|ESPN.com: NBA||[Print without images]|
LAS VEGAS -- New York Knicks coach Mike Woodson said on Wednesday the team will "absolutely" match the Houston Rockets' four-year, $28.8 million offer sheet for Jeremy Lin.
Woodson said he didn't blink at all when the Rockets made their official pitch last week.
"Never once," he told a small group of reporters in Las Vegas where the Knicks are participating in summer league. "Jeremy Lin has always been a big part of what we're trying to do as we move forward with our franchise."
This wasn't the first time Woodson used the word "absolutely" when asked whether Lin would return to New York. He mentioned it at season's end after their first-round playoff exit to the Miami Heat, saying 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.
A report surfaced Wednesday from the New York Daily News that Lin was upset the Knicks didn't offer him a new contract before the Rockets came calling. But Lin went on to tweet, "Lol why do u guys believe everything? No quotes from me = probably not true."
A source close to Lin who spoke with ESPNNewYork.com was somewhat surprised the Knicks didn't offer a contract right away, but knew Lin wouldn't be leaving New York. The source believed the Knicks would match any offer because of his value to the organization on and off the court in business growth.
Woodson said the Knicks probably will sign Jason Kidd to their mid-level exception of $3.09 million on Thursday. Woodson said Kidd will be "a perfect fit" for Lin.
"Jason's a veteran guy that brings leadership," he said. "He'll be able to tutor (Lin) as he grows as a point guard for our franchise. And Jason can still play and run a ballclub, so that's important I think as we move forward and get ready for (training) camp and start the upcoming season."
On Wednesday, the Knicks finalized a one-year contract with Argentinian point guard Pablo Prigioni for the rookie's minimum, according to a source.
Prigioni's agent, George Bass, said his client had been on Knicks GM Glen Grunwald's radar for about five years. Grunwald and the team's front office met with Prigioni a few weeks ago in New York, where he'll be playing in the NBA for the first time as a 35-year-old. Bass said Prigioni is a pass-first point guard like Kidd and will do a great job mentoring Lin.
In addition to Prigioni's proven success playing for club teams in Argentina and Europe, where he was a top passer and defender, Bass said the Knicks felt like he was young enough with no major injuries to help the team. Prigioni will serve as a backup to Lin -- once the Knicks match the Rockets' offer sheet for four years, $28.8 million -- and Kidd, who's yet to sign. Kidd's deal will likely be at the mid-level exception for $3.09 million.
Woodson said he may use Lin and Kidd together at times in the backcourt, so Prigioni could get some solid minutes with the second unit.
Prigioni is training with the Argentinian national team in Venezuela to prepare for the Olympics in London. He was the starting point guard on the bronze-medal team in Beijing in 2008, playing with Manu Ginobili, Luis Scola and Andres Nocioni.
Jared Zwerling is a contributor to ESPNNewYork.com.