Phoenix Suns forward Grant Hill (33) takes a foul shot...

Phoenix Suns forward Grant Hill (33) takes a foul shot during the second half against the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden. (Jan. 17, 2011) Credit: Christopher Pasatieri

On the first day the NBA permitted team executives to contact agents about players, the Knicks prepared to reach out to several free agents, including one who turned them down two years ago.

Although Caron Butler and Shawne Williams were discussed Wednesday, a person with knowledge of the situation said the Knicks are also interested in Grant Hill. Hill strongly considered an offer by the Knicks in 2009 but decided to stay with the Suns.

The Lakers reportedly also have Hill on the radar.

Though 39, Hill showed no signs of slowing down last season as a reliable role player and defensive specialist with the Suns. He made $3.2 million and started 80 games, averaging 13.2 points and 30.1 minutes.

Although the free-agent moratorium ended Wednesday, agreements of any kind are prohibited until Dec. 9, when training camps are to open.

Suns president Lon Babby told The Arizona Republic that re-signing Hill "is an absolute first order of business and top priority." But Phoenix is on the decline and Hill's closest friend on the team, Steve Nash, is in the final year of his contract and may be traded. If the Knicks' plans for Chris Paul don't come to fruition, Nash could wind up in New York as a free agent next summer to reunite with Hill, Amar'e Stoudemire and Mike D'Antoni.

Interim general manager Glen Grunwald won't have many options in free agency this season, as the Knicks expect to be capped out. But according to the yet-to-be-finalized collective-bargaining agreement, the Knicks will have the full mid-level exception ($5 million) if they want to use it.

The Knicks' strategy is to preserve as much cap space as possible for next season, when Paul, Deron Williams and Dwight Howard may be available, so it is likely the Knicks could offer three years of the mid-level and guarantee only the first year. That would allow them to clear the salary in 2012-13 if they need the room.

Hill is a favorite of D'Antoni's, who coached him during the 2007-08 season. With the lockout-shortened season, the Knicks are looking for players who will plug in easily, which makes Hill appealing. He could play shooting guard and back up Carmelo Anthony at small forward.

Butler, who missed half of last season with the Mavericks with a knee injury, is expecting better offers from other teams, including the Mavs. According to reports, six other teams contacted his agent, Raymond Brothers, Wednesday.

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

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