Tag:Amar'e Stoudemire
Posted on: November 17, 2010 1:14 pm
 

Post-Ups

Their three-game winning streak and 22-gun salute from the 3-point line against the Lakers notwithstanding, these are delicate times for the Phoenix Suns. So delicate, in fact, that a speculative riff on an NBA writer’s podcast last week sparked a flurry of trade rumors surrounding Steve Nash.

Such is life in the NBA blogosmear, but there’s an element of truth to the speculation. Watching Nash play without Amar’e Stoudemire, and Stoudemire without Nash, is a classic lesson in being careful what you wish for. The Suns, like many NBA teams, were hesitant to lavish five guaranteed years on Stoudemire given the uninsurable state of his knees. The Knicks, boxed out of the LeBron James and Dwyane Wade sweepstakes, were in the rare position of being open to Stoudemire’s in-person overtures back in July. It was a match made in Desperadoville.

The Knicks were in Denver Tuesday night to face the Nuggets and the latest apple of their eyes, Carmelo Anthony. They arrived in a tailspin, having lost five in a row, and left with a 120-118 loss, a six-game losing streak, and much of the hopelessness inspired by Knicks teams of the past decade. No fewer than 15 power forwards playing at least 25 minutes per game are ahead of Stoudemire in efficiency rating, according to Hoopdata.com. Among them are Michael Beasley, Charlie Villanueva and Hakim Warrick – who replaced Stoudemire in Phoenix. You don’t need data to see that Stoudemire is struggling in his new home. Watching him search in vain for someone who knows how to run a pick-and-roll is evidence enough.

Despite Warrick’s statistical accomplishments, things aren’t much better for Nash and the Suns. Lost in the Suns’ unconscious shooting exploits in a 121-116 victory over the Lakers Sunday night was the ongoing horror show of watching Nash dribble around desperately in search of someone to set a capable screen and roll to the basket. Both Nash and Stoudemire have lost something irreplaceable in each other.

While the Knicks plan to do their due diligence and inquire as to Nash’s availability, the Suns haven’t gotten to the point of entertaining offers, according to an executive familiar with their strategy. Coach Alvin Gentry already has made it clear publicly that the Suns aren’t trading Nash, and the executive familiar with the team’s posture characterized the flurry of rumors as “random” and “not factual.” But in Phoenix, as with many revenue-challenged NBA cities, basketball sense doesn’t always align with financial reality.

Without Stoudemire – and assuming they can’t make 20-plus 3-pointers a night for the rest of the season – the Suns will be struggling to get a whiff of the eighth seed come April. They’re the worst rebounding team in the league in terms of defensive rebounding rate and offensive rebounding differential, and the loss of center Robin Lopez to a sprained knee certainly won’t help.

“We’ve got to be a little bit more scrappy than we’ve been in the past,” said Jared Dudley, a key member of the superior bench that made the Suns such a threat to the Lakers in the conference finals last spring.

But Suns owner Robert Sarver, whose non-basketball businesses in the banking and real estate sectors have been hammered by the recession, isn’t paying $63 million for a scrappy, barely .500 team. The Suns are comfortably below the $70.3 million luxury-tax threshold, so there’s no urgency there. However, Sarver has been one of the most vocal in a new wave of owners in the collective bargaining fight, and rival executives believe he’ll be on a rampage at the trade deadline if the Suns are out of the playoff hunt. That’s an eventuality the Suns hope to prevent, and despite their current upswing, it will prove to be a difficult fight.

“Hopefully we can get a couple of wins in a row so we can get those rumors away,” Dudley said of the Nash speculation. “You don’t want your franchise player to go. He makes everybody better here and he’s the face of Phoenix. If you think the transition is big with Amar’e, I can only imagine. It would be a journey having [Nash] leave.”

