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Knicks sign Davis with June in mind

GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- Baron Davis might not be in uniform until February, but these Knicks are looking to play deep into June. And that's when they're going to need the former All-Star point guard most.

"We just thought the risk-reward was good on this," Mike D'Antoni said.

After a week of speculation, the Knicks on Monday signed Davis, 32, to a one-year deal at the veteran's minimum of $1.4 million. Davis, who has a herniated disc in his lower back that is expected to keep him out as long as 10 weeks, was waived by Cleveland last week and still will be paid his original $13.9- million salary by the Cavaliers.

Davis also drew interest from the Lakers and Heat but said the Knicks were his No. 1 choice. He even agreed to take the lower salary, rather than the available $2.5-million room exception, to allow the Knicks to stay in competition for forwards such as James Posey, Al Thornton or Steve Novak (waived by the Spurs Monday).

"For me, it was just the opportunity to play in New York, play at the Garden, for these fans and to play on this team . . . My love for this city and for the fans and their appreciation for basketball pretty much made it a no-brainer," he said. "I mean, how can you not want to play in the Garden every game?"

His presence as an experienced starting-quality point guard fills the vacancy created when Chauncey Billups was waived to allow the Knicks to sign center Tyson Chandler. So interim general manager Glen Grunwald has essentially turned Billups, 35, into an acquisition of Chandler and Davis. That takes a lot of pressure off third-year guard Toney Douglas, who will start the season at the point.

When asked if the Knicks are assembling an All-Star team, D'Antoni paused. "That's not a good connotation," he said. "We're assembling a good team, hopefully."

But it won't immediately be complete, as Davis is not expected to take the court when the Knicks open the season against the Celtics on Sunday. Just how much time he will miss remains to be seen. There is a prevailing belief that the severity of his injury was exaggerated by his agent to dissuade teams from making a waiver bid on him.

The Knicks' medical staff will evaluate his back injury and immediately begin a treatment and rehabilitation program. "The first order of business is to get him healthy and when he is able to play, he's ready to go," D'Antoni said.

Davis, who is a close friend of Steve Nash's, has long wanted to play in D'Antoni's point guard-friendly system and on the Garden stage with stars such as Carmelo Anthony and Amar'e Stoudemire. Throughout his NBA career, which included two All-Star seasons with the Hornets and some playoff heroics with the Warriors, he developed a reputation as a scorer, but his intention is to prove he can be more.

"I know a lot of people don't consider me a passer -- in my career, I've had to do a lot of scoring -- but I've always prided myself on passing it and being an unselfish player," he said. "So I think it will give me an opportunity and a lot of people an opportunity to see my passing skills and see how I really direct the floor and be a leader out there on the floor."

Davis also has had a reputation for being poorly conditioned, but Stoudemire, a fitness fanatic, said Davis will be held accountable.

"I think he feels that championship vibe," Stoudemire said. "He understands what we're after, how guys are really taking care of themselves and getting themselves prepared for a pretty compact season."

The Dolan family owns

controlling interests in the Knicks, MSG and Cablevision. Cablevision owns Newsday.

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