This afternoon, Marc Stein reported that Jason Kidd had reached a tentative agreement to join the New York Knicks on what is reported to be a 3 year $9 million deal. The Mavericks were rumored to be the favorites but just like in the Steve Nash sweepstakes, a dark horse team swooped in aggressively and signed a veteran point guard from underneath the favorites. So naturally, there’s a huge buzz amongst New York fans as to what this means and of course, its not that simple.
First of all, we don’t know what the parameters of this deal is. They say its for 3 years and that commitment may have gotten him to New York over staying in Dallas for a shorter term, but this may have an out for the third year; either being a non guaranteed third year OR having a buyout included in the third year. I can’t see the Knicks being that desperate where they would offer the third year just to lock up the services of a future Hall of Fame point guard. Details of the offer will only leak over the next few days but it won’t be made public until after the moratorium is lifted after July 11th.
Kidd is not being signed to play major minutes, but that doesn’t mean his role won’t be huge. The obvious need for a back up point guard for Jeremy Lin is beyond clear. When Mike Bibby could no longer be hidden in a reserve role thanks to injuries to Lin and Baron Davis it became apparent that a much sturdier point guard would be necessary. Naturally the Knicks were in on two future Hall of Fame point guards, both of whom will collect Social Security soon. The reason they went that route is obvious to most but it bodes repeating: IF the Knicks expect to have Lin for the foreseeable future they will need someone to groom him to be the point guard they want him to be. SO, that means bringing in a point guard who can help Lin in his development.
The most meaningful discussion seems to center around whether this is a good decision. In one word yes. But there is a caveat to that. IF the Knicks are in a win now mode, the addition of Jason Kidd is NOT an aggressive move in that direction. The Steve Nash move? Yes. The Jason Kidd move? No. The best move to satisfy both would have been to get Steve Nash, and yes, even at the cost of young defensive SG Iman Shumpert. Nash would’ve been an excellent pick up both for competitive reasons and for Lin’s development because THAT is Lin’s true upside: a facilitator with a very good jump shot and capable of creating his own offense. Let me repeat: Nash’s last three years would be the ceiling on Lin’s development.
So what does Kidd offer? Kidd makes Jeremy Lin the focal point. The Knicks aggressively went after Nash and he would’ve immediately been penciled in as the starter relegating Lin to a back up role- something he experienced enough. I don’t know how well Lin would’ve taken to back up status after he got a taste of being the man in a big city like New York. Lin, will be the starter at the position one would assume and Kidd’s signing does nothing to change that. Kidd is a consummate pro and will be more than happy to impart wisdom to Lin on the finer points of point guard-ing. So while the competitive aspect of the Knicks is compromised by the Kidd over Nash signing- they both bring very little defensively relying on help defense to cover quick point guards, they will be aided by his ability to mentor and tutor Lin who he already has a relationship with and whom he has gone on record as saying he likes.
The kicker here is Lin. Lin is now entertaining offers from Houston and may even get a call from Mark Cuban who may look to go on the offensive after the state of New York blew up his point guard situation. Remember, the state of Texas is where Lin got his first two opportunities last season before winding up with the Knicks and beginning the Linsanity era. He played in a summer league for the Mavs and was signed by Lin before being released because of a cluttered back court situation and a failed trade for another point guard- Chris Paul. You may have heard about that already. It bears watching what the clever Darryl Morey may do. IF Morey tries to give Lin a poison pill contract, it could give pause to the Knicks about matching and may lead to some contentious contract discussions.
Look, is Lin worth an eight figure salary? Its impossible to know. Was a two month stretch enough to convince any team to invest that kind of salary on Lin? Probably NOT except one thing- Lin makes economic sense to any team that brings him in, especially Houston. Houston already has an established line to China thanks to their old friend Yao Ming- who Lin counts as a friend and mentor. How much better would it be to bring Lin “home”? Its worth remembering that Morey has publicly went on record as admitting his mistake and noting that Lin being placed on waivers was NOT due to basketball reasons but due to a numbers game. Basically he was trying to massage the situation by saying he liked his game, he just couldn’t give him his chance so he allowed him to get it in New York by placing him on waivers for any and every team to pick him up.