Which brings us to the next step in our journey, to the rest of the Post-Ups:

• With Jermaine O’Neal out several weeks with a sore left knee, you and I both know what name comes to mind as a free-agent replacement: Rasheed Wallace. While ‘Sheed’s agent, Bill Strickland, wouldn’t completely rule it out, it doesn’t sound like Wallace is even contemplating the possibility of coming out of retirement – for the Celtics or anybody else. “I have not talked to Danny [Ainge, the Celtics’ president] or Rasheed about that, but I think Rasheed is through,” Strickland said. Wallace, 36, isn’t believed to be working out on the court in any capacity in the event a team might be interested in his services. And while it’s hard to imagine Wallace coming back with the NBA’s tech-happy mandate to the referees, it’s more of a physical issue. As far back as when Wallace was still with the Pistons, he was known to sometimes leave his shoes on between games in order to keep playing. If he’d removed them, his ankles would’ve swelled up so badly that he wouldn’t have been able to get them back on.

• Leave it to the Zen Master to decode the mystery of Utah’s amazing string of double-digit road comebacks last week. Lakers coach Phil Jackson pointed out that Jazz coach Jerry Sloan is perhaps the only NBA coach who elects to have his team play offense in front of his bench in the second half. Most coaches prefer to have their team in front of them on defense down the stretch of road games. Lo and behold, the Jazz reeled off double-digit road comebacks against Miami, Orlando, Atlanta and Charlotte by pouring on the offense in the second half. Visiting coaches choose which basket to defend in which half. “You can generate a lot of points in front of your bench,” Jackson said. “Defensively, a lot of coaches like their team to be in front of the bench in the second half on the road, because you can call stuff and give eyes to the players with their back to the basket. They’re the only team in the NBA that does it the other way.”

Brandon Roy’s future with bone-on-bone in both knees bears watching, given that his game is based on getting to the basket and he’s only 26 – with a lot of mileage theoretically ahead of him. But Dr. Nicholas DiNubile, spokesman for the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons and former consultant to the Philadelphia 76ers, said it depends on the extent of the damage and where it is. After his latest bout with knee swelling and pain last week, Roy learned that surgery was not an option because he has no meniscus left in either knee. DiNubile said Roy’s fate will be determined by whether he lacks cartilage, too. “It would be extremely unlikely at that age to have no meniscus and no cartilage,” DiNubile said. Whether the bone-on-bone condition is occurring in the actual knee joint (bad) or under the kneecap (still bad, but better) also is important. If the bone-on-bone situation is where the tibia meets the femur, “You’re kind of doomed,” DiNubile said. “That’s not compatible with up-and-down playing. If he were to have bone-on-bone in the main part of his knee, his career’s going to be limited one way or the other.” If the condition exists in the kneecap, DiNubile said athletes “can do surprisingly well.”

• As more than an innocent bystander in the Carmelo Anthony saga, Nuggets coach George Karl is more than doing his part by using his considerable powers of persuasion to try to keep Melo in Denver. But it’s impossible to evaluate Karl’s efforts on that front without noting his own pursuit of a contract extension. Two people familiar with the situation told CBSSports.com that the Nuggets view Karl as part of their future, regardless of whether Anthony stays. Whether Karl wants to remain in Denver if he winds up with a rebuilding team post-Anthony – that’s another matter. But despite Karl’s disenchantment with the ouster of his friends Mark Warkentien and Tim Grgurich, the lines of communication between Karl, GM Masai Ujiri, executive Josh Kroenke, and team president Paul Andrews are very much open. And weighing on the matter more than Anthony’s future is Karl’s health. Karl, 59, has several more hurdles to clear in his heroic efforts to beat throat and neck cancer, and wants to be sure he remains cancer-free before asking the Nuggets to commit to him beyond this season. Everyone in the NBA, including the Denver front office, is rooting for him.

Tayshaun Prince’s repeated blowups, with coach John Kuester giving as good as he’s getting, aren’t expected to play a major role in the Pistons’ decision on whether to trade the swingman and his $11.1 million expiring contract. A person with knowledge of Prince’s thinking told CBSSports.com that his frustration isn’t fully directed at Kuester; losing, after his time as a member of the formerly contending Pistons, is a bigger issue. But the biggest issue in the decision on whether to move him is the impending ownership change in Detroit. Trading an expiring deal, by definition, involves taking on future money – which is difficult, at best, to do when a new owner is entering the picture.

