We can all finally exhale. The key to the Knicks franchise is back with today’s announcement that Sasha Vujacic has agreed to a one-year deal at the veteran’s minimum!
Okay, stop rolling your eyes and sucking your teeth. The reason Sasha drew so much hate early last season was due to being forced into a role bound for failure. Even at his best, it was a stretch to have him as your starting shooting guard. Because of Arron Afflalo’s hamstring injury, the Knicks had little choice. Paired with Jose Calderon, the duo was horrific on both ends of the floor and were arguably the worst starting backcourt in the league.
Following the All-Star Break, we got a better idea of Vujacic’s usefulness. In spot minutes he proved effective as an annoying, pesky defender and spot-up three-point shooting (45% over the season’s second half). Then rookie Kristaps Porzingis cited him as a valuable mentor. And with the addition of more Euros (Hernangomez, Kuzmiskas), Vujacic might be what the doctor ordered by bridging the cultural gap with the rest of the squad.
Is Sasha a legit SG backup for Courtney Lee? Absolutely not — but for additional bench depth, this is acceptable. And who knows, maybe Sasha will turn into a crowd favorite if he becomes the “human cigar” inserted during blowouts. For now, let’s feast on some of Sasha’s memorable moments from last season.
The starting lineup is complete. Eight year guard Courtney Lee has signed four year, $48 million contract with the New York Knicks.
Word broke earlier this weekend about the Knicks’ offer. A confidential source told ESPN that Lee mulled the offer before speaking with the team’s othrt new signee — Joakim Noah.
[It] would not have happened without Joakim Noah. Courtney understands what playing for the New York Knicks means. He wanted to play in New York and Joakim Noah was instrumental recruiting him. Would not have happened without Joakim. Courtney couldn’t be more excited.
Lee started last season with the Memphsi Grizzlies before being traded to the Charlotte Hornets. He played in 79 games (started 65), averaging 9.5 points (45% FG, 38% 3P%), 3 rebounds and 2 assists.
This could be our sleeper free agent signing of the summer. With D-Rose’s penetration ability and the double teams that will come Melo and (to a lesser extent) Porzingis’ way, Lee will be get a lot of open looks from three-point range. Another plus is Lee’s playoff experience (including a Finals trip with Orlando in 2009) means he’s not one to shy away from the big shot.
But even more important than Lee’s offense is his ability to shut down opposing players. Too often in recent years, the Knicks have gotten killed on the perimeter due to our slow guards. Lee, as recently as this year’s playoffs, showed how underrated and important his defense can be in the fourth quarter.
And Lee is not injury prone! If our starting five stays healthy, I like our chances to make noise in 2017. Now let’s hop Phil can work some magic filling out this bench.
Center Robin Lopez has inked a 4-year, $54 million deal to leave the Portland Trailblazers for the New York Knicks.
The 27-year old Lopez averaged 10 points (54% FG), 7 rebounds and 1.4 blocks over 28 minutes last season for Portland.
Known for his defense and rebounding energy (3 off. rpg), Lopez is expected to be the “rim protector” team president Phil Jackson emphasized as a free agency focus.
With Carmelo Anthony and rookie Kristaps Porzingis likely to spend significant minutes at power forward, Lopez’s 7’0, 255 pound frame is essential for covering their weaknesses on the boards and defensively. This used to be Tyson Chandler’s job until he mentally checked out. Cole Aldrich and Lou Amundson did the best with their limited ability last year. Rolo is a clear upgrade in all facets. I’m expecting him to average a double double being in the East and likely playing increased minutes.
No, Lopez isn’t a name-grabber like Deandre Jordan or LaMarcus Aldridge, but he’s a marked improvement and fits the defensive mold we’re trying to build.
Still skeptical? Check the videos below.
The Knicks made their first significant move in free agency today with the signing of veteran guard Arron Afflalo to a two-year deal worth $16 million.
The 29-year old Afflalo spent last year in Portland where he played 25 games. He averaged 11 points (41% FG, 40% 3pt) and 3 rebounds over 30 minutes. He missed the post-season due to an arm injury in April.
Afflalo’s best season came in 2013-2014 for the Orlando Magic, where he started 73 games and averaged 18 points, 4 rebounds and 4 assists (46% FG, 41% 3 pt.).
Afflalo also comes in Carmelo Anthony experience, as the two played together on the Denver Nuggets for two seasons (2009-2010).
Considering some of huge contracts being doled out this free agency for role players, I’d say the Knicks did a good job here. Despite a bad season in Portland, Afflalo is a two-way player and clear upgrade at the two-spot over Iman Shumpert and JR Smith. And it leaves New York roughly $20 million to still pursue the three big free agents left (Jordan, Aldridge, Monroe). So far, so good Phil.