Let me begin by saying I am a big fan of New York Knicks restricted free agent power forward David Lee. He embodies everything New York fans love about their team. He plays hard, passionate basketball and he has improved his game every season since getting drafted. He has become the Knicks best and most coveted player.
Lee has just come off a season where he averaged a career high 16.0 points and 11.7 rebounds per game. He led the NBA with 65 double-doubles. In a lot of ways, Lee has become the face of the Knicks franchise.
He just isn't worth the $10-$12 million a year he and his agent Mark Bartelstein think he is.
In this tough economic climate, even the NBA is feeling it. The salary cap dropped for the first time in years from $58.68 to $57.7 million. Smaller market teams are making cost cutting moves in order to stay below the salary cap threshold, as well as to stay financially sound to field a team. A poor economy also means fans won't be lining up to buy tickets or merchandise, which hurts the basketball related income. Because of this, we're not seeing the long term, big money contracts of summers' past.
Only Ben Gordon and Hedo Turkoglu cashed in this summer with Gordon signing a $55 million five year deal from the Detroit Pistons and Turkoglu signing a $53 million five year deal from the Toronto Raptors after a four team sign-and-trade deal was completed. Players like Ron Artest, Lamar Odom, Charlie Villanueva, and Andre Miller all entered free agency with dreams of much more lucrative deals than what they ended up signing for.
So what makes David Lee and his agent think the Knicks should pay him more?
The two players with the most similar style of play to Lee are the previously mentioned Odom, and Paul Millsap of the Utah Jazz. Both of these players signed deals that will pay them an average of about $8 million per season. In this current economy, this is what a player of David Lee's ability is receiving. He really seems a bit greedy asking for more than what the market has shown his value to be.
A few years ago, all three of these guys probably would have received contracts beginning in the $10 million range. The money just isn't there anymore, and teams are being smarter with how they are spending it.
The Knicks are also gearing up for next summer's free agent class, when players like LeBron James and Dwyane Wade will be able to opt-out of their current contract and hit free agency. It has been reported that the Knicks want to sign Lee and his restricted free agent teammate Nate Robinson to one-year deals in order to preserve their salary cap space and make a run at signing James, Wade, or Toronto's Chris Bosh.
Lee has no other options right now. All of the teams who had cap space this summer have used it. He has said he wants to stay with the Knicks, so why not honor that statement and sign a contract that fits his current value? This whole process is making him look like all he cares about is money, and that is not what most Knick fans thought coming in to this process.
Time for Lee and his agent to wake up! The Knicks aren't going to overpay to keep him. If you really want to stay in New York, the ball is now in his court.