Star point guards kept flying off the market — one to their crosstown rivals, one to Hollywood — and all the Knicks could do was grit their teeth, cross names off the board, and wait for some improbable twist of fate.
That moment, and the point guard, arrived at last Thursday afternoon.
Jason Kidd, who was set to rejoin the Mavericks, made a late and stunning reversal and agreed to join the Knicks instead, according to the New York Times. Negotiations were ongoing Thursday evening, and it was not yet clear whether the Knicks would sign Kidd outright or acquire him in a sign-and-trade deal.
Just as Kidd committed, the Knicks learned that Jeremy Lin, their promising 23-year-old point guard out of Harvard, had agreed to an offer sheet with the Rockets, complicating the picture.
The Rockets’ offer could be worth $28.8 million over four years, with backloaded payments in the final two seasons, according to a person who was briefed on the details. The fourth year is a team option; because Lin is a restricted free agent, the Knicks have the right to match the deal.
The offer sheet cannot be signed until the NBA moratorium ends July 11, at which time the Knicks will have three days to match it or let Lin walk. New York is determined to keep Lin, even if the contract costs them millions in luxury-tax payments.
Under the Rockets’ offer, Lin would earn $5 million next season, $5.2 million in the second year, and balloon payments of $9.3 million in the third and fourth seasons — a structure that is designed to dissuade the Knicks from matching the offer.
Houston is in desperate need of a point guard, having agreed to trade Kyle Lowry to the Raptors on Thursday. The Rockets will receive a lottery-protected first-round pick and UMass product Gary Forbes. Lowry averaged 14.3 points and 6.6 assists in 47 games for Houston last season.
Houston also lost its highly regarded backup point guard, Goran Dragic, who agreed to terms with the Suns on Wednesday. On Wednesday, the Suns sent Steve Nash to the Lakers in a sign-and-trade; the two-time MVP passed up more money elsewhere, considering Los Angeles’s proximity to his three children in Phoenix.
Kidd, a 10-time All-Star, helped lead the Mavericks to the championship just 13 months ago. But he is 39 and is about to enter his 19th season. The Knicks simply hope he can provide quality minutes every night.
The most the Knicks can offer Kidd is $9.7 million over three years, by using the so-called “mini-midlevel” exception. They could pay him more through a sign-and-trade arrangement with Dallas, an option that was being explored Thursday, according to a person involved in the talks.
Clippers ink Crawford
The Clippers were informed that guards Jamal Crawford and Chauncey Billups intend to sign contracts with the team when the NBA’s moratorium period is lifted, according to NBA executives who were not authorized to speak publicly on the matter, the Los Angeles Times reported. Crawford, an unrestricted free agent who opted out of his $5.2 million contract with the Trail Blazers, is expected to sign a three-year, $15.7 million contract. Billups, who played in just 20 games last season with the Clippers before suffering a season-ending left Achilles’ tendon injury, will sign a one-year deal that could be worth up to $4.3 million . . . The Magic are making progress on solidifying their roster, agreeing in principle to a new deal with point guard Jameer Nelson. The deal comes just a week after Nelson opted out of the final season and nearly $8 million of his contract to test free agency . . . Three-time All-Star Brandon Roy, 27, who retired last season because of knee problems, agreed to a two-year, $10 million deal with the Timberwolves . . . Restricted free agent forward Nicolas Batum reached a verbal agreement with the Timberwolves and wants the Blazers to let him go to Minnesota . . . Hasheem Thabeet is getting another chance to prove himself, this time with the Western Conference champion Thunder. Agent Bill Duffy confirmed that the 7-3 center, the No. 2 pick in the 2009 draft, agreed to a two-year guaranteed contract . . . The Cavaliers signed first-round picks Dion Waiters and Tyler Zeller.