Kevin Love’s 31-point, 31-rebound game – an incredible performance and the first of its kind since Moses Malone in 1982 – was a quiet victory for Timberwolves coach Kurt Rambis. Rambis had been trying to prove a point to Love by limiting his minutes: If you don’t play both ends of the floor, you’re not going to play. Rambis’ message finally got through, and the result was an example of what Love is capable of when he puts his mind to it. But this isn’t the end of the dysfunction in Minnesota, by any stretch. Just because Love performed in an historic way doesn’t mean he’s buying Rambis’ message long-term. And a person familiar with the Wolves’ locker room dynamics isn’t convinced it’s smooth sailing from here. “The team is a disaster,” the person said. Depending on who you ask, the issue is either lack of communication from Rambis, or an unwillingness to listen on the part of Love and others who are disenchanted with minutes. It’s going to take more time to sort it all out.
Posted on: September 24, 2010 7:19 pm
Edited on: September 25, 2010 10:46 am
 

Preseason Primers: New York Knicks


The Knicks didn't get LeBron James. Or Dwyane Wade. Or Chris Bosh. Was the offseason a failure? Hardly. The Knicks are relevant again, with superstar Amar'e Stoudemire and supporting players Mike D'Antoni actually wants to coach. Playoffs? Let's not get carried away, but they have a shot. Which is more than the Knicks have been able to say for a long time. The buzz is back at Madison Square Garden. Now, all Donnie Walsh has to do is get Carmelo Anthony, Chris Paul or Tony Parker. Maybe then he'd get some of the credit he's due. But even if Walsh never signs or trades for another player, he's already restored respectability and competitivenss to what was a lost franchise when he took over.

Training camp site: Greenburgh, N.Y.

Training camp starts: Sept. 25

Key additions: Amar’e Stoudemire (sign-and-trade), Raymond Felton (free agent), Anthony Randolph (trade), Kelenna Azubuike (trade), Ronny Turiaf (trade), Roger Mason Jr. (free agent), Landry Fields (draft).

Key subtractions: The stench of a decade of irrelevance. And David Lee (sign-and-trade)

Likely starting lineup: Felton, PG; Wilson Chandler, SG; Danilo Gallinari, SF; Stoudemire, PF; Ronny Turiaf, C.

Player to watch: Eddy Curry. Once again, all eyes are on the Knicks’ troubled center, who was on the verge of being an All-Star a few short years ago and now is hanging onto his career by a thread. Curry hasn’t made it through the first day of training camp for the past two years, so progress will be measured in baby steps. The best thing that could happen for all concerned is that Curry somehow stays healthy, keeps his weight in check, and shows enough in preseason to coax someone into taking on his $11.3 million expiring contract in a scenario that makes the Knicks better. For now, making it through a practice will do.

Chemistry check: Although the Knicks inexplicably flirted with past demons with the ill-fated attempt to bring Isiah Thomas back as a consultant, this is as clean as the slate has been at Madison Square Garden in years. With athletes like Stoudemire and Randolph, shooters like Gallinari and Mason, and a serviceable point guard in Felton, Mike D’Antoni finally will get to fully implement his offensive philosophy. Just as important, Stoudemire’s star power will bring the buzz back to the Garden.

Injury watch: Azubuike is still recovering from last season’s knee injury, and when he’s ready, he’ll be the starting shooting guard. That will give D’Antoni the flexibility to slide Chandler to the three or four, making him interchangeable with Gallinari and Randolph depending on matchups. Curry should be the starting center on paper, and the Knicks would like for him to be productive to increase his trade value. But if Curry falters – a good bet, given his track record – the Knicks are extremely high on Russian rookie Timofey Mozgov. D’Antoni is a huge fan of the 7-1 center, who figures to pass Curry on the depth chart by the start of the regular season.

Camp battles: Aside from Curry-Mozgov, D’Antoni has a pretty good idea of what the rotation will be. Mason, Bill Walker, Randolph and Turiaf give D’Antoni the most bench flexibility that he’s had since he came to New York. Fields, a sleeper in the draft who impressed with his length, athleticism and intelligent play during Summer League and in offseason workouts, figures to be a regular part of the rotation.

