Report: Knicks to decline Shane Larkin’s third-year option

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The Knicks planned to exercise Shane Larkin’s 2015-16 team option.

Then they planned to decline it.

All the information is in. Larkin’s 2015-16 salary would be $1,675,320. He’s started both games for New York this season, averaging 7.5 points, 4.0 assists and 3.0 steals.

Phil Jackson can’t waiver any longer. It’s decision day.

Marc Berman of the New York Post:

I think this is a mistake, though a minor one.

The Knicks are obviously banking on free agency next summer to upgrade their roster, and declining Larkin’s option ensures an extra $1,150,227 in cap room. (A minimum-salary cap hold would replace him if New York renounces him.)

But it seems likely Larkin, who spent his rookie year struggling in Dallas, will progress to the point the Knicks can dump him without a sweetener if necessary. He might even turn out to be worth keeping.

Instead, Larkin will be an unrestricted free agent next summer, and New York will have a little extra cap room to entice free agents.

Pacers star Victor Oladipo to sit out NBA resumption at Disney World

Pacers star Victor Oladipo
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Several players have decided to sit out the NBA’s resumption at Disney World:

*Jordan lands in a gray area. He tested positive for coronavirus, but was unclear how quickly he’d recover. It sounded like he decided to sit out before seeing how his health progresses.

Now, the first star – Pacers guard Victor Oladipo – joins the list.

Shams Charania of The Athletic:

Indiana Pacers star Victor Oladipo has decided to sit out the resumed 2019-20 NBA season, Oladipo told The Athletic.

“I really want to play, and as a competitor and teammate this is tearing me apart,” Oladipo told The Athletic. “I feel like I’m at a great place in my rehab and getting closer and closer to 100 percent. With all the variables, from how I have to build my 5-on-5 workload back up, to the increased risk of a soft tissue injury which could delay my rehab, and the unknown exact set up of the bubble, I just can’t get my mind to being fully comfortable in playing. I have to be smart and this decision hasn’t been easy, but I truly believe continuing on the course I’m on and getting fully healthy for the 2020-21 season is the right decision for me.”

Oladipo is a competitor. He proved that growing up and in the NBA.

He’s also one of the many people thrown into an impossibly difficult situation by the coronavirus pandemic.

Oladipo missed more than a year due to a torn right quad tendon and was just ramping back up when the league shut down. The long hiatus exacerbates injury concerns. He took his time exploring his decision.

Though it’s past the stated deadline for withdrawing without facing discipline, presumably Oladipo will face similar consequences. His base salary would be docked $1,842,105 plus $230,263 for each playoff game Indiana plays (up to $3,223,684 in total lost base salary).*

*With league-wide revenue way down, no players will receive their full base salary.

This decision raises questions about the long-term future of Oladipo, who’s headed toward 2021 unrestricted free agency. He just signaled that he’s not absolutely committed to heling Indiana win at all costs.

Maybe that’s only a product of these circumstances. But bet that teams interested in signing him – ahem, Heat – at least took notice. And surely so did Indiana, which could always trade him before free agency.

It’s unclear how big of a short-term loss this will be for the Pacers, who are tied for fifth in the Eastern Conference. Oladipo is an excellent two-way player when healthy. But he mostly struggled while playing a big offensive role in his return. Though he played better his last few games, there’s no telling how he would’ve picked back up after this long layoff.

Indiana’s place looks similar, with or without Oladipo. The Pacers can still win a playoff series with the right matchup. They probably won’t go further.

Beyond this season? There was already plenty of intrigue around Oladipo’s situation. This will only add to the speculation.

Father: Trae Young choosing Klutch not about joining Lakers

Lakers star LeBron James and Hawks star Trae Young
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Hawks star Trae Young switched agencies to Klutch Sports Group. Obviously, that means he’ll leave Atlanta to join fellow Klutch clients LeBron James and Anthony Davis on the Lakers.

Right?

Young’s father, Rayford Young, via Chris Kirschner of The Athletic:

He’s never been a follower. This whole thing with Klutch never had anything to do with going to play with the Lakers one day. They have a lot of people on their roster who aren’t with the Lakers.

“I would ask those fans who are fans of Trae or Atlanta fans to just look at his history. He knows this is a team effort, but he wants to have that statue next to Dominique (Wilkins) one day, man. I’ve told you this before, my son is 6-foot-1, but he thinks he’s the best player on the court no matter if LeBron is on the floor with him. Hopefully, it never backfires on him, but he’s got big balls and is very confident. He just knows what he wants to accomplish. I never think my son is going to join a super team unless they all come to Atlanta. He’s just got too much pride to do that. Maybe that pride will backfire, but who knows. My son has seen it happen here in Oklahoma City with (Kevin Durant). He wasn’t one of those who called him a cupcake, but he’s seen the backlash of something like that happen.”

Those are big words.

They don’t sound totally dissimilar from Davis, who insisted hiring Rich Paul didn’t presage leaving the Pelicans. Of course, Davis requested a trade within months and eventually steered his way to the Lakers. Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry – who initially said that Davis hiring Paul didn’t signal Davis leavinglater admitted the hiring meant just that.

