 2009-10-02

New York Knicks Getting Inside 2009-10-02With the late signings of restricted free agents David Lee and Nate Robinson to one-year deals, the Knicks have six core players who are designated as having "expiring contracts" on the roster. While these can be valuable tools for a general manager who is looking to rebuild a franchise that has been mired in luxury tax hell for well over a decade, it can be a tough situation for a coach who is trying to preach a team concept to players who know that statistics equal dollars.

"Honestly, you can't lie," said Chris Duhon, who is one of those players that will be seeking a contract next summer. "You know guys are thinking about that."

But Lee and Robinson might have learned a valuable lesson this offseason as they waited and waited for their fates to be decided. Neither received an offer sheet and while Lee's agent desperately tried to find a workable sign-and-trade scenario to land his client a lucrative long-term deal, it was clear the market was very thin.

But why did it take all summer? Usually, a team will look to lock up important young players such as Lee and Robinson, but the Knicks had zero interest in making a long-term commitment to either. Why? Well, there were two factors at play here. The first is obvious: Donnie Walsh is intent on protecting as much salary cap space as he can to make a major free agency run in 2010, when many franchise-quality players (LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, etc.) will be available.

The second is quite simple: Lee (NBA-best 65 double-doubles) and Robinson (career-high 17.2 points per game) may have had strong statistical seasons, but the more glaring stat against them was that since they joined the team as rookies in 2005-06, the Knicks have averaged 28 wins a season. Walsh wanted to drive home the point that how you contribute to the success of the team should be valued higher than what a player does for himself.

Walsh did show some consideration by opening the Madison Square Garden coffers to pay both players well above their qualifying offer numbers -- Lee received $7 million (his qualifying offer was $2.6 million) and Robinson was given $4 million (his qualifying offer was $2.9 million), but also added a very notable $1 million incentive as a bonus. If the Knicks make the playoffs this season, both players will be $1 million richer.

It's a mentality the team is hoping the other players with expiring contracts will pick up on as they consider their own free agency next summer. So far, the mindset seems to be there.

"If you win and make the playoffs -- even if you don't come back as a Knick -- there are going to be teams out there that say, 'Hey, this guy's a winner. We want this guy on our team,'" Duhon said. "So if we win, that's more exposure for everybody, more televised games, you're in the playoffs, there's more people talking about you, there's more of a buzz. Then you can showcase your talent. Our main focus should be winning and everything else will take care of itself."

Al Harrington, yet another expiring contract player, admits that the potential for selfishness is "something that could mess a team up, but with the core guys and the guys that play a lot, they know what a contract year is all about. It's about playing to the best you can. And I feel if we all do that, play to the best of our ability collectively, that makes our team that much more dangerous."

Author: Fox Sports
Author's Website:
Added: October 2, 2009


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