Knicks’ road test will conclude with a Lin reunion

New York Times As the New York Knicks return to a more normal NBA schedule this week, with four games in seven days, three of them on the road, they may find out if their roster of aging veterans can withstand the rigors of travel without the luxury of extra days off. They will also square off against Jeremy Lin, the player who got away. In starting the season 6-1, the Knicks have played three fewer games than some teams. The light schedule served two purposes, allowing the veterans to rest and frustrating the fans. Starting today, that will no longer be the case. The Knicks have a home game against Indiana. Then they play at New Orleans, Dallas and Houston in a four-day stretch. On the fourth day, when the Knicks face Lin and the Rockets, it will be interesting to see how much gas the Knicks’ backcourt has left in the tank. Through seven games, Knicks management looks brilliant for allowing Lin to leave. He has struggled to mesh with the Rockets’ offense, averaging 10.9 points and 6.7 assists a game. The Knicks have received far more production from the three veteran guards — Jason Kidd, Raymond Felton and Pablo Prigioni — asked to share what would have been Lin’s duties. Their guards have combined to average 27.8 points and 12 assists a game. More important, Felton and Kidd have far outdistanced Lin’s 14.8 player efficiency rating, which boils down all of a player’s contributions into a single number. The league average is 15. Felton’s rating is 18.2, and Kidd’s is 22.3; Prigioni is just below Lin at 14.3. All of that production has a price tag of $7,044,057, or about $1.3 million less than Lin is making in Houston. Signing Lin would not have prevented the Knicks from having Kidd, 39, or Prigioni, 35, who had signed contracts at the time of the Lin decision. But in a league where financial flexibility is often cited as a key factor in decision-making, paying Felton less than half of what Lin is making this season is less important than the fact that he is owed about $3 million in 2014-15, when Lin is scheduled to make $15 million for Houston. That could reduce luxury tax payments or allow the Knicks to augment the roster with younger players down the road. For as long as this group, the 28-year-old Felton in particular, is productive, the cost savings will make the Lin decision look like the right one. But none of that will matter if Kidd, Prigioni or Felton breaks down physically, or if the 24-year-old Lin develops into a superstar.

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