Jeremy Lin’s Future With Knicks Seems Uncertain

The answer, as of midnight, was anything but clear.

In a surprise move, the Knicks struck a deal to reacquire Raymond Felton, the veteran point guard, sparking immediate, furious speculation that the franchise was ready to let Lin leave for Houston.

While fans were bemoaning Lin’s possible departure on Twitter and on blogs, no one associated with the Knicks or with Lin would confirm anything late Saturday night. Speculation and anxiety ruled the evening.

Lin, a restricted free agent, signed a three-year, $25 million offer sheet with the Rockets on Friday. The paperwork was delivered to the Knicks on Saturday, starting a three-day clock for the Knicks to either match the offer or let Lin go.

The deal to reacquire Felton — who played 54 games for the Knicks in 2010-11 — was taken by many as an indication that the Knicks would let Lin depart, despite his wild success on the court last season and his global marketability.

Felton will receive a three-year, $10 million contract in a sign-and-trade deal with the Portland Trail Blazers, according to a person briefed on the details. The Knicks will also receive Kurt Thomas, another former Knick, in the deal. In exchange, Portland will receive Jared Jeffries (in a sign-and-trade arrangement), plus the nonguaranteed contract of Dan Gadzuric, the Knicks’ second-round draft pick in 2016 and the rights to two overseas players.

It has been widely assumed that the Knicks would match Houston’s offer and keep Lin, despite a salary increase to $14.9 million in the third year of the deal. Team officials have said as much for weeks, both before and after the Rockets made the offer.

Two reports late Saturday cast doubt on that assumption. The first came via the Twitter account of a South Carolina television reporter, Mark Haggard, who said that Felton had told him that the Knicks planned to let Lin leave for Houston. A short time later, Yahoo Sports reported that Lin “appears close” to joining the Rockets, in light of Felton’s deal.

Knicks officials declined to comment on the reports. Felton’s agent, Tony Dutt, could not be reached.

Coach Mike Woodson said earlier this week the Knicks would not only match Houston’s offer, but that Lin would be the team’s starting point guard. He reiterated that point even after the Knicks signed Jason Kidd, a 10-time All-Star. Woodson said that Kidd would be the backup.

Felton signed with the Knicks in July 2010 but was dealt to Denver the following February as part of the trade for Carmelo Anthony. He averaged 17.1 points and 9 assists in the former coach Mike D’Antoni’s fast-paced offense.

The arrival of Felton does not necessarily spell the end of Linsanity in New York. It may simply telegraph concerns with the Knicks’ point-guard tandem. Kidd is 39, and the 23-year-old Lin is unproven over a full season. It is conceivable that Knicks officials simply want a proven veteran in case Kidd breaks down and Lin goes bust.

Teams rarely play three point guards. However, Kidd has played off guard, and it is not inconceivable that the Knicks could use all three, especially after losing Landry Fields to Toronto and given the uncertainty over Iman Shumpert, who is recovering from knee surgery.

The Knicks let Fields leave Saturday, after choosing not to match his three-year, $18.7 million offer sheet from the Toronto Raptors. That decision came after nearly three solid days of silence on the matter, in keeping with team policy. The Knicks had until Saturday night to decide on Fields, who signed his offer sheet on Wednesday.

Fields, a second-round draft pick in 2010, has started at shooting guard the last two seasons, although he struggled badly last season, averaging just 8.8 points and 4.2 rebounds a game. J. R. Smith, who re-signed with the Knicks last week, will most likely slide into Fields’s spot.

James White, who played the last two years in the highest level in Italian professional basketball, also signed a one-year contract with the Knicks. Eventually, Shumpert will return to the rotation as well, after recovering from knee surgery; he is expected to be out until January.

Rockets officials were frustrated in repeated attempts Saturday to deliver Lin’s offer sheet to the Knicks and to get the three-day clock started. The Knicks appeared to be avoiding the delivery, according to people involved in the process. The Rockets finally succeeded Saturday evening. The Knicks have until Tuesday night to decide Lin’s future.

REBOUNDS

The Nets found their backup point guard, signing C. J. Watson to a two-year deal at the veteran’s minimum. The second year is a player option. Watson, a five-year veteran, averaged 9.7 points and 4.1 assists for the Chicago Bulls last season, including 25 games as a starter when Derrick Rose was injured. Watson will play behind Deron Williams, filling one of the Nets’ biggest needs. The Nets are still searching for a backups at center and small forward and are working to re-sign Kris Humphries, their starting power forward.