Biggest strength: The Knicks have been so bad, irrelevant and mismanaged for so long that the fact that team president Donnie Walsh has them under the cap with a superstar big man and young talent around him has gone overlooked. Such is the hangover from the pursuit of LeBron James. But remember: If Walsh hadn’t created cap space for two max players, James wasn’t coming to New York anyway. If Walsh hadn’t landed Stoudemire, Carmelo Anthony wouldn’t want to come, either.

Glaring weakness: Aside from needing one more star to compete with the elite teams in the East, the Knicks need something D’Antoni isn’t known for: defense. They definitely have the athletes to defend better than their reputation under D’Antoni would suggest. Now they have to add the commitment and prioritize it, which will be one of the most important goals in training camp.
Posted on: August 11, 2010 6:24 pm
Edited on: August 11, 2010 7:48 pm
 

Isiah not taking Knicks job (UPDATE)


NEW YORK -- Not surprisingly, Isiah Thomas and the Knicks aren't reuniting after all. The deposed team president will not take a consulting job with the Knicks, citing the NBA rules that forbid the arrangement.

After nearly three days of reviewing league policies that apply to the consulting arrangement Madison Square Garden chairman James Dolan tried to arrange with Thomas, the Knicks and NBA officials reached the only conclusion possible: Thomas' job as basketball coach at Florida International clearly disqualifies him from working in any capacity for an NBA team. League rules strictly prohibit any coach, scout, executive, consultant or anyone else remotely employed in basketball operations with an NBA team from having any contact with draft-ineligible players. Such contact, obviously, is a key part of a college basketball coach's job.

"After speaking with Commissioner Stern and Knicks executives, it has become apparent that my new agreement violates certain NBA by-laws," Thomas said in a statement. "Because of this, I have decided to rescind my contract with the team.

"I have nothing but the utmost respect for Jim Dolan, Donnie Walsh, Mike D'Antoni and the entire Knicks organization, and I want to thank them for affording me this opportunity. One of the biggest regrets of my life is that the Knicks didn't perform up to the standards the fans had every right to expect while I was in charge. I take full responsibility for that. I was very much looking forward to this unique opportunity to help the organization do what I do best: find basketball talent. I wish the team nothing but success in the future."

The Knicks announced Friday that they were hiring Thomas -- whose scorched-Earth tenure as Knicks president and coach ended with the hiring of Walsh as team president in April 2008 -- as a consultant to advise the organization in a variety of ways. Among Thomas'
duties was to "provide valuable insight and analysis of young prospects from around the world."

As CBSSports.com reported Monday , such an arrangement was a clear violation of the NBA Constitution and By-Laws, which do not even allow basketball operations employees with NBA teams to publicly speak about high school, college or international players not yet eligible for the NBA draft -- much less have direct contact with them.

In announcing that Thomas was voiding his contract, officials with the NBA and the Knicks made efforts to minimize the public-relations embarrassment the team would endure as a result. This was obvious in the timing of the public announcements on the Thomas fiasco Tuesday: First, Isiah's statement. Then, a thumb-in-the-eye to Knicks fans from Dolan, who praised Walsh and D'Antoni in a release issued by the team but said he was "disappointed" he couldn't hire Thomas and that he will "continue to solicit his views."

"I continue to believe in his basketball knowledge, including his ability to judge talent," Dolan said of Isiah in a rare public pronouncement. "He's a good friend of mine and of the organization and I will continue to solicit his views. He will always have strong ties to me and the team. We wish him continued success at FIU. I also believe Donnie Walsh has done a terrific job since joining the Knicks and my tremendous respect for him has only grown since he's joined the organization. I'm confident that the work that Donnie, Coach Mike D'Antoni and their staffs have done this summer has the team poised for long-term success."

Finally, a classically subdued missive from Stern, who said in a statement from the league office that there was no need for him to take action since Thomas' contract had been voided. (Gee, I wonder why?)

