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Old 05-10-2012, 09:14 PM   #1 (permalink)

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Mike Woodson: Jeremy Lin staying

Do they have the money to sign him?

New York Knicks coach Mike Woodson said restricted free agent Jeremy Lin will "absolutely" be back next season with the team.

But as the starting point guard? Woodson wouldn't commit, saying Lin "still has a ways to go" to improve his game.

"Jeremy's a big part of our team, and will he start? Only time will tell," Woodson told reporters Thursday morning at the Knicks' training facility where players had their exit interviews with the coach. "He's still got to recover from his knee and use this summer to really work on his game to put himself in the best position possible for our ballclub. He has started for our team and he has played well for our basketball team. But this summer will be very pivotal for him in terms of his improvement, and the future's very bright for him."

In 35 games during the regular season, Lin averaged 14.6 points and 6.2 assists per game. When Lin was leading the team to a 6-1 stretch in mid-March right after Woodson took over for Mike D'Antoni, five players (including Lin) were scoring in double figures, and the Knicks were averaging 100.9 points per game and holding opponents to only 86.9.

"It just depends on the team," Lin said Thursday. "Coming off the bench versus starting, that means something, but it doesn't mean that much. There are guys who play pivotal roles who come off the bench. ... I need to be a lot better. I need to make sure I'm a lot better, a lot healthier, and that's my focus for the offseason. And then once training camp starts, wherever I'm at, I'm all about trying to make that team better."

Looking ahead, the biggest area for Lin to build on, which will be a major factor as Woodson considers whether to start him, is how the guard will handle defensive pressure consistently. During the height of "Linsanity," from Feb. 6 to March 24, he averaged 4.5 turnovers per game. But Lin did cut down on his mistakes shortly before he got hurt.

Thanks to a clause in the CBA -- named after Gilbert Arenas -- no other team can offer Lin more than the $5 million mid-level exception, and the Knicks have the right to match those offers.

Therefore, Lin is considered a virtual lock to be re-signed come July 1, the start of free agency.

"There's always going to be uncertainty until the final contract is signed, so definitely nothing is set in stone," Lin said. "Nothing's set in stone until it's really written."

Woodson's comments still left the door open for the courtship of a player like Steve Nash, who will be an unrestricted free agent this offseason.

It's been reported that Nash wants a three-year deal -- he is, after all, still playing at an All-Star level at 38 years old -- and the Knicks likely would be able to offer him only the veteran's minimum of $1.4 million.
New York Knicks' Mike Woodson says team will 'absolutely' re-sign guard Jeremy Lin - ESPN New York
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