Consider it a Christmas present — the Knicks may be about to get Amar’e Stoudemire back.
The question is will this gift be a lump of coal.
He’s been recovering from knee surgery and there have been hints he is getting close to getting back on the court, then comes this tweet from Marc Berman of the New York Post.
Even if it’s not Tuesday, it’s probably soon. A return to practice likely means a week or two until he is playing again in games. It is expected that Stoudemire would be coming off the bench, at least at first. Which makes sense, the Knicks are 18-5 with this basic starting rotation.
Stoudemire averaged 17.5 points and 7.8 rebounds a game last season while shooting 48.3 percent. All of that was down some from the season before but his numbers weren’t the problem.
The problem was when Stoudemire, Carmelo Anthony and Tyson Chandler were all on the floor together the Knicks offense was terrible. Just abysmal. Of course, Mike Woodson would like you to know the Knicks were 8-2 when ‘Melo and Amare played together under him last season, and that he thinks this can work out.
We’ll see. At some point if the Knicks really want to be a threat to the Heat in the East in the playoffs (those big early season wins will be moot come the playoffs) they will need Stoudemire and Anthony to click. If the result of the return is Stoudemire at the four close to the basket and Anthony at the three jacking up contested 20 footers — and we saw a lot of that — it’s not going to work. Then the Christmas present is a lump of coal.
The Knicks have a lot of the season to get this flowing. But adding a major component to a team already playing well can have unpredictable results.
Tristan Thompson is a man without a contract. By not signing the qualifying offer with the Cleveland Cavaliers he put himself in limbo, the rare NBA holdout. Right now his options are to sign the deal on the table (the Cavs still have the five-year, $80 million offer out there), get the Sixers or Blazers to offer him a max contract (which neither team has shown any interest in doing), or hold out and hope the Cavaliers make a better offer. If he holds out for the entire season he becomes a restricted free agent again next summer — exactly like he is right now.
Without signing the qualifying offer and the threat of leaving, Thompson hurt his leverage.
But he has a little leverage. He and his agent Rich Paul had one other card, and it got played Saturday.
LeBron James and Thompson share an agent in Paul. LeBron has largely remained silent through this process but if he wants something in the Cleveland organization, he usually gets it. And he wants Thompson back at practices.
LeBron’s leverage is going to be put to the test. The Cavaliers have let it leak they are not that concerned about LeBron leaving them next summer over this — and they’re right. The damage to LeBron’s brand if he broke the hearts of Cleveland fans again would be crushing, unless he leaves for a very good reason. Overpaying Thompson is not that reason.
However, LeBron’s comment could push the Cavaliers to try to find a compromise.
For the Cavaliers, a lot of how they view all this comes down to their tax bill. The Cavaliers already have $94.9 million in guaranteed salary on the books, putting them $10.2 million over the luxury tax line, at a cost of more than $16.25 million. What this means if (or when) they sign Thompson is his first $10 million in salary would cost them $28.75 million in tax and every dollar above that for the next $5 million costs them $3.75-to-$1. Look at it this way, by my count $14 million this year to Thompson would cost $43.75 million in tax — the total for Thompson at that price is $58 million. While that’s not all on Thompson it’s a lot of cash, and Thompson wants a max deal that starts at more than $16 million a year.
Owner Dan Gilbert is already going to pay the highest tax bill in the NBA this season, but if he balks at those figures it’s hard to blame him.
Mario Hezonja, the No. 5 pick in this year’s draft, has never lacked for confidence. The Croatian guard made his pro debut in the Magic’s preseason game against the Hornets on Saturday and did this:
Between Hezonja, Elfrid Payton, Victor Oladipo and Aaron Gordon, the Magic have a nucleus of young players that has the potential to be a lot of fun. Even if they’re still a few years away from contending, they’re definitely going to be a League Pass favorite this year.