Knicks face deadline to keep Lin

This would have been such an obvious decision in February.

Jeremy Lin was Kobe Bryant’s equal on the court and at the souvenir stand during a mesmerizing stretch that NBA commissioner David Stern said he had “never quite seen anything like.”

No way the New York Knicks were letting Lin get away back then, when he was the biggest thing in basketball.

Things are different now.

Lin no longer plays for a coach whose offense seems designed for him. He’s coming off knee surgery and would come at a monstrous cost – thanks to an offer sheet by the Houston Rockets – even for one of the league’s richest teams.

Teams have three days to match an offer sheet for their restricted free agents, so the Rockets believe the clock expires at 11:59 p.m. EDT today.

Except the Knicks have never confirmed if they received the offer sheet from the Rockets on Saturday, so it’s possible they have a different deadline in mind, which could even lead to some kind of dispute or protest.

The contract is for three years and about $25 million, an enormous figure for someone who has made 25 starts. After paying Lin about $5 million per year the first two seasons, it balloons to nearly $15 million in the final year but would cost the Knicks more than twice that in luxury tax payments under the harsher penalties in the league’s new labor agreement.

Meanwhile, the Knicks and Portland Trail Blazers completed a sign-and-trade deal that sent guard Raymond Felton back to New York as a potential replacement for Lin.

Kurt Thomas, another former Knick, also returned to New York in the deal. The Knicks signed and traded forward Jared Jeffries, along with center Dan Gadzuric, the draft rights to Kostas Papanikolaou and Giorgos Printezis, and a protected second-round pick to Portland.

■ CLIPPERS – Blake Griffin had arthroscopic surgery to repair the medial meniscus tear of his left knee, suffered during practice with the U.S. national team last week in Las Vegas.

Griffin will miss the London Olympics, but the Clippers said he should be ready for the start of the NBA season.

■ CAVALIERS – Cleveland guard Kyrie Irving will have surgery Wednesday to fix the hand he broke slapping a padded wall during a summer league practice in Las Vegas.

The NBA’s rookie of the year broke his right hand as the Cavs were preparing for their summer league opener.

■ SUNS – Phoenix signed first-round pick Kendall Marshall. Terms were not released.

The Suns used the 13th pick to take Marshall, a 6-foot-4-inch guard from North Carolina. He’s expected to be the Suns’ point guard of the future after they sent two-time league Most Valuable Player Steve Nash to the Los Angeles Lakers in a sign-and-trade deal July 4.

■ KINGS – Sacramento signed point guard Aaron Brooks and released center Hassan Whiteside. Phoenix had withdrawn its qualifying offer to Brooks on July 7, making him an unrestricted free agent.

Brooks, who played in China last season, was acquired from Houston at the 2011 trade deadline and appeared in 25 games with the Suns, averaging 9.6 points and 4.2 assists.

Also, the Kings acquired forward James Johnson from the Toronto Raptors in exchange for a 2014 second-round pick. Johnson averaged 9.1 points, 4.7 rebounds and two assists while starting 40 games last season.

■ HAWKS – Atlanta improved its long-distance shooting by acquiring small forward Kyle Korver from the Chicago Bulls for a trade exception and cash.

Korver, 31, averaged 8.1 points in 65 games last season, with seven starts. He ranked 10th in the NBA by making 43.5 percent of his 3-point attempts.

Also, Atlanta requested waivers on guard Jordan Farmar, one of five players acquired from the Brooklyn Nets in the deal for All-Star Joe Johnson.

■ NETS – Brooklyn signed veteran swingman Jerry Stackhouse to a one-year, $1.4 million deal. Stackhouse appeared in 30 games with the Hawks last season, averaging 3.6 points and 9.1 minutes.

■ MAVERICKS – Free agent shooting guard O.J. Mayo said he has reached a deal with Dallas. Mayo posted a note on his Twitter account late Monday night that he “will be signing” with Dallas. He averaged 15.2 points per game with the Memphis Grizzlies over the past four seasons.

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