CHICAGO - The Knicks appear to be close to securing their first significant addition in this summer's free-agency sweepstakes. Though it isn't LeBron James, it is an All-Star, Amar'e Stoudemire, whom the Knicks hope might entice James or at least help jump-start their long-awaited rebuilding process.
And if all else fails, the Knicks are preparing contingency plans that could include a run at Carmelo Anthony well before he becomes a free agent in 2011.
Stoudemire has yet to make his scheduled visit to New York - that is supposed to occur Monday - but multiple NBA insiders involved in the process told Newsday that the five-time All-Star power forward is ready to accept a five-year, $92-million contract with the Knicks.
Stoudemire, who had microfracture surgery on his knee in October 2005 and surgery to repair a detached retina in February 2009, wasn't drawing a great deal of interest, and the Knicks don't seem to be getting good vibes from free agents, either.
The Suns, who saw their injury protection-loaded final offer of five years and $94 million rejected by Stoudemire, waived his Bird rights Friday, a clear sign they have given up trying to re-sign him. Stoudemire talked to the Heat on Wednesday night in Los Angeles before having a phone conversation with D'Antoni.
Teams cannot officially sign players until after the seven-day moratorium is lifted Thursday, but an agreement in principle can be reached before then.
"We're having our meetings and touching all bases," D'Antoni said. "And it just keeps evolving and going on. That's really all we have to report."
Despite media speculation that places them as a long shot, the Knicks hope Stoudemire can help them lure James. A person close to Stoudemire said the power forward already is lobbying James and Joe Johnson with text messages and urging them to join him in New York.
Remember that James campaigned for the Cavaliers to get Stoudemire before the Feb. 18 trade deadline. The two were chummy during All-Star weekend in Dallas. D'Antoni envisions a devastating pick-and-roll tandem that would be a nightmare to defend.
Stoudemire played all 82 games as an All-Star selection for the Suns this past season and averaged 23.1 points and 8.9 rebounds in 34.6 minutes.
Another situation the Knicks are closely monitoring, according to NBA team officials, involves a potential blockbuster deal for Anthony. He has a three-year, $65-million contract extension from the Denver Nuggets on the table, but a person with knowledge of the situation told Newsday that Anthony is strongly considering declining the offer.
Anthony, who was born in Brooklyn's Red Hook projects, is married to former MTV VJ LaLa Vazquez, who also was born in Brooklyn and is said to want to move back to New York for career purposes. They recently put their $9.5-million mansion in suburban Denver on the market.
A Nuggets source recently called talk of trading Anthony "absolute speculation" but did not deny it as a possible result if Anthony does not want to re-sign. A member of the NBA's famed 2003 draft class, Anthony has not been able to raise his stature to that of James and Wade, and a move to a major market could help.
A high-ranking Knicks official confirmed that Anthony's situation "will be followed up" this offseason but said that with very few assets on the roster, the challenge is in getting him. One potential asset - using the Bird rights to David Lee in a sign-and-trade - might not be there for them much longer. Lee, who was in Chicago on Friday while the Knicks also were here, is getting strong interest from the Nets, Bulls, Heat and Wizards.
According to an NBA player, Stoudemire also has reached out to others, such as the Spurs' Tony Parker, who is seeking a full max extension after his contract expires next summer. Parker's interest in being traded to the Knicks is motivated by George Hill's ascent into Gregg Popovich's starting lineup and the fact that his wife, actress Eva Longoria, would prefer a move to New York.
In this scenario, the Knicks envision adding at least one more perimeter shooter, perhaps Mike Miller, to join Danilo Gallinari to help open the floor for Parker and Stoudemire to work the pick-and-roll.
The Knicks met Friday with Wade and Chris Bosh. Wade left his two-hour morning sit-down with the Knicks saying: "It went real well . . . I will say I'm intrigued." But after he left the meeting with the Knicks, Wade had a second meeting with the Bulls.
LeBron, meanwhile, was in Cleveland, sitting down with the Heat and Clippers. There were reports that King James came away unimpressed with the Knicks' pitch Thursday, which is consistent with the negative reactions the Knicks have gotten from unnamed sources in reports during the past week.
Knicks president Donnie Walsh seemed annoyed with the way his franchise is being portrayed.
"I have not heard from anybody that's connected with that camp that said that," Walsh said of the reports regarding LeBron, "so I really don't know."