Donnie Walsh likely will engage in his first bidding war as president of the Knicks, but the battle for Jason Kidd won't be about money. It can't be, mainly because the salary cap-restricted Knicks can only use the midlevel exception (about $5.6 million in the first year).
This will be more about opportunity and location, two factors that earned the Knicks a meeting Wednesday with the nine-time all-star point guard, who would bring some desperately needed credibility to the rebuilding franchise. Multiple sources say both Walsh and coach Mike D'Antoni, who worked with Kidd as members of the USA Basketball team in the Beijing Olympics, will make the pitch for the Knicks, who are owned by Cablevision, which also owns Newsday.
Walsh is also expected to spend the next seven days in the NBA signing moratorium to check in on every possible option, including, according to a source, what the Rockets intend to do with injured all-star Tracy McGrady, who has one year left at a league-high $23 million. The Rockets are reportedly concerned about Yao Ming's future because of an ankle injury that, according to some reports, may be career-threatening. Would they be interested in Eddy Curry? The Knicks would consider this deal, even with the potential that McGrady, who had surgeries on his knee and shoulder last season, may miss the first month of the season.
The Dallas Mavericks, who had Kidd's rights up until midnight, have the ability to give him a max deal. And with very few options at point guard without him, a desperate Mark Cuban announced via his Twitter account that he was flying to New York "for free agent meeting at 12:01."
Kidd, according to a source, has already turned down one offer from the Mavericks that went well beyond the midlevel at $8 million per over three years, though it is not clear if the third year was guaranteed. And he may view the Mavs, who were eliminated by the Denver Nuggets in the second round of the playoffs, as a team on the decline.
Some around the NBA view Kidd, who will be 37 when the season opens in October, in the same light. "He's on fumes," one NBA executive said.
The Knicks, who might agree to give up some of the valuable LeBron James cap space for 2010 to guarantee a three-year deal in this circumstance, view Kidd similarly as the Mets did when they signed Pedro Martinez in 2005. You can't discount the friendship Kidd has with James, either.
And the Knicks are also very aware that Kidd's heart is in the New York area, where he still keeps an offseason home to be close to his three children.
The Mavericks can offer a better chance at winning than the Knicks at this point, but, as one source close to the situation said, Kidd may have turned down Dallas' initial offer because of "a non-economic reason."
Walsh Wednesday is also expected to make initial calls to the representatives of restricted free agents David Lee and Nate Robinson to begin negotiations. The Knicks can match any offer sheet signed by either player with other teams.