The Atlanta Hawks will not match the four-year, $ 71 million offer sheet on restricted free-agent guard Tim Hardaway Jr., clearing the way for him to join the New York Knicks, league sources told ESPN on Saturday.
The Hawks plan to deliver official notification to the NBA and Knicks before the 48-hour deadline passes Saturday, as league sources told ESPN there has been nearly uniformed opinion within Atlanta’s front office that the contract is simply too steep when measured against the production and potential of Hardaway Jr.
The Knicks’ acquisition of Hardaway Jr., to the staggering deal is expected to trigger a renewed willingness to work with the Houston Rockets on trade scenarios to unload Carmelo Anthony, league sources told ESPN.
The Rockets have been persistent in their pursuit of Anthony, who is willing to waive his no-trade clause to join Chris Paul and James Harden in Houston, league sources told ESPN, and the Knicks do not imagine a scenario where Hardaway Jr. is sharing the floor with Anthony to start the season.
The Knicks’ offer sheet to Hardaway contains a 15 percent trade kicker and a player option in the fourth year, and it also includes an unusual provision requiring the team to pay 50 percent of Hardaway’s annual salary by Oct. 1 of every season, according to league sources.
The 6-foot-6 Hardaway had a breakout season in 2016-17 for Atlanta, scoring 14.5 points in 28 minutes per game.
The Knicks signed shooting guard Courtney Lee to a four-year, $ 48 million deal last summer, but the team has no plans to trade him at this point as the Knicks believe Lee and Hardaway Jr. can play well together given the value of shooting in today’s NBA, sources confirmed.
With the Hardaway Jr. contract in place, the Knicks have very little to offer free agents on the market.
The club renounced its rights to free agents Derrick Rose, Sasha Vujacic and Ron Baker to make room for the contract. They also withdrew a qualifying offer to Baker, who was a restricted free agent. Baker, though, has already agreed to a deal with New York. The terms are unknown.
With their current cap situation, the Knicks can sign Baker with a veteran’s minimum exception or with part or all of the $ 4.3 million room exception.
The room exception and veteran’s exceptions are the only tools the Knicks currently have to offer free agents. The club is looking for a veteran point guard to mentor rookie Frank Ntilikina but has limited resources to find one. Rose and Rajon Rondo are among the free agent point guards remaining on the market.
The Knicks could also obtain a point guard via trade or could open up more cap space in any trade of Anthony.
ESPN’s Ian Begley contributed to this report.