Knicks consider LeBron-geared free-agent strategy after Fizdale hire
Knicks brass has pointed toward the summer of 2019, when it plans to be ready to make a free-agent splash. But after Thursday’s hiring of former Memphis head coach and Heat assistant David Fizdale, the Knicks are prepared to open salary-cap space this summer in the unlikely event they get an inkling LeBron James has some interest in coming to the Garden this summer, according to an NBA source.
James is a big fan of Fizdale, who was a Miami assistant from 2008 to 2016, including all four of James’ seasons there. But Kristaps Porzingis’ injury and the uncertainty about his return next season would seem to make the Garden a less than desirable landing spot for James should he decide to leave the Cavaliers.
The path to clearing space isn’t as daunting as one would think, considering the opt-out clauses of centers Enes Kanter and Kyle O’Quinn.
If both opt out — and there’s a legitimate chance they will — the Knicks still would need to make one more significant move to get far enough under the projected cap to have room for James.
The Knicks would have to trade Courtney Lee’s contract to a club that has sufficient cap space to absorb it, such as Sacramento or Phoenix.
Kanter’s number for next season is $18.8 million, while O’Quinn has $4.2 million left on his pact. Lee’s salary next season is $12.2 million.
According to Bobby Marks, the former Nets capologist who now works for ESPN, if all three of those things occur, the Knicks would stand $30 million under the salary cap — enough to afford James. That would mean no contract extension this summer for Porzingis.
Of course, James could be a free agent again in 2019, with his recent history of signing short-term deals.
James was upset by the Grizzlies’ firing of Fizdale in November. But when James learned of the rift between Fizdale and star center Marc Gasol, he said, “Maybe that’s what it was, because he ain’t gonna kiss nobody’s ass, I know that.”
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