In what has to come as something of a surprise, the Knicks have taken the lead in the Steve Nash derby despite the Raptors’ efforts to eliminate them by agreeing to sign Landry Fields to an onerous, back-loaded contract. Fields was set to be a key chip in a potential New York and Phoenix sign-and-trade, a deal that would’ve offered Nash a salary not drastically lower than Toronto’s eight-figure annual offer.
But the Knicks still have Iman Shumpert, and the Suns are reportedly interested in Shumpert as the centerpiece of a Nash sign-and-trade package, per Marc Stein of ESPN.com and Adrian Wojarnowski of Yahoo!. The latter described the current New York-Phoenix talks as being in the “critical stages” on Wednesday. All of this is unfolding as Houston is reportedly preparing their own back-loaded offer for Jeremy Lin, a move which (along with the agreed upon back-loaded offer to Chicago’s Omer Asik) played a role in the Rockets renouncing part of their rights to Courtney Lee. Lee, in turn, will be a prime mid-priced candidate for teams in need of a shooting guard, with the Clippers and the Bulls already having expressed interest, per the Los Angeles Times and Chicago Tribune, respectively. The Bulls face massive tax issues that will essentially make any Lee contract count double, while the Clippers appear ready to offer the full mid-level exception to Jamal Crawford, a player who is 32 years old, shot 38 percent from the field last season and ranks as a minus defender — the last of which should be slightly more important for a team that ranked a porous 18th in points allowed per possession last season.
So many moving parts, so little time for Independence Day barbecue and fireworks. And we haven’t even touched on the fact that Dallas — having missed out on Deron Williams — will surely examine Nash as a possible way to fill its cap space for at least one season. (Signing him to a two-year deal would imperil the Mavericks’ chance at max-level space in 2013, when Dwight Howard and Andrew Bynum are set to become free agents.)
But back to the Knicks: If they match a competing offer sheet for Lin and acquire Nash on a deal that pays something like $8 million per year over three seasons (as reported above), then we can conclude that the new collective bargaining agreement and beefed up luxury tax provisions have very little impact on James Dolan’s thinking in New York. And acquiring Nash would not necessarily mean saying goodbye to Lin. Nash is a 30-minute-per-game player now, and as he approaches age 40 during the span of this contract, it may be a good idea to play him less frequently have another player available to shoulder part of the escalating workload at the point. Signing Nash without a reliable back-up is not a viable option, and though the Knicks could find a backup with the veteran’s minimum (Mike Bibby, Ish Smith, etc.), the drop off after Nash would be steep.