Knicks Rout Blazers After D’Antoni’s Departure

With their coach gone, they finally played offense the way he would have wanted.

Amare Stoudemire made all seven shots in the first half, Anthony passed and shot well, and the Knicks shook off the surprising departure of their coach to rout the Portland Trail Blazers 121-79 on Wednesday night, snapping a six-game losing streak.

Anthony was home napping when news came that D’Antoni had resigned. A few hours later, he and the Knicks finally woke up.

“Under the circumstances, we came out and put everything aside and played basketball tonight and had fun,” Anthony said. “We haven’t had fun like that in a long time and tonight it was a good way to come out and get this ‘W.'”

Anthony, who denied wanting a trade or having friction with D’Antoni earlier Wednesday, had 16 points on 6-of-12 shooting and tied a season high with seven assists. Stoudemire finished with 17 points and shot 8 of 10, before both stars sat out the fourth quarter while the Knicks rang up their highest point total of the season.

D’Antoni decided to step down Wednesday, shocking his bosses and players. But the Knicks delivered a powerful performance and a good imitation of his offense in their first game under interim coach Mike Woodson, getting 23 points from JR Smith, 20 from Steve Novak, and making a season-high 19 3-pointers, one off the franchise record.

“When you look into their eyes after something like this has happened, you know, you wonder as a coach are they mentally there,” Woodson said. “And I just told them to take a deep breath and relax and let’s go out and have fun and play basketball the way I think we’re capable of doing it, and I think they responded.”

The Knicks had dropped into a tie for eighth place in the Eastern Conference before breaking out with the kind of effort that was expected from a team that D’Antoni said was good enough to contend for a championship.

Stoudemire, who also played for D’Antoni in Phoenix, said he too was surprised by his coach’s departure.

“But again, that’s the business that we’re in,” he said. “So we’ve got to be able to roll with the punches and retaliate to the point where we play well, as we did tonight.”

LaMarcus Aldridge and Gerald Wallace each scored 15 points for the Trail Blazers, who were blown out for the second straight night and lost for the fourth time in five games.

“Losing by 30, 40 points, that’s embarrassing,” center Marcus Camby said. “I haven’t been around anything like that since my first two years in the league when I was on an expansion team.”

Portland showed no energy after its 92-75 loss in Indiana on Tuesday and played without guard Jamal Crawford, whose name been linked to trade rumors ahead of the Thursday afternoon deadline.

So was Anthony’s on Wednesday, with a report in the New York Post that he would welcome a deal barely a year after the Knicks acquired him in a blockbuster with Denver. He emphatically denied the report, but it had become clear how much trouble he and D’Antoni had in finding a way to make the All-Star forward productive in his system.

D’Antoni seemed committed to figuring it out and appeared in good spirits Wednesday after putting the Knicks through their morning workout. But he had already met with assistant general manager Glen Grunwald and informed him of his plans. They would later meet with Madison Square Garden chairman James Dolan, who said D’Antoni offered to stay before they agreed to a mutual parting.

Woodson inherited the job for the remainder of the season, but Dolan made it clear that he would be re-evaluated after the season.

Woodson made a good first impression and was rewarded by fans chanting his name near the finish.

“Tonight was one of my most frustrating nights of being a pro, being down that much,” Aldridge said. “We just looked lost out there. It was just one thing on top of another tonight.”

The Knicks raced to a 25-12 lead and extended it to 55-29 at the break, their fewest points allowed in an opening quarter or a half all season. They had 16 assists on 21 baskets, with Jeremy Lin getting one of his six by throwing a long pass on the break to a streaking Anthony for a layup.

Anthony’s passing was even better. His touch pass to Stoudemire led to a first-half dunk, and he dropped a pass backward to Tyson Chandler early in the second for a layup and foul, hopping behind the basket in delight as the shot fell through the net.

It was Anthony’s inability — or, critics said, unwillingness — to move the ball the way D’Antoni preaches that made it hard for the coach’s system to work whenever the All-Star flourish was on the floor. New York had gone 2-8 since Anthony returned from a groin injury.

He heard boos again during introductions for the second straight home game, but seemed much happier than in recent games, at one point running to midcourt to greet teammates while waving a towel after a Portland timeout.