Cuban doesn’t have that kind of link to Lin but may get involved just to throw a monkey wrench into the Knicks plans. Cuban is no idiot and realizes the potential that Lin has both on the court and off and after news that Mickey Arison lost money this year on his championship team the Miami Heat, most teams may look at the financial solvency of any deal. Lin offers any team that kind of financial windfall but he may not be as marketable anywhere aside from Golden State (where they will move to a much less Asian-friendly market so take them out), Houston or New York so its doubtful that Cuban foregoes his senses and offers Lin the kind of contract that could hamstring his plans for the future. Here’s the other thing about Cuban that he may not be letting people in on: his push may have been for Deron Williams but just in case this Dwight Howard to Brooklyn thing doesn’t work out and Dwight plays out the season in a Magic uni, he and Chris Paul could become free agents next summer and Cuban can make that team relevant in a hurry. Of course that won’t help this season, but I think Cuban won’t make a play for Lin.
So that leaves Houston and New York. Lin has an offer on the table for a reported $30 million over three years which if you have been following Houston’s recent dealings could be backloaded heavy. While it may stun you Knick fans to hear me say this- he is worth that money. Lin has the right to NOT sign the offer sheet and negotiate with the Knicks on a three year extension but his agent wouldn’t be doing his job if he didn’t explore his other options and try to maximize a frenzied two month stretch into financial security for the long term. So yes, I expect Lin to sign an offer sheet from the Rockets just so the Knicks will be forced to match and say bye bye to any kind of cap flexibility next year for say, a Chris Paul- however unlikely that scenario was in the first place ANYWAY.
So now with Lin and Kidd, what can we expect? I think Woodson will play both together but not for long stretches and in that scenario would require a completely offensive line up with Chandler at center and Lin at SG. That would be an atrocious defensive team which Woodson won’t go to but it will be interesting to see when he plays them together. Early on you may see them experiment with that line up and measure its offensive efficiency but don’t look for that line up to play major crunch time minutes from the jump. Rather expect Lin to start with Kidd coming off the bench and there being stretches where both are on the bench so that Kidd and Lin can talk through situations and what the defense is throwing at Lin. Which is why a third PG may be beneficial which is why a deal for Toney Douglass may now be out of the question and the Knicks will bring back the mercurial defensive first point guard. Of course they could trade for Felton in a sign and trade as well but I can’t see that happening for the Knicks but it bears wondering if that move wouldn’t be a prudent move to shore up any weakness. The Knicks will play very heavy rotation of Amar’e, and Melo, so it will require a good point guard out there at all times and we’ve seen time and time again that Toney Douglass doesn’t have the instincts to be that. So perhaps the Knicks are not done here on the point guard front.
Overall, I’m in favor of this deal because of what it promises. It promises the development of Jeremy Lin. It also promises the Knicks a competent back up point guard who you know for sure will bring you a certain level of play. While that statement may be generalizing Jason Kidd, the uncertainty of Baron Davis’ back and overall demeanor heading into his stint with the Knicks and whether Mike Bibby was actually a real human being and not a mummified basketball player the Knicks will be helped by Kidd’s arrival. The deal as its being reported will also help the Knicks financially more so than what the Knicks would’ve had to pay for Steve Nash. Neither put the Knicks over the top as a contender and help them against the Heat but it does place them in the top 5 of the East as opposed to being a seven seed or eight seed forced to play an upper echelon team from the East in the first round. A three year $30 million deal for a 26 year old point guard possibly on the rise makes more sense than the same for a 38 year old point guard who, while playing at an elite level still, would not have put the Knicks in championship contender status. Getting a hall of fame PG to groom your would-be future PG is a much better and smarter play for the Knicks who for a time would’ve done anything to make that Nash move. Again, let’s wait for contract details to leak and see who’s signing for what before we make any snap judgements about the worthiness of a 3 year contract to a 40 year old point guard.