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Knicks want to keep Chris Copeland this summer, but it isn’t that simple

May 17, 2013, 11:58 AM EDT

Chris Copeland AP

If you need to know the value of Chris Copeland to the Knicks and their small-ball lineup, all you needed to do was watch Game 5 against the Pacers Thursday, when he had 13 points and four board, helping key a season-extending win for the Knicks.

Even if coach Mike Woodson didn’t recognize Copeland’s value (he had used him in a limited role this postseason) other teams did — which is going to make it tougher to keep Copeland in a Knicks uniform this summer.

The Knicks do not have Copeland’s “Bird rights,” meaning they can’t just go over the cap to keep him in house. With the Knicks set to be over the tax apron next year, their options with Copeland are limited, reports the New York Post.

The Knicks will extend Copeland his $900,000 qualifying offer to keep him restricted so they can match an offer. But they may be prohibited from matching any offer more than $3 million.

They would have to use one of their precious exceptions — the $1.9 million biannual exception or the $3 million mini mid-level exception given to luxury taxpayers. The Knicks don’t have the full $5 million mid-level because of their lousy cap situation.

The Knicks only get to add one player this summer at the $3 million exception — is Copeland worth that and the need they must fill the most?

Plus, if another team comes in with a $4 million a year offer for three or four years, the Knicks simply cannot match. It’s not allowed under league rules.

And in a league where a big man — Copeland is 6’9” — who can space the floor as a three point shooter has real value, the idea of $4 million a year for him is not unreasonable at all.

Which is to say, Copeland’s impressive run might have played him off the Knicks.

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