But a big difference: Unlike Davis, who altered a status quo that included repeatedly stating commitment to New Orleans, Young didn’t chang agents. Young stuck with Omar Wilkes, who switched agencies from Octagon for Klutch. (Kirschner more deeply explores the Wilkes-Young relationship.) While – especially in hindsight, but even at the time – Davis looked like he was at the very least preparing to move on, Young didn’t do anything that major.

Another big difference: Davis was just two years from unrestricted free agency when he went to Klutch. Young can’t unilaterally become an unrestricted free agent until 2023, and that’s only if he takes a one-year qualifying offer instead of a max contract – something nobody in his position has ever done. Far more likely, he’ll be locked into Atlanta through 2026.

At that point, who knows where LeBron (who’ll be 41), Davis (who’ll be 33) and the Lakers will be? Before then, the Lakers are short on trade assets outside LeBron and Davis after surrendering so much for Davis.

But to be fair, who knows how the Hawks will perform over the ensuing years? Young is already a star and showing frustration with a team that hasn’t come close to keeping up with his rapid ascension. Outside the most desirable markets, stars tend to be a little more impatient.

Which makes the Kevin Durant comparison interesting. Durant faced massive backlash for leaving the Thunder. He won multiple championships with the Warriors, but it’s unclear how happy he was in Golden State. How does Young – who’s from Oklahoma – internalize all that?

Ultimately, Young will chart his own course. Comparisons to other stars like Davis and Durant can be useful, but they don’t prove anything. Young’s father talking about his son playing for a super team only in Atlanta will inspire Hawks fans.

And, fairly or not, increase resentment if Young leaves.

Spurs’ DeMar DeRozan: NBA protocols ‘so frustrating and overwhelming’

Spurs wing DeMar DeRozan
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The NBA produced a 113-page manual on health and safety protocols for the league’s resumption at Disney World. The multi-bullet-pointed section on ping pong includes:

No Doubles

Until directed otherwise by the NBA, players should play singles only so that they can maintain six feet of distance from each other.

Spurs wing DeMar DeRozan, via Royce Young of ESPN:

“The ping pong thing is ridiculous. To be honest,” San Antonio Spurs guard DeMar DeRozan said on Thursday. “Guys can’t do this, but we can do this and battle over each other. That part just don’t make no sense to me. I got through 10 lines of the handbook and just put it down because it became so frustrating and overwhelming at times because you just never thought you’d be in a situation of something like this. So it’s hard to process at times.”

DeRozan’s exasperation is completely understandable. The manual is long and full of scientific jargon in addition to rules that seem trivial.

But the NBA’s plan is logical.

Both basketball games and doubles ping pong are generally unsafe during the coronavirus pandemic. The big difference: NBA basketball games produce a lot of money. So, the league and players are willing to risk playing them.

The goal is to isolate players from the outside world and test them frequently, minimizing the chances of them playing basketball with coronavirus. There’s a risk someone gets infected anyway, so limiting opportunities for someone to spread coronavirus – like doubles ping pong or, more importantly, getting close to someone outside the bubble – are being minimized.

Is that enjoyable for players? Heck no. That’s why Trail Blazers star Damian Lillard has doubts about players maintaining a strict bubble.

But hopefully, players abide by the rules designed keep them safe… and highly paid. Whether or not they read all 113 pages, participating players are signing up for this.

Second bubble for other eight NBA teams? Not so fast

Warriors star Stephen Curry
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The eight teams teams that didn’t qualify for the NBA’s resumption at Disney World – Knicks, Bulls, Cavaliers, Pistons, Hawks, Hornets, Timberwolves and Warriors – are reportedly considering a second bubble in Chicago.

Tom Haberstroh of NBC Sports:

K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago:

A safe operation, like the one at Disney World, comes with two major drawbacks:

1. It’s expensive. Accommodations, frequent coronavirus testing, transporting equipment to the site – it adds up.

2. It’s burdensome for participants. They’ll be separated from family and friends in order to limit coronavirus exposure points.

But the campus in Disney World is happening for one reason: Money. Finishing the season will generate a lot of money for the NBA, especially national-TV money for the playoffs.

Will a second bubble produce enough money to justify its existence? I doubt it. These eight teams are done with meaningful games. Maybe it’s worth fulfilling local TV contracts, but that’s a narrow needle to thread. The product would be lousy.

Players on these eight teams will reportedly receive the same share of salaries as players going to Disney World. If that becomes no longer guaranteed unless reporting to a second bubble, perhaps players would be compelled to go. But it’s hard to see much enthusiasm – especially among impending free agents, who should protect their health. Any notable players with injury concerns, like Golden State star Stephen Curry, would also likely be held out.

Many people within these eight teams want to keep playing. There’s concern about a long layoff and a natural desire to do something to improve. But the continuing 22 teams will have historically short layoffs. Extra rest might be an advantage. It’s a completely unprecedented situation. Nobody knows which group – the 22 teams or the eight teams – will be better-prepared for next season.

Amid that the uncertainty of the benefits – and the very clear and high costs – there’s plenty of reason to doubt a second bubble gets off the ground.

But the plan’s supporters have at least enough momentum to make it a discussion.