Steve Nash Heads to Lakers, Leaving Knicks in Lurch

The Phoenix Suns, despite some reservations about sending their star point guard to a division rival, agreed to a sign-and-trade deal. According to reports, Nash will receive $27 million over three years. His agent, Bill Duffy, said that Nash wanted to be closer to his children, who live in Phoenix.

The will receive two first-round picks (in 2013 and 2015) and two second-round picks (in 2013 and 2014) and a trade exception that the Lakers received in the Lamar Odom trade in December. The exemption made the deal work under salary cap rules.

The deal leaves the still searching for a veteran hand to stabilize their offense and to mentor Jeremy Lin, their promising 23-year-old point guard.

Nash, 38, has a home in the West Village and spends his summers in New York. But the Knicks were always a long shot to land him because of salary-cap constraints and a dearth of tradable assets. Their only chance was to acquire him via sign-and-trade. They made a hard push, offering a trade package built around Iman Shumpert and a bunch of minor players with expiring contracts.

Losing Nash increases the pressure on the Knicks to re-sign Lin, who was courted Wednesday by the Houston Rockets. The Rockets were expected to offer Lin a backloaded contract that could be worth more than $25 million over up to four seasons. The Knicks can match any offer to Lin because he is a restricted free agent.

The Knicks are also hoping to land Jason Kidd, although they are limited to offering the $3.09 million exception. Kidd could earn much more by staying with the Mavericks, who may be motivated to pay him after losing Deron Williams (to the Nets) and Nash on consecutive days.

The Raptors offered Nash a deal worth a reported $36 million over three years. The Mavericks could have offered just as much. The Knicks would have paid him about $25 million over three seasons in a sign-and-trade deal, though it would have cost them Shumpert, their best young prospect and their best perimeter defender.

To make the deal work under salary-cap rules and to give Nash a starting salary around $8.3 million, the Knicks would have sent Phoenix nearly every minor player available, including Toney Douglas, Dan Gadzuric, Jerome Jordan and Josh Harrellson, as well as Shumpert. The Knicks lost Landry Fields as a potential trading chip when he reached a handshake agreement with the Raptors on a three-year, $20 million offer sheet. The Knicks could have given Fields up to $5.3 million in starting salary in the sign-and-trade deal, which would have allowed them to offer Nash a bigger contract.

Fields averaged 9 points and 4 rebounds a game last season, numbers that declined from his rookie year.

Fields is expected to sign Toronto’s offer sheet once the N.B.A. moratorium is lifted on Wednesday. The Knicks will have three days to match the offer — though they have not given any signs they will — but they cannot use Fields in a sign-and-trade deal once he signs it.

Acquiring a veteran point guard like Kidd would give Lin time to develop. Lin became a sensation in February and had some brilliant moments, but he has started just 25 games in the league and remains an unproven commodity over a full season. He averaged 15 points and 6 assists in 35 games with the Knicks after they claimed him off waivers from the Rockets.

The Knicks have made it clear throughout the off-season that re-signing Lin is a top priority for two reasons: his improved play and his highly profitable marketability in New York.

On Wednesday morning, the Knicks reached an agreement on an offer sheet for a one-year deal with James White, who spent the last three years playing overseas. White, who was drafted in the second round in 2006, will make the league minimum of $854,000.

The signing of White was the Knicks’ first indication that they were prepared to start replacing their backcourt.

White, who is 6 feet 7 inches, has played the past two seasons in Italy’s Serie A league, the country’s highest professional level. He averaged 17 points, 5 rebounds and 3 assists last season for VL Pesaro.

White, 29, said he planned to be a valued role player for the Knicks. “I’m not coming in to be a guy who doesn’t play,” he said. “I think I have the ability to contribute a lot and to make everyone around me better.”

Besides Lin and Fields, the Knicks are still hoping to re-sign Steve Novak and J. R. Smith. Novak retained his early Bird rights last week, which allows the Knicks to re-sign him for up to $5.3 million. Smith declined his option with the team last month, but he hopes to return for close to $3 million.

