Moke Hamilton, NBA Analyst
Anyone who thought that Phil Jackson came to New York City to sit around and wait until July 2015 may be mistaken. According to a league source, his grandiose vision of building a contender may begin sooner than anyone — even Carmelo Anthony — thought possible.
On the heels of a Monday morning account from ESPN that states the Knicks have engaged the Philadelphia 76ers on a salary-dumping Amar’e Stoudemire trade, a league front office source tells SNY.tv and TheKnicksBlog that the Knicks have also been shopping Andrea Bargnani. Jackson, according to the source, recently rebuffed a trade offer that would have seen Bargnani and Tim Hardaway Jr. sent out in a similar cap-clearing maneuver.
Days before Tyson Chandler was traded to the Dallas Mavericks in a six-player trade that also saw the Knicks net two second round draft picks that turned into Cleanthony Early and Thanasis Antetokounmpo, Jackson turned down the proposed Bargani trade, the source says.
According to the source, Jackson believes that he can find a taker for Bargnani and his salary without sacrificing Hardaway Jr., despite the fact that Bargnani has appeared in just 118 games over the past three seasons. Bargnani has one year and $11.5 million remaining on his current contract.
As it stands, Jackson is believed to not only be actively shopping Stoudemire, but Bargnani, as well.
The end game, according to the source, is jettisoning their combined $34.9 million salaries off of the Knicks’ 2014-15 ledger, potentially making the Knicks a late entrant into this summer’s free agency marketplace.
Parting the Red Sea would probably be an easier endeavor, but if Jackson were able to move both Bargnani and Stoudemire without taking back and salaries and opted to walk away from Jeremy Tyler, Lamar Odom, Shannon Brown, Toure’ Murry, Kenyon Martin and Cole Aldrich — all of whom are either free agents or subjected to team options — the Knicks could find themselves somewhere in the neighborhood of $40 million under the NBA’s projected 2014-15 salary cap of $63 million.
The Knicks would be woefully thin up front, but the team would have enough money under the cap to both re-sign Anthony and then scour the free agent market for some additional help. According to the source, that is Jackson’s “Plan A” for this summer, and it is believed to have been a part of his pitch to Anthony, who, according to multiple reports, was reluctant to re-sign with the Knicks without some assurance that the team would be able to field an upgraded roster around him for the 2014-15 season.
With players officially able to sign contracts on July 10, any such deal for Stoudemire and/or Bargnani would need to happen quickly. However, as of Monday, a number of impact free agents remained on the market. The list includes LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Pau Gasol, Luol Deng, Chandler Parsons, Lance Stephenson, Trevor Ariza, Caron Butler, Evan Turner, Andray Blatche, Shawn Marion, Rashard Lewis and Marvin Williams.
At this time, it is not clear whether or not the Knicks have decisive interest in any of the aforementioned players, but with the Los Angeles Lakers, Dallas Mavericks, Houston Rockets and Chicago Bulls among the teams that have entered this offseason with the ability to create significant cap space, a league source tells SNY.tv and TheKnicksBlog that Jackson’s goal is to emerge as a late entrant as a player, as well.