NBA Rumor: Courtney Lee Free Agency

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Kennedy: Did any of the players on the Knicks recruit you as you were weighing your options? Lee: “Before free agency, I was talking with Noah and it’s great seeing how passionate he is. This offseason, he’s getting out of breath just being on the phone – like he’s running sprints – but it’s because he’s talking about the city, talking about the fans, talking about the team and talking about everything we can accomplish together. He’s excited and he was recruiting me pretty much the entire time, telling me that I was the missing piece and what not. He kept telling me, ‘Let’s get it done!’ Noah was in my ear a lot.”

Alex Kennedy: You told me that the Knicks were the first team to show interest in you, with Phil Jackson contacting you shortly after free agency started. What was it like receiving that call? Courtney Lee: “Man, hearing from Phil and it being the Knicks, it was an incredible feeling. It took me back to all of the things that Phil has accomplished, and it also took me all the way back to my childhood because I grew up in Indianapolis so I used to always watch the Pacers and Knicks battle against each other. It just brought back so many memories. For them to be the first team to call me, it was a good feeling. I mean, it’s Phil Jackson. It’s New York. You’re playing in the Mecca.”

Ian Begley: The Courtney Lee deal “would not have happened without Joakim Noah,” a source close to Lee says. Lee had several offers to decide from and chose New York in part because of Noah’s recruitment. “Courtney understands what playing for the New York Knicks means,” a source close to Lee says. “He wanted to play in New York and Joakim Noah was instrumental in recruiting him. Would not have happened without Joakim. Courtney couldn’t be more excited.”

Ian Begley: Phil Jackson said that there are ways in which the Knicks can free up more cap space to sign players. He’s likely referring to trading a player on the roster to a team that can absorb his salary into cap space. This would free up some more money for New York and my guess is that the Knicks may have to use this mechanism to sign Courtney Lee. They’ve offered Lee a four-year deal that’s north of $10 million annually, according to sources. Lee has other offers, which are likely more lucrative, and he is considering them. Members of the organization – including Joakim Noah – would love to have Lee in New York, sources say.

Ian Begley: The Knicks’ offer to Courtney Lee is north of $10 million per year for 4 years, per sources. Many in the Knicks organization would love to see Lee sign, but New York will have competition from teams that can probably offer a contract with a higher annual value. Lee is considering other offers. After signing Joakim Noah, the Knicks project to have at least $12 million in cap space. That cap space can increase, of course, if they trade a player to a team that has enough cap space to absorb the contract.

Now, if that sounds like a lot of money to you (and yes, it is a lot of money), consider the league’s new multi-billion-dollar television deal will ramp up each team’s salary cap from $70 million this past year to an estimated $92 million in 2016-17, and then a whopping $107 million in 2017-18. So it’s not just Lee who’s about to get paid. A bunch of free agents are about to get a whole lot richer. “It’s going to be eye-opening,” Lee told Basketball Insiders. “I don’t think people understand how much money is involved with this new TV deal.”
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