Rebounds

The Nets are reworking the contract of Mirza Teletovic to maintain cap flexibility and to keep alive their faint hopes of landing Dwight Howard. Teletovic agreed in principle Tuesday to sign for the $5 million midlevel exception. By rule, a team using the midlevel must abide by a hard cap of $74 million, which would virtually eliminate the Nets’ chance of acquiring Howard, and perhaps preclude them from re-signing Kris Humphries. At the Nets’ request, Teletovic and his agent returned to the table and were moving toward a new agreement for the mini-midlevel of $3.09 million.

Anderson Scores Career-Best 30, Magic Beat Knicks

It also set up another big one for Ryan Anderson.

Anderson scored a career-high 30 points, extending his NBA lead with seven 3-pointers, and the Orlando Magic beat the New York Knicks 102-93 on Monday to complete a perfect four-game road trip.

Taking advantage of extra space as the Knicks focused on Howard, Anderson went 7 of 13 behind the arc and is now 40 of 93 for the season. He missed all three 3-point attempts in the first quarter, but finished with the NBA single-game high this season despite having a cold.

“Early in the game Ryan was missing, but he stuck with it and he played big for us tonight,” Howard said.

JJ Redick added 21 points for the Magic, who won three games on the West Coast before finishing in New York and will play at home the next two nights to wrap up a stretch of three games in three nights.

Howard, who tied a career high with 45 points and set an NBA record by taking 39 free throws in Orlando’s 117-109 win at Golden State on Thursday, was in foul trouble and finished with eight points and 10 rebounds. The Knicks swarmed him inside, with Tyson Chandler behind him and often bringing another big player to double him.

“He’s getting double and triple-teamed at some points,” Anderson said. “He’s doing a great job keeping composure, being patient, finding guys on the perimeter, and we’re moving the ball and that’s why we got open shots tonight, just because of him.”

So the Magic turned to their perimeter game, going 17 of 35 (49 percent) from 3-point range, trying the record for most allowed by the Knicks. Anderson and Hedo Turkoglu each made two in the fourth quarter, when the Magic took control after trailing most of the game.

“It’s a matter of picking your poison,” Redick said, “but obviously if we see something early on like tonight, they doubled from the get-go pretty much, that allowed us to really play through him, throwing the ball into him and not necessarily throwing it to him for him to score, but for other guys to get shots.”

Carmelo Anthony had 33 points and eight rebounds in his return from a one-game absence with a sprained right ankle, but shot just 9 of 27. Toney Douglas and Iman Shumpert each scored 12 and Amare Stoudemire finished with 10, eight in the fourth quarter after also battling foul trouble.

The Knicks have lost three in a row. They opened a stretch of four home games in a six-game span with another poor shooting night, particularly when the Magic showed them zone defense.

“We’re not making no shots right now. It seems like we can’t shoot the ball in the ocean right now. Everybody. We get stops and then at the other end we can’t score the basketball. I don’t know what is it,” Anthony said. “We’ve just got to get out of that shooting slump. We’ve got to start making shots and it makes it easy on the defensive end. We are playing defense but when you can’t score the basketball it makes it hard.”

The Knicks scored the first six points and led 23-17 after the first quarter, a lead they would maintain for most of the first three quarters. They were ahead 51-45 at halftime and still up six with 2½ minutes left in the third period before the Magic scored the final four points to cut it to 75-73.

New York led for the final time at 85-83 on Stoudemire’s dunk with 7:42 remaining. Jameer Nelson made a free throw before Turkoglu and Anderson nailed consecutive 3-pointers for a 90-85 advantage. The Knicks got within three with about 3½ minutes left, but Redick scored four straight points to put it away.

Obviously, 17 3s is not going to help you,” Knicks coach Mike D’Antoni said. “You’ve got to give them credit. Ryan Anderson made a couple that were tough looks but they made them. First half they didn’t make them. They’re a hard team to guard.”

