11:31 am Jun. 20, 2012
With free agency less than two weeks away, the question of who will back up Jeremy Lin at point guard for the Knicks is still unsettled.
On Monday, Jason Kidd, the future Hall of Famer who spent last season with the Dallas Mavericks, indicated that if he doesn't re-sign with Dallas, the Knicks would be on the short list of teams he'd consider.
"That would be a lot of fun, to be able to help a young player like that," Kidd said of Lin. "He has all the tools. We saw that before he got hurt. To help him understand it’s a long season, to pace yourself, and that he’s got to work extremely hard. Also, to share the things that help me be successful and help him be a better player."
Also Monday, the New York Post reported that the Knicks met with Pablo Prigioni, the veteran Spanish league point guard, about a possible jump to the U.S.
The two players actually offer similar profiles for the Knicks next year. But whether the Knicks decide on Kidd or Prigioni, should they have the option of pursuing either, is likely to have as much to do with price as anything else.
In Kidd, the Knicks have a pretty good idea of what they'd be getting. His defense, never a strong suit, has eroded significantly with age. He simply doesn't shoot the ball well. What he does well is find open teammates and run an offense, and he'd be a tremendous backup option who could step in and start as needed.
That could overqualify him somewhat for what the Knicks need behind Lin. Presumably, they don't want Lin to play 45 minutes per game, as he did at the height of Linsanity. But more like 35-38 makes sense, so his backup wouldn't earn the kind of playing time that Kidd would get elsewhere.
In addition, Kidd's price tag is likely to be inflated by his resume, with all the playoff games, the N.B.A. title and so on, and the Knicks might not have the kind of money he'd command from other teams.
Even if the players prevail in the currently undecided arbitration case, allowing the Knicks to re-sign Lin, Steve Novak, and also add one player at the $5 million price tag and another at $1.9 million, they have more pressing needs than backup for Lin. They need a starting shooting guard to play until Iman Shumpert returns from knee surgery, probably in January. They need a legitimate backup center to keep Tyson Chandler fresh for the playoffs. They need a shooter to play with the second unit if Novak becomes to expensive to retain. They need a slasher to spell Carmelo Anthony.
The backup for Lin is important, but it is pretty far down that list.
Prigioni brings many of the same assets and liabilities as Kidd. He isn't a flashy athlete, and at age 35, that isn't going to change. So his ability to guard the league's quick point guards would be limited. His three-point shot is supposedly improved, but still not a key plus. He does, however, bring significant experience running a team, and should be a solid option to give the Knicks 10-15 minutes a game.
But the best part of Prigioni is that as a first-year N.B.A. player, he'd probably make about half of what the veteran minimum is. So the Knicks would be adding a perfectly serviceable point guard, addressing that need, without touching any of the money they'll need to fill out the rest of the roster.
The Knicks know this, of course, which is why they are pursuing Prigioni in the first place.
There's no knowing ahead of time how he'd transition to a new league and a new continent. That uncertainty would just be part of the deal, which is to be expected.
Once in a while a team finds a great player for practically nothing, as the Knicks did with Jeremy Lin. Much more often, though, you simply get what you pay for.