"However, we have reminded the Knicks of NBA rules that prohibit team personnel, including consultants, from having contact with players not eligible for the draft," Stern said.

Anyway, the fallout from attempting to circumvent NBA rules -- or simply being unaware of them -- will be nothing compared to the public scorn heaped on the Knicks for even contemplating a reunion with Thomas in the first place. His tenure as team president and then coach featured ill-conceived trades (Stephon Marbury, Eddy Curry), a sexual harassment lawsuit that cost Madison Square Garden and Dolan $11.5 million, and a salary-cap mess that took Walsh more than two years to clean up.

The announcement of Thomas' ill-fated reunion with the team also overshadowed a rare run of positive developments for the Knicks, who made credible pitches to sign free agents LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, landed power forward Amar'e Stoudemire instead, and have the flexibility to add a second max player through trades or as a free agent next summer. The biggest damage may have been inflicted on Walsh and D'Antoni, whose reputations were cast in a poor light by Dolan's belief that the team couldn't attract future free agents without Thomas' credibility as a Hall of Fame former player.

Sources say some elements of the Knicks' power structure -- i.e. Dolan -- believed after the failed bid for James and Wade that Thomas and his credibility with star players was needed to close the deal on future signings. Thomas, in fact, played un undefined role in the team's recruitment of Stoudemire, and also landed a meeting with James' associates during a failed 11th-hour bid to persuade the former Cav to join the Knicks. Walsh went out of his way to thank Thomas for his help in landing Stoudemire, a move that was met with head-scratching gazes in the media audience during Stoudemire's introductory news conference last month.

What has to scare Knicks fans even more than Dolan's continued belief in Thomas is the fact that Thomas could regain eligibility to work for the Knicks simply by quitting his job as Florida International coach. So it is possible that Knicks fans haven't heard the last from Isiah.

But then, who ever does?












Posted on: July 8, 2010 2:38 am
 

Reports: LeBron 'leaning toward' Miami

About 12 hours after Chris Bosh joined Dwyane Wade in committing to the Heat, two reports emerged Thursday morning saying LeBron James was leaning toward joining them.

Newsday first reported via Knicks beat writer Alan Hahn's Twitter account that James "has decided to join Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in Miami." The Long Island newspaper followed up with a published report saying that James "is expected to choose the Heat," citing multiple NBA sources.

ESPN's Chris Broussard, who first definitively reported Bosh's decision to team up with Wade on Wednesday, followed up about an hour later on Twitter, saying that James "will join Wade and Bosh in Miami, barring a late change of heart."

James' agent, Leon Rose, did not return a call from CBSSports.com early Thursday. A high-ranking member of the Cavaliers organization was unaware of James having made a decision.

On ESPN News, a sister station of the NBA rights-holding network that will air the announcement of James' decision at 9 p.m. ET Thursday, Broussard said James "still has time to change his mind" and called it "a fluid situation."

Even with the higher than expected $58.044 million salary cap announced Wednesday by the NBA for the 2010-11 season, the Heat don't have the space to fit two max contracts starting at $16.57 million next season under their $31.4 million in cap space after accounting for Wade's deal starting at the same amount. With only Michael Beasley and Mario Chalmers under contract heading into the signing period that began at 12:01 a.m. ET Thursday, that leaves only three options for Miami to form its Dream Team: 1) Send Beasley to Toronto in a sign-and-trade arrangement for Bosh, which sources have indicated is highly unlikely; 2) trade Beasley to another team with cap space, such as Sacramento, Minnesota or Washington; or 3) persuade its new Big Three to accept less than maximum salaries -- a shade less than $16 million in the first year of the deals would work -- for the right to play together.

The $1.944 million increase in the league salary cap above the most recent estimate of $56.1 million given by the league in April meant that the superstar triumvirate wouldn't have to leave as much money on the table as previously thought to fit into the Heat's space. Plus, Florida's lack of a state income tax would mitigate any losses the three superstars would incur.

