Going alphabetically, our first look at potential returnees is late-season addition Earl Barron. During his short stint here in New York, Le Barron averaged an impressive double-double with 11 rebounds and 11.7 points. For a big man his field goal percentage was a disappointing 44.1%, likely due to his preference to shoot from the 10-15 foot range rather than post up by the basket. However, as his rebounds show, it’s not like he went all Rasheed Wallace on us and drifted out from the paint. No, Barron wasn’t afraid to go down low to fight for a loose ball, but he also wasn’t that comfortable going back up in a crowd with it either.
That’s not to say Earl’s a poor outside shooter. For a big man he showed a nice stroke from out there, and he hit nearly 76% of his free throws which is darn good for a Big. He also played less than 10 games for the Knicks and obviously didn’t go to training camp or have many practices to learn the system. It’s likely that if he were to have more time getting to know the nuances of coach Mike D’Antoni’s system that his field goal percentage would improve. On the opposite side of the coin though is the question of whether he’d be able to maintain that rebounding energy over a full 82 games.
Since Earl played so few games for us this year, he made a paltry $63,127. For comparison sake, Spike Lee’s tickets are like $3,000/game. Over a full season of 41 home games, that’s $123,000, so basically Spike alone covered Earl’s salary with just half his season tickets. Actually, I believe Spike has two seats, meaning like Spike & friend watching the Knicks for just 10 games was enough to cover what Barron earned. The point is that we got Earl for a great rock-bottom deal.
The bad thing is that Earl proved he’s worth a bunch more. Skilled seven footers are a rare commodity in this league, and Barron showed beyond a doubt that he is one of them and belongs in the NBA. Exactly how good he is, well, that’s up for debate with such a small sample size, but there’s no question that he’s deserving of a contract for next season. And plenty of teams are gonna come gunnin’ for him as soon as the free agency period begins.
The Knicks unsuccessfully attempted to have the best of both worlds, trying to both lock Barron up with a contract, but also make it non-guaranteed in case they needed the salary cap space to sign bigger names like LeBron. Knowing he’d get better offers (and guaranteed ones), Earl smartly rejected it. With the Knicks hoping to land those big fish, they’ll be afraid and unable to make offers to “smaller” players like Earl until the dust settles and they’re sure they have the money for him.
Earl will get a big pay raise, but since he made so little this year, it’s quite possible that he’ll still be a great bargain. So we’d probably still love to have him back even at an inflated price. However, keeping cap flexibility has been GM Donnie Walsh’s main priority since day 1, even if it’ll mean sacrificing pieces like Barron. Therefore, unless LeBron and the big boys make quick decisions, it’s likely that Earl will get snatched away before we can make a solid offer.
In the end, the story has less in common with the Clash’s 1981 lyrics of “Should I Stay Or Should I Go Now?” and more with a different ’80s song, one from Sting’s inaugural solo album: “Consider Me Gone.”