NOTES: Reserve forward Jared Jeffries, one of the Knicks’ best defensive players, returned to the lineup after missing four games with a sore right knee. The Knicks open a home-and-home series with the Indiana Pacers on Friday at Madison Square Garden. … Camby, a former Knick, delivered a hard foul on Landry Fields that was originally called a flagrant-2, which would have been automatic ejection, before it was downgraded to a flagrant-1 after review.

Knicks, Thinned by Injuries, Add Former Harvard Guard Jeremy Lin

“A crazy start,” Coach Mike D’Antoni said Tuesday, and it surely will not be the last time he needs the phrase.

Before leaving New York, the Knicks signed — their eighth roster addition in 17 days. He will provide short-term backup at point guard until Iman Shumpert, the Knicks’ prized rookie, recovers from a knee injury.

In a poetic twist, Lin’s first game with the Knicks will be in Oakland, against the Golden State Warriors, who gave Lin his first N.B.A. contract after he went undrafted in June 2010. The Knicks claimed Lin, Harvard’s first N.B.A. player in more than 50 years, off waivers after he was cut by the Warriors and the this month.

Lin, who lives in the Bay Area, is expected at Wednesday’s shootaround. He will serve as an insurance policy, backing up Toney Douglas and Mike Bibby at point guard.

“If somebody wakes up with a cold, he’s playing a lot,” D’Antoni said. “If not, we’ll see.”

The Knicks might need every healthy body to get through a strenuous first week, having already lost two rotation players — Shumpert and Jared Jeffries — to injury.

After playing the Warriors and the Los Angeles Lakers on consecutive nights, the Knicks will get one day off, then close the trip against the dynamic young Sacramento Kings on Dec. 31.

The Knicks’ callow backcourt will be tested at every stop: by the Warriors’ Monta Ellis, the Lakers’ Kobe Bryant and the Kings’ Tyreke Evans, all of them highly skilled and athletic. The Knicks will get a slight break against the Warriors, as Stephen Curry (ankle) is expected to miss the game.

Guard play will be a continuing concern for the Knicks, who are starting two relative neophytes, Douglas and Landry Fields, with little help off the bench. They gave up a combined 51 points to Rajon Rondo and Ray Allen in Sunday’s season-opening victory over the Boston Celtics.

“You can go through the whole league; it’s going to be that way,” D’Antoni said of defending elite guards. “We’ll be O.K. A lot of times we just didn’t get back. Those are things that are team defense and not just individual, so we just got to improve that.”

With Tyson Chandler now patrolling the paint and the assistant coach Mike Woodson preaching defense, the Knicks hope for vast improvement this season. But it is early yet, with training camp having opened just 19 days ago.

“We can’t allow what happened Sunday to happen again,” Chandler said, pointing to Rondo’s frequent layups, especially in transition. “One of the things that we wanted to concentrate on is getting two defenders back. If we get back and we build a wall, you take that away.”

Chandler said the burden could not fall solely on the Knicks’ guards, but would require a coordinated effort by the entire lineup, especially the big men, Chandler and Amar’e Stoudemire. In a league stocked with elite perimeter scorers, no one stops anyone one on one.

“It’s our job to build a wall,” Chandler said, “and it’s me and Amar’e’s job to get back after they build that wall and protect the paint.”

The Warriors wanted Chandler for that same purpose and pursued him aggressively when free agency opened. Chandler said the Warriors were his first choice until the Knicks made a surprising last-minute pitch. The decision was made all the more difficult because Mark Jackson, the Warriors’ rookie coach, is a neighbor and friend of Chandler’s. Both live in the Los Angeles area in the off-season, about a mile apart.

“It was tough,” Chandler said,” but I spoke to him as a man and let him know, this is a situation I couldn’t pass up on.”

The Knicks’ rotation will have a few new wrinkles. Bibby will join the mix after missing the opener because of a sore back. The rookie Josh Harrellson will be the first big man off the bench, in place of Jeffries. After that, the frontcourt gets thin. The next in line would be Jerome Jordan, whom D’Antoni refers to as a project, and Steve Novak, who is purely a 3-point specialist.

Because of the truncated 66-game schedule, this will be the Knicks’ only trip to the West Coast and their only trip past the Central time zone. They will not visit Portland, Phoenix, Utah, Denver or the Clippers this season. After this trip, the farthest west they will travel will be San Antonio.