NBA Analysis: Will the Knicks be Able to Keep this Roster Intact?

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It is with great joy that I’ve been watching the Knicks’ mish-moshed roster play selfless, exciting ball. And because of that joy that a certain melancholy strikes with the realization that it will be difficult to keep many of these heroes for various reasons, mostly salary related:

  • J.R. Smith will likely opt-out of his $2.5 million deal and find a home paying at least double that amount;
  • Steve Novak could 3-point bomb into Kapono or Korver money;
  • Jared Jeffries has finally proven to the NBA that his defense is worthy of something more than the league minimum;
  • Baron Davis will likely prove that his back is healthy and if he isn’t a starter, he’s still a damn good backup;
  • and Mike D’Antoni, who suffered three long years for a whiff at this type of talent is by all indications a dead man walking at Madison Square Garden.

But we have these guys now. For this brief moment. This coming together for a fleeting episode of confederacy and understanding, and ultimately inevitable parting evokes a certain film from my childhood.


Ed. Note: There was a big nod to the Breakfast Club here. You can read it over at


The Knicks are likely going to have to use their mid-level exception to retain Jeremy Lin. After that the only contract offers they’ll be able to tender will be the bi-annual exception and the veteran’s minimum. Maybe one of Jeffries or Davis or Novak will be willing to take the bi-annual, but that’s up in the air.

More importantly, if Mike D’Antoni is gone would a guy like Jeffries or Novak even want to stay? These were discarded, scrap heap types of players. We’ve already witnessed the affinity that Jeffries and D’Antoni have for each other. D’Antoni transforms players for whom other teams have no use, recognize their chief talents, and puts them in a position to excel using their gifts. The more likely scenario is that Jeffries will follow D’Antoni wherever he goes. And wherever Novak winds up (unless he’s playing for D’Antoni) he’ll likely be plastered to the bench. I think his agent will explain that he needs to take the money while he can. @BandwagonKnick explained this phenomenon as Super Nova was lighting up the Cavs last night:

Curse of a system that gives freedom to role players. RT @KnicksFanBlog It's a damn shame that we probably won't be able to keep Novak.

As odd as it may sound, Jeremy Lin, who has risen like a Phoenix to an unlikely position of influence – in no small part due to the freedom D’Antoni has handed him – has all the power in the world to force Dolan to re-up his embattled coach and perchance keep as much of the team together as possible. Lin has the power to leverage his ability to leave the Knicks high and dry at the end of next season. As Jamie O’Grady has already noted:

If successful, D’Antoni and Lin will secure each other’s futures.

Would Lin use the leverage he undoubtedly wields? Time will tell. But just like Jeffries and Novak, I suspect he knows where his bread is buttered. Per Howard Beck:

Jeremy Lin is not Steve Nash, although his poking, prodding, hunt-and-peck approach to finding open lanes evokes Nash’s style. Lin does not have Nash’s pedigree, or his 3-point shot. But he does have D’Antoni, whom he called “an absolute offensive genius”…

Get more great New York Knicks analysis over at KnicksFan.


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