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Knicks’ Lance Thomas undergoes knee surgery, out four weeks

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Lance Thomas has a role with the Knicks β€” the veteran leader in the locker room, a trusted voice among the players. On the court, however, his role has been shrinking. He started the first five games, but between the Knicks going younger and being in need of reliable offense (Thomas is shooting 29.4 percent from three and with a troubling 46.9 true shooting percentage) coach David Fizdale has looked elsewhere.

Now the Knicks will be without him for a month.

Look for Kevin Knox to be the biggest beneficiary in terms of minutes, but things were trending that way anyway. Knox is part of the young foundation Fizdale is trying to build in New York, something that can support the now sprinting Kristaps Porzingis as well as potentially another star via free agency.

No discount, but Knicks finally buyout, waive Joakim Noah today anyway

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We knew how this was going to end. It was going to be as big a surprise as the ending of “First Man.” (Hint: The Americans make it to the moon, it wasn’t faked.)

Saturday it finally happened: The New York Knicks have waived and stretched the contract of Joakim Noah, the team announced Saturday. It’s the end of the disastrous four-year, $72.6 million contract that Phil Jackson signed Noah to, which ended up being an anchor on the Knicks rebuilding efforts. In the pantheon of horrible Summer of 2016 contracts β€” Timofey Mozgov, Luol Deng, so many others β€” Noah stood out as the worst, the biggest train wreck of them all.

The Knicks were hoping for a discount from Noah to get out of his contract (as Deng did, for example). However, with no NBA prospects out there (as reported by Adrian Wojnarowski among many others), Noah had no incentive to offer a break to the Knicks. So he didn’t.

Because of the timing of this waive and stretch (as the Knicks planned), Noah will get his full $18.5 million for this season, it is his final season of $19.3 million that will be stretched out over the next three years. Bobby Marks of ESPN broke it down:

New York will incur an $18.5M cap hit in 2018-19 that will be reduced by $522,252 if the center signs a 1 year $2.4M (minimum exception) guaranteed contract with a new team. For the next 3 seasons (2019-20 to 2021-22), New York will be charged $6.4M on the $19.3M amount owed to Noah. If the Knicks do not give Kristaps Porzingis a max rookie extension by Oct.15, New York projects to have $31M in room next summer. The room will increase to $38M if Lance Thomas is waived.

That’s enough cap room to chase a max salary player such as Kevin Durant or Kyrie Irving (not that they are coming to NYC, relax people, they are merely free agent max players next summer used as an example). There was some thought the Knicks would hold off and use him as salary ballast in a trade (or maybe another team would want him, so he would take a buyout discount), but the contract was unmovable, so they just decided to bite the bullet now.

Noah is now an unrestricted free agent.

However, there is little to no traction for him with other NBA teams. Noah has battled injuries and played in just 53 games over two seasons with the Knicks, and when he has gotten on the court he has looked like a shell of the former Defensive Player of the Year. Father time has won the race. Maybe midseason a team takes a flier on Noah, but I wouldn’t bet on it (teams taking a flier on a big usually prefer a younger player they might develop into a long-term player for them).

Courtney Lee notices Knicks omit him from Instagram post

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Shortly after taking over the front office last year, Knicks president Steve Mills named the team’s key players without including Carmelo Anthony. Later last summer, Mills wrote about his vision for the team while again excluding Anthony.

Of course, New York traded Anthony to the Thunder just before the season.

If that set an example for how Mills’ Knicks will operate, Courtney Lee might not be long for New York. And Lee seemingly realizes it.

The Knicks touted their schedule release on Instagram:

That graphic includes seven of the eight Knicks who played most last season and remain under contract plus New York’s two draft picks:

But Lee – who led the Knicks in playing time last year by a wide margin – doesn’t appear. His response:;

Lee, 32, no longer fits on the rebuilding Knicks. He’s a Phil Jackson signing.

Though Lee is probably somewhat overpaid (guaranteed $12,253,780 this season and $12,759,670 the following year), he could still help plenty of teams. 3-and-D wings are in demand.

It always seemed likely the Knicks would would try to trade Lee.

Their Instagram post provides even more evidence he’s headed out.

Three Kemba Walker trades that could work for both sides

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Kemba Walker doesn’t want to be traded.

Michael Jordan and the Charlotte front office are exploring the idea anyway.

