The New York Knicks are a team in transition. The hesitation to lock up their best player to a lucrative deal should tell you that. But the team can still get better now and keep their payroll in control for the Summer of 2010.
David Lee is due a big contract. He'll probably get offered somewhere around $10 million. The Knicks won't match that unless one thing happens. That thing would be for the Houston Rockets to lose out on Marcin Gortat and turn to New York for help at the center position. Yao Ming, of course, is done for the 2009/10 season. Eddy Curry would be that fit for Houston. He's working out and could be back to 2006/07 form. But that likely won't happen. The multimedia campaign for Gortat in Houston is ridiculous. A deal with another team is more realistic.
The Portland Trailblazers have been active this offseason. Not only do they have the hots for David Lee, but they're going hard after Hedo Turkoglu. The pursuit of Turkoglu has upset Spanish import Rudy Fernandez to the point where he's saying that he wants to go back to Europe and play.
The Knicks have a gaping hole at the shooting guard spot. Given that Wilson Chandler doesn't switch positions, Larry Hughes looks like the starter. So if the Knicks won't sign David Lee. Get him in a sign-and-trade situation with Portland. The deal goes down like this:
David Lee ($10 million/yr)
New York gets:
Rudy Fernandez ($1.2 million/yr)
Steve Blake (expiring $5 million) & Travis Outlaw (expiring $4 million) -OR- Darius Miles' contract (expiring $9 million)
The decision has to be made by Portland, in regards to Steve Blake. If the team can't get a point guard (Andre Miller is a possibility), Blake is staying put and Miles' contract will be dealt. If a point guard is found, Blake is expendable. Plus, moving Outlaw would create less of a battle for the small forward spot.
Either way, the Knicks lose approximately $1 million dollars off their 2010 budget, but that's more like a drop in the bucket. It certainly makes up for itself when there is a great 2-guard for the future included.
Sean Meagher of the Oregonian told me before the draft:
The only Blazers that are definitely not considered chips: Roy, Aldridge, Oden. The next tier would include Nic Batum, Rudy and Joel Przybilla. But I think outside of the first three, anyone could be traded. You have to give something to get something in return.
As Kevin Pritchard likes to say, he’ll do whatever he can to make this team better. And as we’ve seen in drafts past, he’s not afraid to move players. ...KP won’t make a move unless he knows he’s getting better by doing so.
He ended by saying "I don’t think Rudy is untouchable, but the offer would have to be pretty stellar for KP to trade away someone he worked so hard to bring over."
The offer is, in fact, stellar. Rudy doesn't even want to be there. The stars are aligned for this to go down.
Look, I was against not re-signing David Lee 100%. He's too great of a player, not just for the team, but for the city of New York, and I still hope he comes back. But if Rudy Fernandez is brought back, I would move Lee. Jordan Hill was drafted as a backup plan for Lee and it might just come in use. Lee for Rudy is a no-brainer.
--If the deal is in fact pulled off, the next question becomes 'Can the Knicks bring in Ricky Rubio and still be under the cap for 2010?'
The answer to that is a bit more unclear than a trade for Rudy Fernandez. The Timberwolves would need a guard back for Rubio. If Larry Hughes could be dealt, New York would have to take Etan Thomas' expiring $7.5 million contract.
That would shave another $3-4 million off the 2010 budget, but would probably be worth it. Reconnecting the Rubio-Rudy duo could be very valuable, especially under D'Antoni's scheme.
Nate Robinson could be a possibility for a sign-and-trade, but no one seems to want him. Depending on what Robinson gets, Jared Jeffries could be involved in that deal, but it's very uncertain. There is no market for Nate Robinson yet.
UPDATE: The Oregonian reports:
The "news" that Rudy Fernandez is "infuriated" with the Trail Blazers for their interest in Hedo Turkoglu comes as a surprise to coach Nate McMillan and general manager Kevin Pritchard, both of whom had separate conversations with the guard earlier this week on the phone.
"I just spoke with Rudy two days ago, to see how he was doing, and he said he was doing fine and that he was happy,'' McMillan said. "I talked to him about our moves, and how we did in the draft, and why we did what we did in the draft and he was fine with it. We talked about Sergio (Rodriguez) and he was OK with everything we've done.''
Pritchard said he "had a good conversation" with Fernandez on Monday.
"We joked around,'' Pritchard said. "And we had a fantastic exit interview. He talked about how excited he was to come back.''
Pritchard said he has not spoken with Fernandez since the ESPN report came out Wednesday afternoon, but he did leave a message for Fernandez to call him.
That could mean anything at this point, but since no one has spoken to Fernandez today, I'll have to guess that he is unhappy.