David Lee's existence in the NBA's purgatory known as restricted free agency has entered its second month, and negotiations with the Knicks are "nowhere new," the power forward's agent, Mark Bartelstein, said Monday.
The Knicks are "open minded" and "willing to listen," said Bartelstein, who continues to seek sign-and-trade possibilities that are severely limited by the dearth of teams with cap space and Lee's status as a base-year compensation player -- which makes it more difficult to match salaries in a trade. Running out of options, Bartelstein and Knicks president Donnie Walsh have begun talking in general terms about a one-year deal that would make Lee an unrestricted free agent next summer, when at least half the league's teams will have significant salary cap room.
"There's a possibility a one-year deal could happen," Bartelstein said. "We're not ruling anything out. If it’s a one-year deal, we’ll try to get a one-year deal that compensates him for who he is."
Lee's situation is holding up some of the remaining player movement at the back end of the free-agent process. Comparable players like the Celtics' Glen "Big Baby" Davis (also a restricted free agent), Tyrus Thomas (eligible for an extension with the Bulls), and Aaron Gray (who is expected to re-sign with Chicago) have been waiting to see what happens with Lee before proceeding. So have their respective teams. The Celtics, meanwhile, struck pre-emptively Monday by agreeing to terms on a one-year, minimum salary deal with free agent forward Shelden Williams.
The Knicks, determined to hold onto precious 2010 cap space, also are in negotiations with Bucks restricted free agent Ramon Sessions. But a person familiar with those talks said they reached an impasse over the weekend -- although the line of communication remains open. The Knicks and Sessions' camp exchanged proposals on Friday and again Monday, without coming to terms on an offer sheet.
The Knicks have until Thursday to negotiate exclusively with ex-Clipper Jason Williams, who has decided to end his retirement. By claiming Williams on waivers, the Knicks acquired the Clippers' exclusive negotiating rights. But a person with direct knowledge of the Knicks' plans said they intend to trade Williams if they can reach agreement with him on a contract. Since they acquired his rights by claiming him on waivers, the Knicks wouldn't have to wait the customary three months to trade him. It's a risk-free way to acquire another minor asset without incurring any cost. This is a significant change in approach for the Knicks, who have spent the past decade or so acquiring minor assets at extraordinary cost.