As they should. The Hornets are stuck in the NBA’s purgatory of a middle-ground with one All-Star level player in Walker and not enough around him to make this team a threat. The Hornets are 17.3 points per 100 possessions better when Walker is on the court β€” when he plays they look like a borderline playoff team, when he sits they are a disaster. Because of some big contracts, that situation is not likely to change. Charlotte may finally be proactive with this β€” trade Walker but attach a bad contract to it, and get some pieces to jump-start a rebuild back. That’s less than ideal in a smaller market like Charlotte, but it’s the right basketball move β€” test the market and see if they can get an offer that works for them.

Here are three potential trades that would fit the parameters being discussed (to be clear, these are speculative and not based on what I’ve heard around the league). None of the three are likely, but this is the kind of deals that we would see.

Kemba Walker to the New York Knicks

Charlotte gets:Β Frank Ntilikina, Ron Baker, and either Jarrett Jack or Lance Thomas

New York gets: Kemba Walker

The ups and downs of slowly rebuilding do not play well in New York β€” and right now they are in a downward spin after a fast start to the season. Still, the Knicks are just 2.5 games out of the playoffs in the East and Walker instantly puts them back in the playoff conversation. Walker gives New York another shot creator and scoring threat, someone to run pick-and-pops with Kristaps Porzingis, set up Tim Hardaway Jr., and just improve an offense that is middle of the pack. For the Hornets, they get the point guard of the future in Ntilikina, one building block as they move forward. This might be the best deal for the Hornets β€” if the Knicks would consider moving Ntilikina. That is far from certain.

Kemba Walker to the Detroit Pistons

Charlotte gets: Reggie Jackson, Stanley Johnson, draft picks, plus some other players to make the salaries fit such as Anthony Tolliver.

Detroit gets: Walker and Marvin Williams.

The promise of the Jackson/Andre Drummond connection in Detroit has faded, and Walker would bring the spark and scoring that the Pistons need to be a real threat come the postseason. I like this for Detroit but less so for Charlotte because Jackson has two-years, $35 million left on his contract after next season, and that’s a lot of money to take on for a team trying to strip it down. That said, if the Hornets think they can develop Johnson on offense (he’s good defensively, a black hole on offense) and the picks are good, they should consider it.

Kemba Walker to the Cleveland Cavaliers

Charlotte gets: Isaiah Thomas, the Brooklyn Nets first-round pick (plus another player to make the money work such as Channing Frye

Cleveland gets: Kemba Walker, maybe another deep bench player to round out the salary.

This seems the longest shot. Cleveland wants to upgrade their backcourt, that’s why they are talking to Sacramento about George Hill. However, the talk around the league is the Cavaliers are not moving that Brooklyn pick for anything less than a total game changer who makes them a real threat to Golden State. Is that Walker? Probably not. This is also probably not a move Cleveland makes unless it thinks Thomas is not going to get back to All-Star level performance, but if they think that’s not going to happen this would be a serious upgrade. The Hornets would do this to get the Nets pick, giving them a couple of lottery picks (their own is the other) in this draft to start a rebuild.

Report: Knicks sending second-rounder, cash to Kings for Scott Perry

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The Knicks agreed to hire Scott Perry from the Kings.

But Perry, having been hired fewer than three months ago, was still under contract in Sacramento. So, the Kings will get compensation.

Sam Amick of USA Today:

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

That’s a hefty price for a No. 2 in the front office. Perry will hold the title of general manager in New York, but all indications are Steve Mills will run basketball operations as team president.

Front-office titles can be wonky. Some presidents handle just the business side, leaving the general manager to assemble the roster. Some teams don’t have presidents at all, and the general manager is clearly in charge of basketball. Other general managers are really like assistant general managers elsewhere.

How much influence Perry will have remains to be seen. It would be very Knicks to send the Kings so much then barely get much from him.

After all, this is a team paying a lot of money to Joakim Noah, Courtney Lee and Lance Thomas. The Knicks just entered into a massive four-year deal with Tim Hardaway Jr., too. Carmelo Anthony is (was?) on the trade block. Kristaps Porzingis is the jewel among the wreckage, but even he is dismayed by the state of affairs.

No matter his exact role, Perry is in for a major undertaking.

The job isn’t much easier for Vlade Divac and crew in Sacramento, but at least the Kings will get an extra pick. That can’t hurt.