Shane Larkin is basically performing without a net.
In his second pro season, coming off a rookie campaign that was limited by an ankle injury and now with his second team, Larkin learned last Friday that he does not have a contract after this season.
The Knicks opted not to pick up the third-year option of Larkin’s rookie deal, worth $1.6 million. He will be an unrestricted free agent after the season.
“That’s a business deal,” Larkin said. “Obviously they want to build a championship team here and they need as much money next summer as they can to be able to bring in the free agents, whoever they’re looking at.”
The team made a similar decision with Iman Shumpert, who was not offered a contract extension off his rookie contract, which expires at the end of this season. Shumpert will become a restricted free agent on July 1.
But not picking up Larkin’s option is a bit of a bigger risk for the Knicks, who could lose Larkin, 22, for nothing if he signs elsewhere next summer.
“If they didn’t believe that I could play they wouldn’t have me starting,” Larkin said. “It’s not like we’re going into this year thinking, ‘Well, let’s just throw our young guys out there and have a bad year and get into the lottery. The Knicks are a proud organization and they want to win. We’re a gritty team. We’re not going out there to lose.”
With Jose Calderon’s calf injury, Larkin was pressed into service as the starting point guard in the season opener. After an inconsistent preseason, Larkin has raised eyebrows with his effectiveness in the first three games of the season.
He’s matched up against Derrick Rose, Kyrie Irving and Kemba Walker so far and this week will face John Wall, Brandon Jennings, Deron Williams and Jeff Teague.
“Those are all all-star caliber guards,” Larkin said. “As a second year guy, coming off an up-and-down rookie season with an injury, being able to be thrown into that kind of a fire, you just go out there and play. It’s a great experience . . . It’s just going to make me better.”
After three games, Larkin is averaging 8.0 points, 4.3 assists and 2.6 steals with just 1.3 turnovers in 26.8 minutes per game. He has played with a defensive tenacity of a player who is now in survival mode, but Larkin says his impending free agency did not change anything.
“I didn’t need any extra motivation,” he said. “I’m as motivated as I’ve ever been in my life to prove I’m an NBA player.”
Most players would take the Knicks’ decision to decline his option for next season — something rarely done with first round picks — as a slap in the face. It also would appear to be a clear indication that he is not in their plans for the future.
But Larkin doesn’t feel that way at all.
“It’s not like they told me, ‘We don’t see you as part of our future, we don’t want you.’ If that was the case, I’d be sitting on the bench,” he said. “Obviously they want to see what I have. That’s what I’m doing, just going out there and playing as hard as I can with the opportunity presented to me and we’ll see what happens.”
- Carmelo Anthony hit the 20,000-point milestone in Sunday’s win over the Hornets. Melo is the 40th player in NBA history to join the 20K Club, just behind Antawn Jamison. (Is anyone else stunned to see Antawn Jamison’s name in the 20K Club?)
- Melo is also the third player to have played for the Knicks in the 20K Club, followed by Patrick Ewing (24,815 points) and Walt Bellamy (20,914). Of course, a majority of Melo’s points (13,970) were scored while playing for the Nuggets, but Melo is moving up the Knicks all-time scoring list.
- He’s currently 21st in franchise history with 6,055 points. He should crack the top 20 by the end of the week and could be in the top 30 on the NBA all-time scoring list by the end of the season.
- Have the Knicks gone away from the three-point shot? After three games, the team is averaging 15.0 3PTA per game, which is 10 fewer per game than last season’s average. The Triangle Offense has created the most offense in the mid-range areas so far, but the Knicks have shot a decent percentage (37.8%) so far from downtown, which includes 14 for 28 over the last two games after a 3 for 17 in the season opener.
- Last season, 28.2% of the Knicks’ points came by way of the three-ball, which was the second-highest rate in the NBA. This season, just 18.8% of the scoring has come from beyond the arc, which is just below the NBA median.
- Catch up on all episodes of the Knicks Fix Podcast, which are available on MSG.com or subscribe and download via iTunes.