The signed John Shurna, a sweet-shooting forward from Northwestern, to a one-year contract, said his agent, Mark Bartelstein. The deal is partly guaranteed. Shurna, who stands 6 feet 10 inches, converted 44 percent of his 3-pointers last season at Northwestern while averaging 20 points a game. He is frequently compared to the Knicks’ Steve Novak because of his height and shooting ability. With Shurna, the Knicks have 16 players under contract, counting training camp invitees.
J.R. Smith will decline his Knicks contract option Tuesday, but with the intent of re-signing under more lucrative terms, according to a person with knowledge of the situation.
Smith’s option for next season is worth $2.4 million. As a free agent, he would be eligible for a 20 percent raise, to about $2.8 million, and he could earn up to $12.2 million over four years (including 4.5 percent raises). Alternatively, Smith could re-sign for one year, earn his ”early-Bird” rights and qualify for a salary of at least $5.3 million in 2013-14. Either way, opting out makes financial sense for Smith, a 26-year-old swingman.
Under N.B.A. rules, Smith will qualify for a ”non-Bird” free agent contract. Therefore, the Knicks will not need to use their midlevel exception to re-sign him unless he demands more than $2.8 million. Nor will re-signing Smith have any effect on the Knicks’ ability to re-sign Jeremy Lin, Steve Novak or Landry Fields.
There is some risk for the Knicks once Smith declines the option. Rival teams could offer a much higher salary, either with salary cap room or by using the midlevel exception, which starts at $5 million.
Smith averaged 12.5 points, 3.9 rebounds and 2.4 assists for the Knicks after joining them in February, after a stint in China. He was the Knicks’ third leading scorer in the playoffs (12.2 points), but he shot a dismal 31.6 percent from the field in their first-round loss to the Miami Heat.
This is a more complete version of the story than the one that appeared in print.
Lawyers for the N.B.A. and the players union spent more than three and a half hours on Wednesday presenting their arguments to the arbitrator, Kenneth Dam, a professor at the University of Chicago law school.
The union contends that a player claimed on waivers should retain his Bird rights, which allow a team to re-sign a player without respect to the salary cap. The league contends that Bird rights are lost once a player is waived.
The case potentially affects four players: Lin and Steve Novak of the Knicks, J.J. Hickson of the Portland Trail Blazers and Chauncey Billups of the Los Angeles Clippers. Novak attended the hearing Wednesday in Manhattan.
If the union loses the case, the Knicks will have to use their midlevel exception to re-sign Lin, and therefore will probably lose Novak and other free agents. If Lin and Novak win their Bird rights, the Knicks will have much greater flexibility to keep their players and shop for free agents.
Dam said he would issue a decision by July 1, when free agency opens.