This rumor, this leak, is pushback on a previous rumor and leak. That doesn’t mean it’s not true.
Let’s follow the bouncing ball: Last week a report came out that the New York Knicks might offer Kristaps Porzingis an incentive-based max contract next summer. Just as the Sixers did with Joel Embiid‘s contract extension — a $147 million contract but “only” $84 million is fully guaranteed, the rest is incentives for games played considering Embiid’s injury history — the Knicks might want something similar for Porzingis, who has yet to play this season and could be sidelined the entire campaign as he recovers from a torn ACL.
You think that sat well with Porzingis and his camp?
Now comes this report from the well-connected Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer that the Spurs would have interest in Porzingis.
Negotiating an incentive-based deal with Porzingis could risk alienating him. All it takes is one team—like the Nets, as [the previous report] mentioned—to make Porzingis a max offer sheet worth four years and $122.1 million. The Spurs are also viewed as a team with significant interest in Porzingis, according to league front office sources, though it’d be difficult for San Antonio to create enough cap space this summer. In any case, signing a max offer sheet would make him an unrestricted free agent in 2023 (or in 2022 if it included a player option).
This is someone sending a message to the Knicks: Come at us with an incentive-based offer and we will sign an offer sheet somewhere else — one that may be shorter, have poison pills, and generally not be as favorable as what the Knicks can put on the table.
Are the Spurs interested? No doubt. But as O’Connor mentioned the finances are difficult. If the Spurs let the non-guaranteed contract of Pau Gasol go, they still need to clear more than $20 million off the books to get into max salary space, and nobody is going to take on LaMarcus Aldridge as a salary dump (even if the Spurs add sweeteners). It would take a lot of moves.
That said, two-thirds of the league will have max salary space or could get there if they wanted to make an offer for Porzingis, and if the Knicks come in with an offer that KP and his team see as lowball they will ask another franchise to step up. One will. The Knicks can match that offer, Porzingis is a restricted free agent, but this is a guy who already skipped an exit meeting with Phil Jackson because of his frustrations with management and ownership. The new front office of Steve Mills and Scott Perry have worked to improve the relationship with Porzingis, it’s hard to imagine them putting forward an offer they know he will reject and will damage the relationship further.