Despite rumors about Bulls, Knicks remain hopeful about LeBron
The bottom line is, despite the latest rumors that have LeBron James going to the Bulls, the Knicks aren't ready to give up on him just yet.
Knicks officials will make a desperate jaunt to Los Angeles Wednesday night to attempt to lock up Joe Johnson, who has told confidants he would embrace reuniting with Mike D'Antoni in New York, so they can then arrive in suburban Akron, Ohio, on Thursday with a sudden roster upgrade that - they hope - will put them right back in contention for James.
The Knicks might look to talk to Amar'e Stoudemire Wednesday night in L.A. after they talk with Johnson, but there are major concerns about offering him a full max contract. With his history of eye and knee injuries, that kind of a guaranteed deal could be one the NBA's insurance company opts to reject.
Several sources with knowledge of the situation have said the empty roster and concerns about a lengthy rebuilding process are James' greatest concerns about the Knicks. James highly respects D'Antoni and is enamored of his offensive system, but the lack of a second star makes it a tough sell, especially when the Bulls already have All-Star Derrick Rose on the team.
James respects Danilo Gallinari and sees potential in the forward, but it's still not enough for the Knicks to be an immediate championship contender.
One source said the Knicks' failure to come up big in either of the last two drafts hurt them.
To preserve cap space, Donnie Walsh decided not to trade up into the first round of last week's draft and came away with two very understated second-round picks in Andy Rautins and Landry Fields.
Last year, the Knicks missed on Stephen Curry, a LeBron favorite, by one pick. The source said that had the Knicks somehow landed Curry - Walsh made every effort to trade up but came up empty - they would be in much better shape to lure James. In fact, the source said, "They'd have him already."
The Knicks thought they could work a sign-and-trade for free agent Chris Bosh with the Raptors by using their own free agent, David Lee, then use Bosh to entice James. But the prevailing belief is that Bosh is almost set on joining Dwyane Wade with the Heat.
Meanwhile, reality has set in with the Cavaliers, who are working from their Life After LeBron playbook as the opening of the NBA free-agency season nears. James has until Wednesday to officially opt out of his contract, which is a mere formality at this point. He already has set up meetings Thursday, the first day of the free-agency period, with the Nets and Knicks.
The two-time NBA MVP essentially will pay $600,000 - the difference between his scheduled 2010-11 salary of $17.1 million and the estimated maximum of $16.5 million he can receive in the first year of a new deal - for the right to listen to pitches from other teams.
Cavs owner Dan Gilbert and new general manager Chris Grant have reached a state of desperation with the likely departure of their homegrown superstar. Bulls vice president of basketball operations John Paxson and GM Gar Forman are projecting a great deal of confidence in their chances.
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