The Knicks are planning to try to attract soon-to-be restricted free agent forward Tobias Harris, according to Marc Berman of the New York Post. The 22-year-old downplayed Berman’s November report indicating that he’s interested in signing with New York this coming summer, though a close friend of the Long Island native told Berman on Thursday that Harris wants to win a title with the Knicks. Many around the league believe the Knicks will target second-tier free agents this summer, Berman writes, naming Harris, Wesley Matthews and Draymond Green as examples.
Harris said earlier this season that the Magic will be his first choice in free agency, even though the sides failed to reach an extension before the October 31st deadline. The Magic have reportedly told the Henry Thomas client‘s camp that they’ll probably match any offer sheet he signs, though executives around the league are split on whether the Magic would match a high-dollar offer sheet, as Grantland’s Zach Lowe wrote last week. Orlando GM Rob Hennigan said in October that he couldn’t envision not keeping Harris around. There was some conflicting dialogue about how the sides approached a possible extension, but Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders reported in early November that Orlando raised the idea of a deal with annual salaries around $9MM in talks with Harris around Labor Day. The sides didn’t negotiate further, Kyler added.
Thomas is an agent with the Creative Artists Agency, the same group that represents Carmelo Anthony and, at least until team president Phil Jackson took over last spring, held widespread influence in the Knicks organization. Harris worked out several times together with Anthony this past summer at Anthony’s gym in New York, as Berman noted in his November report. Harris can’t receive any direct financial incentive in his shoe deal for playing with any particular NBA team, as an October report had indicated, but the NBA does allow endorsement contracts to afford bonuses based on the number of national television appearances.
The NBA moved another Knicks game off national television today with New York still carrying the league’s worst record, though Harris expressed optimism about Jackson’s regime Thursday, as Berman notes. The Knicks have about $32.7MM in commitments for next season against a projected $66.5MM cap.
Harris was a starter for his first 37 appearances with the Magic this season, but he came off the bench for the first time Wednesday after missing five contests with a sprained ankle. He’s averaging a career-high 18.0 points per game fueled in part by an increase in shot attempts and also by 40.7% three-point shooting, a drastic improvement on last season’s 25.4% rate.