With this season done, will Jeremy Lin be a Knick next season?

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Now what, Jeremy Lin?

I don’t mean the next six weeks — that is surgery and rehab for the torn meniscus in his knee. He’ll work hard with the hopes of joining the Knicks in the playoffs. But by the time he is back and able to really help, it may well be too late.

But that’s not what I’m talking about, I am talking about next season — Lin could leave the Knicks.

He could. But he won’t. The Knicks will overpay to keep him. However, Lin will have some options (we like to call that leverage) and those will put more money in his pocket. And every dollar he gets will make it harder for the Knicks to make upgrades this offseason.

Allow me to explain (if you want a more detailed explanation, Knickerblogger has it). Lin is on a one-year deal so Lin’s contract is up and he will be a restricted free agent this summer. Other teams can make him an offer. Here’s where it gets tricky: Because Lin was waived before he came to the Knicks, New York does not have his “early Bird rights,” meaning it can’t go over the salary cap to sign him. And the Knicks are already over the cap for next season.

The best offer the Knicks can make is 125 percent of the $762,195 he made this year — basically $1 million. If that is all it costs to steal Lin you could be sure a number of teams would swoop in with better offers. Lin has established himself as an NBA point guard (we can debate if he should start or be a backup, but he belongs in the league) and the going rate for a decent point guard is a lot more than $1 million.

However, the Knicks have other options and most likely the team will use either their bi-annual exception ($2 million) or some portion of their mid-level exception (up to $5 million) to keep him. Under the CBA no other team could offer Lin more than $5 million for next season, so the Knicks can offer just as much and it’s unlikely he would leave.

But whatever exception money the Knicks use on Lin they cannot use to bring in other free agents. For example Steve Nash as the starting point guard (who they may struggle to get anyway as they just canned the coach he liked to play for), or a backup big man, or a host of other players out on the market. Those exceptions are the key way the Knicks can upgrade the roster but they will have to spend part of it on Lin.

The Knicks will do it. If it costs $5 million to keep Lin they would do it. Not because it’s the right basketball move — they would be overpaying him at that price — but because it’s the right business move. Lin is a marketing force. He draws sponsors, and sells tickets and jerseys. Even if Linsanity has cooled off he is a hot international marketing tool. The NBA is a business and at whatever price the Knicks can pay they will get it back many times over by having Lin on the roster.

So Jeremy Lin will almost certainly be a Knick next year. But we will have to wait and see how much that impacts the rest of the Knicks roster next season.

Masai Ujiri on Kawhi Leonard: ‘He is happy. There is no maintenance with him’

AP
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No doubt there are big expectations for the Toronto Raptors this year after trading franchise cornerstone DeMar DeRozan for disgruntled San Antonio Spurs star Kawhi Leonard. Ever an enigma (and coming off of one of the worst-managed exits from a team in recent memory) Leonard has fans in Ontario biting their nails about whether he will return healthy this season, and happy for the next.

According to Raptors general manager Masai Ujiri, Leonard is giving them every indication that he is ready to go heading into the 2018-19 NBA season. Speaking to the media on Tuesday, Ujiri said that Leonard is happy.

Via Sportsnet:

“He is happy. From what everybody has told me he is healthy. He spends a lot of time with our coaches,” said Ujiri. “He went to L.A. to meet our guys out there. He will be here shortly.”

“He is just quiet … that’s his nature. We can’t all be the same kind of people. But he is as engaging as he would want to be and he’s very interesting. There is no maintenance with him. There’s nothing. It’s remarkable … His (focus) is on basketball which is what you want. He is a basketball junkie … once you just start to talk about basketball his eyes change.”

We have heard rumors that Leonard has purchased a home in Toronto instead of merely renting. We’ve also seen photos of Leonard happy and working out with players like Kobe Bryant, nearly even smiling. And Ujiri is doing his part here, trying to ease any sentiment around Leonard.

The PR machine is in sixth gear in Toronto, but you can’t really blame them. It’s the first good public relations move we’ve seen from Leonard’s enclave in more than a year, and it helps bolster the team if things go south.

Do I believe anything that is reported about Leonard anymore? No. Not after last season. Unfortunately, the issue with Leonard remains the fact that we will have to simply sit to wait and see what he chooses to do next year.

Raptors fans, who are dedicated and passionate, should be hoping that they finally make a Finals run this year. Just in case.

Report: 76ers rookie Zhaire Smith expected to return around Christmas

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76ers first-rounder Zhaire Smith suffered a Jones fracture in his left foot last month, leaving plenty of uncertainty about when he’d return.

Keith Pompey of The Inquirer:

The 76ers expect injured rookie Zhaire Smith to be available to play in a game around Christmas, league sources say.

A rookie on a team with legitimate aspirations of deep-playoff advancement, Smith was already unlikely to crack Philadelphia’s rotation this season. All this lost developmental time makes it even less likely.

But the sooner Smith returns, the better for him and Philadelphia. The No. 16 pick impresses with his athleticism and motor, but he needs time to develop his perimeter skills.

Kevin Love launches “Love Fund” to bring more focus to mental health issues

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The NBA is not shying away from the issue of the mental health of its players.

In the wake of All-Stars DeMar DeRozan and Kevin Love coming forward about their mental health challenges, the league and the players’ union combined to tell players to speak out on the issue and take advantage of the services offered.

Kevin Love is doing more than just that, he has formed the Kevin Love Fund to help change the stigma around mental health issues. The fund has partners such as Headspace, with the focus being on prioritizing mental health awareness. He went on the Today Show on NBC to talk about it.

Love has become a leader and spokesman around the issue. Love came forward near the end of last season to talk about his battles with anxiety and depression. That opened the door for others around the NBA to step forward as well, such as Kelly Oubre and Paul Pierce.

Sixers hire Elton Brand as new General Manager

Associated Press
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Filling the 76ers vacant general manager position dragged out all summer for one main reason:

They liked what they already had in-house. The Sixers were an especially collegial and collaborative group with their decision making, and if they brought in a big name from the outside — former Cavaliers’ GM David Griffin, or the two guys who went deep into the interview process Utah assistant GM Justin Zanik on Rockets VP Gersson Rosas — it would change that dynamic.

Which is why they have decided to keep this in the family, and will promote Elton Brand from vice president of basketball operations to general manager. It’s a story broken by Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN and confirmed by NBC Sports Philadelphia’s John Clark.

Brand, a former Philadelphia player, was the general manager of their G-League team, the Delaware Blue Coats, before becoming the VP of basketball operations. He will replace Bryan Colangelo, who was forced out following a Twitter scandal involving his wife.

There were other title changes within the organization as well.

What this means on the ground is don’t expect any significant changes with the Sixers’ plans — nor should there be. They are banking on Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, and Markelle Fultz — now with a functional jump shot, they hope — to be at the core of a contending team, then next summer they will go big game hunting again for an elite free agent. (There is more pressure to get a deal done this summer before the big extensions for those young stars start to really kick in.) That said, this is a team poised on the brink of a great run.

And if things are going well, why make a dramatic change? Brand can help them on the course already set.