Amar’e Stoudemire: “I want to be a Knick for life”

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When you talk about Amar’e Stoudemire the contract is the first thing that comes up — he is making $21.7 million this season and will pick up his player option for $23.4 million next season. Yes, that is overpaying for his current production, which has been improved this season (11.1 points a game on 55 percent shooting) but is not max contract numbers.

But then you have to remember the context of when Stoudemire signed — the Knicks had nothing. Donnie Walsh had gotten the Knicks out of the hole that Isiah Thomas had dug, but they needed a star to build around. They struck out with LeBron James. Stoudemire was the next biggest free agent that summer and the Knicks landed him. Teams were hesitant to go five years at a max salary for him because of his injury history, but the Knicks needed a home run to help put them on the map and attract other talent. Carmelo Anthony is not a Knick without Stoudemire.

Now, though, Stoudemire’s contract is an anchor on the franchise rebuild efforts. His three knee surgeries during his time in New York have been a blow. This summer the Knicks will shop his expiring deal around, but under the current CBA there isn’t much demand for big expiring deals so a deal may well not happen.

Which is fine with Stoudemire — he loves New York and wants to stay a Knick. Forever.

That is what he told Jared Zwerling in a fantastic first person feature at Bleacher Report (go read the entire thing, right now).

“Now, I’ve had a successful, injury-free year so far and I’m back in the starting lineup. From the hard work that I put in, I knew it was going to manifest into some positive. I feel like I’m back to my dominant self and I’m still improving, still getting better, still getting stronger. Now, we’re on a seven-game winning streak and we’ve got a chance to make the playoffs. We dug ourselves a hole, but we’re fighting out of it somewhat, climbing out of the hole, so I feel positive about that….

“I want to be a Knick for life and win multiple championships here. I don’t want to go anywhere else, especially with (Phil) Jackson coming in. He has an incredible legacy; it’s probably unmatched. With a leader like that, it can only become a positive output with that type of leadership. He’s been around great organizations, from Chicago to L.A., so now joining us with the Knicks, it’s great to see. Regarding the Triangle offense, it’s funny because I’ve been hearing that it would be great for me for the past six years. It could be possible that we implement the Triangle offense, and I just can’t wait to perfect whatever system we’re going to be in. I’m ready to get to work now.”

This is the effect Jackson is having in New York already.

While Knicks fans may not like the idea, keeping Stoudemire after this last contract expires may not be the worst idea for New York… with a couple big caveats.

First, Stoudemire would need to remain healthy the remainder of this season and all of next season. In doing so he has to continue to be productive and valuable on the court.

Second, he has to take a MASSIVE pay cut. Like down to the $6 million range give or take. Close to the league average.

Phil Jackson will set a tone and a direction for the Knicks — they are going to be a triangle team. Stoudemire can fit into that role, his mobility, midrange shot and skills around the rim could be a good triangle fit. But Jackson needs to see if there are better players out there for that role. Then he needs to get Stoudemire in at a fair price because he is not near a max salary guy anymore.

All of which is to say, stranger things have happened. This is not likely, but not impossible either. We just need to see how things play out with Jackson and with Stodemire’s knees over the next couple of seasons.

Report: Spurs ‘shut the door’ on Lakers’ Kawhi Leonard trade inquiry

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After shooting down trade inquiries before the trade deadline and brushing off proposals earlier this offseason, the Spurs are reportedly hearing out offers for Kawhi Leonard.

Except from the Lakers.

Ramona Shelburne of ESPN:

The Lakers are reportedly Leonard’s preferred destination. Of course, San Antonio isn’t obligated to send him there. But he can influence the process by stating a plan to sign with only certain team(s) in 2019 unrestricted free agency.

The Celtics and 76ers might have better assets to send the Spurs. But if only the Lakers have a commitment from Leonard to re-sign, they might offer a greater share of their assets than Boston or Philadelphia would (especially if Los Angeles believes acquiring Leonard would be the first domino in also landing LeBron James and Paul George).

Between Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma, Josh Hart and future first-round picks, the Lakers could offer roughly commensurate value for Leonard. San Antonio might not like those particular players, but a third team could always get involved. Send some combination of Ball, Ingram, Kuzma and Hart to a team that wants them and have that third team convey players more desirable to the Spurs.