It's a fluid situation, indeed. The buzz among NBA front office executives Wednesday pointed toward the Knicks making a late push to persuade James to join Amar'e Stoudemire in New York. Another executive within the league -- who has ties to all three of the top free agents -- said the most likely scenario was for James to announce Thursday that he's returning to the Cavaliers. Front office sources with teams in pursuit of James still were in the dark Wednesday about what team James would choose.

"Everyone is on the LeBron yo-yo a little bit," one front office executive said.

Ya think?




Posted on: July 8, 2010 12:17 am
Edited on: July 8, 2010 12:50 am
 

Free-Agent Buzz (UPDATE)


In anticipation of LeBron James' free-agent decision, stock in Madison Square Garden Inc. jumped 6.4 percent to $21.57 per share on five times the normal trading volume Wednesday. If only James could capture some of that value as part of signing with the Knicks.

Well, despite a Forbes Magazine report last month that James could pull off such a coup, he can't. Please return to your regularly scheduled free-agent absurdity.

__

The Warriors and Knicks are in advanced talks about a sign-and-trade arrangement that would send free-agent power forward David Lee to the Bay Area for Anthony Randolph and Ronny Turiaf, two people involved in the talks confirmed to CBSSports.com. The trade is being set up as a contingency plan for the Knicks if James chooses to sign with another team Thursday. If James chooses to sign with the Knicks, they will have to renounced his rights -- and thus the rights to sign and trade him under the Larry Bird exception -- in order to clear the necessary salary cap space. Lee's agent, Mark Bartelstein, also is believed to have maintained contact with the Nets, who are in danger of getting shut out in the free-agent chase. But the Golden State scenario for Lee has legs, to an extent.

"It's got legs," one of the people involved in the talks said. "But it needs arms, a torso and a head."

The Knicks, who like other teams in the hunt for James have no clue what he's going to announce Thursday, are exploring other scenarios in which they re-sign Lee -- although Lee is believed to be ready to move on. If James says no to the Knicks, and team president Donnie Walsh orchestrates the Lee trade, then Randolph and Turiaf will go down in ignominy as the players the Knicks got instead of LeBron. If nothing else, that would take some pressure off Amar'e Stoudemire, who will be introduced Thursday in a news conference at MSG.

__

After Ray Allen agreed to a two-year, $20 million deal to return to the Celtics Wednesday, with a player's option on the second year, Boston continued to explore acquiring a big man to fortify the frontcourt while center Kendrick Perkins is out with a knee injury suffered in the NBA Finals. A person familiar with the Celtics' plans said they were in discussions with free agent Jermaine O'Neal, who also was talking with the Nuggets and Mavericks.











Posted on: July 5, 2010 9:02 pm
 

'Melo: No Amar'e pitch yet


Carmelo Anthony has been taking in all the free-agent news from Los Angeles, where he's been spending much of the offseason working out and mulling a three-year, $65 million extension offer from the Nuggets. In a phone interview with CBSSports.com Monday night, Anthony said he hasn't decided whether to accept the extension -- nor has he heard from Amar'e Stoudemire about possibly joining him in New York as a free agent next summer.

"He was just out here in L.A. with me," Anthony said, "but we never talked about that."

Stoudemire, who agreed to a five-year, $99.8 million contract with the Knicks Monday, told reporters over the weekend that he was trying to bring Anthony and Spurs point guard Tony Parker with him. Both could be free agents next summer.

"I'm happy for him," Anthony said of Stoudemire. "Real happy for him."

Anthony's future is tied to the extension offer that's on the table with Denver. The decision is whether to take the money and security now, or enter the summer of 2011 as the unquestioned face of that free agent class.

"It’s on the table, but I haven’t made a decision yet," Anthony said. "I just want to take my time on this one, really just want to take my time."

Part of the equation is a new collective bargaining agreement -- and potentially, a lockout -- that would seriously cloud the benefits of being an unrestricted free agent next summer. Barring a trade this summer -- which CBSSports.com reported Saturday has a "zero chance" of happening -- Anthony would have until June 30, 2011 to accept the Nuggets' extension offer.

"As far as free agency goes next summer, of course the collective bargaining agreement comes into play," Anthony said. "That's definitely something to think about. But right now, as far as the extension goes, I'm just taking my time."

