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Wednesday, December 21, 2011
The $2.5 million exception & Kenyon Martin

By Ian Begley

The Knicks still have their $2.5 million "room" exception.

They could spend it on a free agent on the market. They also may elect to save it to use later in the season.

Of course, they could also choose not to use it, though that would make little sense because there is no guarantee they will have the same exception next season.

The Knicks had been in contact with free agent James Posey as recently as Monday, but coach Mike D'Antoni said on Tuesday that he didn't think the Knicks were pursuing Posey.

There aren't many free agent options for the Knicks at the forward spot -- which is a role they are looking to fill.

So what if they waited to use the $2.5 million exception on Kenyon Martin?

According to reports, Martin has reached a buyout agreement with Xinjiang Flying Tigers, his employer in the Chinese Basketball Association.

Martin will need to obtain a letter of clearance from FIBA before he can return to the NBA. He also has to wait for the Flying Tigers' season to end. With the Tigers likely to make the playoffs, he probably won't be able to return to the NBA until March, according to Yahoo!, which first reported the news.

At that point, Martin will be an unrestricted free agent.

Will the Knicks be interested?

Assuming they don't use the exception between now and the time Martin arrives, they will be able to offer the veteran forward a two-year, $5 million deal.

Teams under the salary cap will be able to offer more money, of course. But will Martin take less money to join the Knicks?

A source close to Martin said on Wednesday that it was entirely too early to speculate on Martin's next NBA destination.

But if Martin agrees to take less money from the Knicks than he likely could command from other teams, he'd certainly fill a void for New York.

When Shawne Williams decided to sign with New Jersey, he left the Knicks are thin at reserve forward.

Jared Jeffries is their top forward off the bench. Another option is unproven rookie C/F Josh Harrellson. Renaldo Balkman has played well in the preseason but has played limited minutes over the past two seasons.

So the Knicks could use some size and toughness in the second unit. Martin, if healthy, would provide that.

He's been plagued by balky knees throughout his career. But, when healthy, he's proven to be a solid presence in the paint.

The 33-year-old forward (he turns 34 at the end of the month) missed the first 26 games of the 2010-2011 season as he recovered from another knee operation. But Martin finished strong, averaging 8.6 points and 6.2 rebounds,

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