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Knicks close to obtaining Andrea Bargnani for Marcus Camby, Steve Novak, picks

Toronto Raptors center Andrea Bargnani drives against the

Toronto Raptors center Andrea Bargnani drives against the Phoenix Suns' Ronnie Price during the first half of a game in Phoenix. Credit: AP, 2012

With free agency beginning Monday, the Knicks were close to trading two players they signed last year for former No. 1 overall pick Andrea Bargnani.

The Knicks agreed in principle Sunday to send Marcus Camby, Steve Novak, a 2016 first-round pick and at least one second-round pick to the Raptors for Bargnani, widely considered a disappointment after being taken with the first pick in 2006.

But the NBA didn't approve the trade Sunday night. It has to be reconstructed to make the salaries match up because they change on July 1. Camby's and Novak's salaries decrease and Bargnani's increases.

Because both sides want the trade to happen, it's expected to be revisited Monday and revised. One source called it a "technicality" and said the deal will go through. It likely will include the Knicks signing and trading a player for the minimum -- perhaps Quentin Richardson or Earl Barron.

After the trade, the Knicks will remain over the luxury-tax apron and remain very limited in what they can spend with the free-agent negotiation period having started at 12:01 a.m. Monday. Re-signing J.R. Smith, Chris Copeland and Pablo Prigioni are priorities, but the Knicks also are looking for insurance at point guard, additional shooting and size.

Bargnani provides the latter two, but he won't address the Knicks' need for interior defense and rebounding that was exploited in their second-round playoff loss to the Pacers. He has averaged 4.8 rebounds in his career.

Bargnani, who has two years and roughly $23 million remaining on his contract, is a finesse player who lives on the perimeter and has been inconsistent.

He averaged 21.4 points in 2010-11 but dropped to 12.7 and played only 35 games this past season because of an elbow issue. For his career, he's averaged 15.2 points and shot 36.1 percent from three-point range.

Bargnani likely will come off the bench at power forward and center for the Knicks and could be viewed as insurance, given Amar'e Stoudemire's ongoing knee concerns. But Bargnani has played more than 66 games only three times in seven seasons.

Camby was signed to a three-year deal last summer to back up Tyson Chandler but played only 24 games and averaged 1.8 points and 3.3 rebounds. "It's unfortunate that I wasn't given a meaningful opportunity to contribute last season in New York," he said in a statement. "I was really looking forward to the upcoming year as a chance to show the organization what they missed out on last year, and pushing our team towards the Finals."

Novak also was somewhat of a disappointment after signing a four-year, $15-million contract last July. He averaged 6.6 points per game and shot 42.5 percent from three-point range in the regular season but averaged only 5.6 minutes and 2.0 points per game in the playoffs.

This move will leave the Knicks -- who waived swingman James White Sunday -- with six players under contract plus first-round pick Tim Hardaway Jr. The Knicks have only the $3.18-million mini-midlevel exception in free agency and as many minimum contracts as needed to fill out their roster.

They can pay Smith the average salary, starting at roughly $5.6 million, but other teams -- such as the Suns and Bucks -- could offer the Sixth Man of the Year more and a promise to start. But the New Jersey native is popular with coach Mike Woodson and other Knicks officials and likes being close to home.

The Knicks likely will have to dip into their mini-midlevel to match offers for Copeland, a restricted free agent. They could try and work out a sign-and-trade.

Free agents the Knicks could pursue include Will Bynum, Aaron Brooks, Tony Allen, Carlos Delfino, Devin Harris, Dahntay Jones, Elton Brand, DeJuan Blair, Jason Maxiell and Shawne Williams.

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