Anthony sounded intrigued by the Knicks' agreement with Stoudemire, the first significant shoe to drop in a mammoth free-agent summer. As for whether Stoudemire could attract LeBron James or Dwyane Wade to New York, Anthony said he didn't think either one would be easily swayed by such a pitch.

"I don’t know," Anthony said. "I think those guys are going to make their own decisions. I don’t think anybody else is going to tell them what they should do. I think this is something that an individual is going to have to make a decision on."


Posted on: July 5, 2010 4:34 pm
Edited on: July 5, 2010 6:27 pm
 

Knicks agree with Amar'e (UPDATE)

As the basketball world waits for LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh to decide their futures, the Knicks are moving forward with a five-year, $99.8 million deal with Amar'e Stoudemire -- a pre-emptive strike that could send the rest of the free-agent dominoes tumbling, a person with knowledge of the situation told CBSSports.com.

Stoudemire and Madison Square Garden chairman James Dolan began meeting at about 4:15 p.m. ET Monday and finalized a verbal agreement on the contract shortly before 6 p.m., a second person with knowledge of the agreement said. All that's left is to clarify the complicated landscape of support pieces that the Knicks would surround Stoudemire with this year or next. Stoudemire will wear No. 1 for the Knicks, according to the marquee at Madison Square Garden, which essentially announced an agreement that should accelerate the rest of the free-agent activity in this momentous summer for the NBA.

Yahoo! Sports first reported the meeting Monday between Stoudemire, his agent, Happy Walters, and Dolan -- a gathering that produced the first, and perhaps only instance of a top-flight free agent leaving his team during the most anticipated offseason in league history.

After Paul Pierce, Dirk Nowitzki and Joe Johnson agreed to return to their own teams, Stoudemire is the first marquee free agent to do what in past free-agency periods has been almost unheard of -- change teams as an All Star-caliber unrestricted free agent. While the move sets up the Knicks to move forward with or without one of their top two targets -- LeBron and Wade -- getting a commitment from Stoudemire serves the dual purpose of allowing them to use it to entice one of them or move on to add other pieces this summer or next.

An executive familiar with the Knicks' strategy said the team has received word through "back channels" that signing Stoudemire wouldn't hamper their chances of landing another top-shelf free agent this summer.

According to multiple team executives pursuing James and Wade, neither player has informed any of the teams chasing them that they are out of the running. James isn't expected to make a decision until his three-day Nike camp concludes Wednesday in his hometown of Akron. Wade returned to Miami Monday and was seen at American Airlines Arena with Heat owner Mickey Arison. With Stoudemire committed to the Knicks, those players will have witnessed something that the rest of the NBA has been waiting to see from them -- a decision and a direction.

"We have verbally agreed with the best Knick since Patrick Ewing," said a team official speaking on condition of anonymity because free-agent signings aren't official until July 8. "If he becomes the second-best Knick, then great. If not, we move on. If two players change teams and we've gotten one of them, we think that's pretty good."

Given James' comments during All-Star weekend that he would've been amenable to pairing with Stoudemire at the trade deadline -- and Amar'e's statement since the end of the season that such a pairing would've resulted in a "championship" -- the Knicks are comfortable making the first big move of this complicated chess match. According to a person familiar with the organization's strategy, a commitment from Stoudemire won't necessarily ensure a commitment from James -- but it won't hurt the team's pursuit of him, either. Regardless, faced with paralyzing indecision on the part of James, Wade and Bosh, the Knicks felt compelled to move forward with a pre-emptive strike.

As the only team assured of using all its cap space this summer and still having room to add a major piece next summer when Eddy Curry's $11.3 million deal comes off the books, the opportunity to surround Stoudemire with championship-level talent evolves from a one-step process to a two-step process. Team president Donnie Walsh has been preparing for such a contingency since he arrived in New York two years ago and boldly outlined his strategy to rebuild the Knicks with an aggressive campaign to create cap space.