Turkoglu scored 15 points for Orlando, which has won 14 of last 17 meetings.

NOTES: The Knicks fell to 18-8 on Martin Luther King Day. … Though unclear exactly what the process would be, D’Antoni said Baron Davis could take part in full practices soon, perhaps next week. The point guard hasn’t played since the Knicks signed him because of a herniated disc in his back. … Jason Richardson sat out with a bone bruise of his left knee.

Anthony’s Injury Forces Knicks to Adjust

The Knicks’ offense has lurched and sputtered through 11 games — even with a healthy and vibrant pushing it along — with little ball movement, efficiency or cohesion.

The team’s problems are a product of too many new faces, too little practice time and the absence of a true point guard, but also an over-reliance on Anthony’s individual skills. Anthony posts up, and the Knicks stand still. Anthony dribbles, and teammates watch. And when all else fails, Anthony bails them out.

The Knicks (6-5) will be forced to find a better way on Saturday night. Anthony is still hobbled by a sprained right ankle and is listed as doubtful for their game against the Oklahoma City Thunder (10-2). Bill Walker is expected to take his place in the lineup.

“If a miracle happens, then I’ll come back tomorrow,” Anthony said Friday, although he listed Monday as the more realistic target.

Anthony’s absence is clearly a huge blow. He is averaging 25.5 points (fourth in the N.B.A.), or about 27 percent of the Knicks’ nightly total. He accounts for 23.3 percent of their assists (4.3 per game) and 31.8 percent of their free-throw attempts (8.2 per game).

But then, Anthony also consumes 24.5 percent of the Knicks’ field-goal attempts, which is not always positive or productive. The offense has been at its best lately in the first half of games, when the ball is moving. It has often stagnated late in games, when Anthony dominates the ball. He is shooting just .439 from the field.

As a consequence, the rest of the Knicks often have trouble finding a rhythm. Amar’e Stoudemire is averaging 19.2 points, but he is shooting a ghastly 42 percent from the field. Stoudemire was at his best for the Knicks early last season, before Anthony’s arrival, and is still having trouble meshing with him.

“He’s a product of what we’re not doing as a team,” Coach Mike D’Antoni said. “We’re not giving him space. We’re not shooting the ball, because there’s no rhythm, there’s no rhyme or reason about anything.”

The lack of a true point guard is part of the problem. The Knicks are also still integrating several new players, with little time to get acquainted. But there is no disputing that the Knicks had better passing and offensive balance before Anthony arrived last February.

In his absence, the Knicks have to rediscover that form.

“That’s how we got to play, regardless,” Stoudemire said. “We got to move the ball, get everybody involved. When you get other players involved and create easy shots for people, percentages go up.”

In an odd twist, the Knicks are now winning with defense — ranking seventh in defensive efficiency — but are losing because of poor offense. They rank 21st in offensive efficiency, 26th in field-goal percentage and 25th in assists — a sure indictment of their passing.

The Knicks’ role players, Landry Fields and Toney Douglas in particular, have struggled this season as the offense has stagnated. Stoudemire pointed to last season, when players like Fields, Shawne Williams and Wilson Chandler thrived in D’Antoni’s system.

“And that’s what we got to get back to, is moving the ball,” Stoudemire said.

They also need a consistent lineup and some good health. The Knicks have already played two games without Stoudemire (going 1-1) and four games without Iman Shumpert (1-3). Jared Jeffries, who has missed the last 10 games, is expected to return Saturday night. Baron Davis, whose playmaking skills are sorely needed, is still at least two weeks from playing.

Assuming Anthony is out Saturday night, Fields and Tyson Chandler will be the only two Knicks to start every game. But Stoudemire firmly believes the Knicks can solve a lot of problems with more dedicated passing.

“Once we start moving the ball,” he said, “once we start getting back to our offense, running the floor, creating great spacing, Tyson and I playing in tandem, all of that will eventually cure our offensive problems.”