But that takes thoughtful negotiating, and San Antonio doesn’t seem interested.

There’s a belief San Antonio won’t trade Leonard to a Western Conference team, especially another historically strong franchise like the Lakers. That sentiment seems foolish to me, but it didn’t emerge out of thin air. There are real people – and real hurt feelings – involved here. Grudges sometimes trump rationality.

Maybe the Spurs will eventually explore whether the Lakers present the best offer. But this is at least circumstantial evidence San Antonio will handle this crisis stubbornly.

League buzz: Kings will take Marvin Bagley III at No. 2, Luka Doncic gone at three

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It’s hard to see through all the smoke and tell if things around the 2018 NBA Draft are solidifying as we get to fewer than three hours before the Phoenix Suns go on the clock.

The Suns are a lock to take DeAndre Ayton at No. 1.

After that, the Kings more and more seem to be leaning toward taking Marvin Bagley III at No. 2, according to multiple reports of those close to the team.

At three things really open up. Atlanta is listening to trade offers but one way or another is likely to pick Luka Doncic. There are rumors that multiple teams — Dallas, Orlando, others — would then trade their pick plus some other asset (young player/future pick) to the Hawks for Doncic. Who the Hawks reportedly really want is Trae Young, but they can move down to get him.

If the Slovenian is off the board, it’s more likely that Memphis trades the No. 4 pick, according to sources. However, there are questions about whether Memphis can get what it thinks is fair value for selling the No. 4. So maybe they just take Jaren Jackson Jr.

How is it going to shake out?

That follows my final mock draft, which was put together Wednesday for the video above. It has:

1. Phoenix: DeAndre Ayton
2. Sacramento: Marvin Bagley
3. Atlanta: Luka Doncic
4. Memphis: Jaren Jackson
5. Dallas: Mo Bamba
6. Orlando: Trae Young
7. Chicago: Michael Porter Jr.
8. Cleveland: Wendell Carter Jr.
9. New York: Kevin Knox
10. Philadelphia: Mikail Bridges
11. Charlotte: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander
12. LA Clippers: Robert Williams
13. LA Clippers: Collin Sexton
14. Denver: Miles Bridges

The problem with any mock draft now is accounting for trades, and those are coming.

Report: Spurs hearing out Kawhi Leonard trade offers, including from Lakers

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The Spurs shot down Kawhi Leonard trade offers before the trade deadline. They brushed off Leonard trade offers earlier this offseason.

Then, the already strained situation got even worse.

Leonard put out word he wanted to leave San Antonio, ideally for the Lakers. He met with Gregg Popovich this week in San Diego, reportedly directly telling the president-coach he wants out.

What are the Spurs doing now?

Chris Mannix of Yahoo Sports:

The Lakers are in that mix.

The Spurs can try to mend their relationship with Leonard. They could even use a super-max contract – projected to be worth $219 million over five years – to aid that process. They don’t have to trade him.

But the clock is ticking toward tonight’s draft, teams using their cap space in other ways and Leonard’s 2019 free agency.

San Antonio has no choice but to get more aggressive in handling Leonard’s future. This is a small step in that direction.

Report: Nets to buy out Dwight Howard

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The Magic, Lakers, Rockets, Hawks and Hornets all grew tired of Dwight Howard.

The Nets did it in record time.

After acquiring Howard in a trade from Charlotte yesterday, Brooklyn is moving toward shedding him.

Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports:

In the trade, the Nets dumped Timofey Mozgov‘s $16.72 million salary for 2019-20. Now, they could get a reduction on Howard’s $23,819,725 expiring contract. Brooklyn is doing a great job of unloading bad money.

Next year, the Nets will have their own first-round pick for the first time in six years. Though he has declined considerably from his Hall of Fame peak, Howard can still play some. Brooklyn didn’t need him interfering with its tanking and culture.

Instead, the Nets can focus on developing Jarrett Allen and losing enough to secure the best draft position possible.

It’ll be interesting to see how much Howard surrenders and where he goes. Again, he can still play. But the league is moving away from traditional centers, and he’s high maintenance.