While there remain significant questions regarding the viability of Stoudemire's knees and concerns about an eye injury that required multiple operations, Walsh has tilted the playing field in the chase for top free agents. Rather than waiting for James and Wade to make their decisions, Walsh has put the ball in their court: Do you want to pair with Stoudemire, or not? If they don't, the Knicks already are exploring sign-and-trade options involving David Lee that would import a point guard to run the pick-and-roll with Stoudemire; sources say New York has had such discussions with Utah, Toronto, Houston, Golden State and Charlotte. The Warriors have been amenable to a swap that would send Monta Ellis to the Knicks, and the Bobcats could offer Raymond Felton -- although a Charlotte official denied Monday that such talks have taken place.

The biggest wild card in the Knicks' rapidly evolving plan is Carmelo Anthony, who has yet to commit to the Nuggets' three-year, $65 million extension offer. Sources close to Anthony believe that he ultimately will re-up with Denver, but acknowledge that he's intrigued by the free-agent movement this summer and the opportunities it could create for him to join a championship-ready team as an unrestricted free agent in 2011. The Knicks also have explored trade possibilities for Spurs point guard Tony Parker, but to this point have been rebuffed.






Posted on: July 5, 2010 1:35 pm
Edited on: July 5, 2010 3:34 pm
 

LeBron-a-Palooza: Day 5 (UPDATE)

This is LeBron James’ world, and we are all just living in it. Ditto for Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.

“We are all witnesses right now to this charade,” one frustrated team executive said Monday as Day Five of LeBron-a-Palooza (term coined, I believe, by Newsday’s Alan Hahn) rolled on.

James, Wade and Bosh were “still evaluating information” Monday, according to a person with knowledge of their plans. The Cleveland Plain-Dealer reported that James was unlikely to announce any decision until his three-day Nike camp concluded Wednesday night in his hometown, Akron, Ohio.  In fact, James made a surprise appearance at his camp Monday -- he wasn't scheduled to arrive until Tuesday -- and was wearing (what else?) a Yankees cap.

Wade returned Monday morning to Miami, where about 50 Heat fans – wow, what a turnout – and some team employees were waiting to greet him. At the wrong terminal. Wade was later seen at American Airlines Arena with Heat owner Mickey Arison. Such is life in the grips of the black smoke monster known as the Summer of 2010.

Tika-tika-tika-tika-tika-tika-tika ….

All NBA business essentially is tied to the Big Three free agents and what they decide to do. The only deadline pushing them is Thursday, when contracts and trades can become official once the 2010-11 salary cap is set and the moratorium on player movement is lifted. But not everybody is waiting for LeBron, Wade and Bosh. Two free-agent power forwards are getting close to making decisions on their futures – Amar’e Stoudemire and David Lee.

Stoudemire is in New York City Monday to meet with Knicks officials – either to agree on a five-year, $99.8 million contract or agree to hunker down and await for word from LeBron or Wade on whether they’re coming to New York or not. But one player who may not be willing to wait for the Knicks to handle their other business is Lee, who is getting inundated with calls from teams interested in taking him off the free-agent board regardless of what the Big Three do.

Lee, who averaged 20.2 points and 11.7 rebounds last season, already has met face-to-face with the Bulls, Nets, Heat and Timberwolves. A league source with knowledge of the market for Lee told CBSSports.com Monday that the Knicks are engaged in discussions with Utah, Toronto, Houston, Golden State and Charlotte about sign-and-trade arrangements involving Lee. This could be a key piece of the puzzle in the decision process for LeBron or Wade. Some of the Utah scenarios involve Carlos Boozer coming to New York, and some of the Toronto scenarios involve Bosh. Both players are high on the lists of power forwards both LeBron and Wade want to encourage to team up with them.

What does that mean for Stoudemire? Potentially nothing. Potentially everything. The Knicks are prepared to give LeBron or Wade a choice of big men to play with, and this feeling-out process could be the first step toward determining which of those options is viable.

Charlotte and Golden State are involved because A) both covet Lee, and B) each has a point guard who’d complement Stoudemire if he wound up being the Knicks’ only top-tier signing. The BobcatsRaymond Felton and WarriorsMonta Ellis have been on the Knicks’ radar for some time.


 
 
 
 
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