Salary cap-challenged Knicks still will pursue Steve Nash

Phoenix Suns guard Steve Nash reacts during the Phoenix Suns guard Steve Nash reacts during the second half of Game 5 of the NBA Western Conference finals. (May 27, 2010) Photo Credit: AP

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The Knicks are expected to roll out the red carpet for Steve Nash -- multiple media outlets reported they will meet with him Sunday -- but they might not have enough green to entice the two-time MVP into calling New York his year-round home.

Nash, who lives in Manhattan in the offseason, will be wined and dined by the Raptors, knows Mark Cuban and the Mavericks would love to have him if they can't sign Deron Williams -- and there is always the Suns, his team the last eight seasons.

All of those teams have much more to offer than the Knicks, who are expected to have the $3-million mini- midlevel. If general manager Glen Grunwald is very creative with his moves, they could have the full $5-million midlevel. And even that might not be enough.

That won't derail the Knicks' pursuit of Nash or some of the other top guards available during free agency as of 12:01 a.m. Sunday. Point guards Jason Kidd, Andre Miller and Raymond Felton, combo guards Jason Terry and Randy Foye and shooting guard Ray Allen likely will hear from the Knicks as well.

Versatile guard Dahntay Jones, who picked up his $2.9- million player option last week, is someone the Knicks could try to acquire through a trade, depending on what happens in free agency.

Grunwald said the Knicks have "some plans" as far as recruiting. They probably also have some contingency plans because of their current limitations unless they can shed salaries.

But with $54 million locked into Carmelo Anthony, Amar'e Stoudemire and Tyson Chandler, the Knicks would have to make a major move to be in the neighborhood of millions the under-the-cap Raptors, Mavericks and Suns can offer Nash.

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The Knicks actually have more flexibility than they originally thought they would at the end of the season. Because the union won an arbitration hearing that granted Jeremy Lin and Steve Novak "early Bird" rights, the Knicks can sign both for about $5.3 million each and won't have to use their free-agent exceptions.

Had the union lost, the Knicks' midlevel would have gone to Lin, leaving them with only the $1.9-million biannual exception and minimum contracts to fill out the roster.

"The ruling was great to be able to keep this Knicks team together," Novak said Saturday. "For me and Jeremy, it was something that pretty much had to happen for that to happen.

"We lost in the first round and that's not how we wanted to do this year. But I feel like we're closer to winning a championship than the first round . . . I want to win a championship, and to be able to be in a city like New York where you're embraced and loved for what you do, I don't know if there's a better place to be."

Novak said he feels "strongly" that the Knicks want him back and he's "optimistic" he will be. But after leading the league in three-point shooting (47.2 percent) and averaging a career-best 8.8 points off the bench in 18.9 minutes, he likely will receive interest from other teams.

Grunwald said the Knicks hope to re-sign Lin, Novak, J.R. Smith and Landry Fields, a restricted free agent.

Some expect that if the Raptors lose out on Nash, they will pursue Lin, who also is restricted. They can offer a four-year deal, with the first two years worth about $10.2 million, but can backload the last two for about $25 million total. But Grunwald remains confident that the Knicks will keep Lin.

"We can match any offer he receives, and I would anticipate doing that if he did get an offer," he said. "Hopefully we'll be able to reach a mutually agreeable resolution without that happening."

The Dolan family owns

controlling interests in the Knicks, Madison Square

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