The Knicks picked up two starters and a key reserve during free agency and are expected to announce their arrivals Friday.
The deals are not signed yet, but the Knicks have scheduled a Friday news conference at their practice facility, where Joakim Noah, Courtney Lee and Brandon Jennings are expected to be the guests of honor.
Noah and Lee will join a starting unit that includes Derrick Rose, Carmelo Anthony and Kristaps Porzingis. If they stay healthy, the Knicks could have one of the best first units in the Eastern Conference. Jennings should give the Knicks scoring off the bench as Rose’s backup, but he also could play with him in the backcourt.
“We’re contenders, man,’’ Lee told the website BasketballInsiders.com. “They didn’t make the playoffs last year, but we’re looking to change that and win big. The ring is the ultimate goal for everybody on the team. I know it is for me. When they talked to me and told me about the pieces they were adding alongside the players who were already there, I didn’t think anything less than a championship. We’re trying to get the Knicks back into the playoffs and win big.”
The Knicks could announce as many as eight free-agent signings Friday if all the agreements get reached and contracts are done.
In addition to the three aforementioned veterans, the Knicks have agreements with Lance Thomas, Lithuanian forward Mindaugas Kuzminskas and last year’s second-round pick, Spanish center Willy Hernangomez.
The Knicks also struck a multiyear deal with former Duke center Marshall Plumlee, according to a league source. The first year of the contract is fully guaranteed, the source said.
The 7-foot Plumlee, who averaged 8.3 points, 8.6 rebounds and 1.6 blocks as a senior, is playing on the Knicks’ summer-league team. He gives the Knicks 12 players on the roster.
They could add No. 13 by bringing back Sasha Vujacic, who is a safe bet to return, a source said. Vujacic knows the triangle offense, can play both guard positions and wants to be back. He’s close with team president Phil Jackson, his former coach with the Lakers, and with Porzingis.
The other players under contract are big man Kyle O’Quinn and shooting guard Justin Holiday, whom the Knicks acquired from Chicago with Rose. But the big signings were Noah, Lee and Jennings.
The Knicks agreed with Noah, 31, on a four-year, $72-million deal. It’s a steep price for Noah, who has battled through injuries in recent years and had season-ending shoulder surgery last season. But the Knicks wanted a selfless player on the defensive end and someone they can rely on to make plays out of the triangle. Noah is one of the better-passing centers in the league.
The 6-5 Lee, who will sign a four-year, $48-million deal, is a reliable player on both ends of the floor. He should provide much-needed perimeter defense and can knock down shots (he’s a 45-percent shooter for his career). He’s bounced around, though. The Knicks will be his eighth team in nine seasons.
Jennings was a surprise pickup. He will get one year and $5 million to prove he still can be one of the top-scoring point guards in the game. Jennings averaged at least 15.4 points his first 5½ seasons in the league but ruptured an Achilles two seasons ago and missed half of last season.
In Rose, Jennings and Noah, the Knicks have three players who have been slowed by injuries lately, but the Knicks hope they will be healthy and help them end a three-year playoff drought.
Rose and Jennings are entering contract years. With salaries expected to be at an all-time high next summer, they’ll try to have big seasons to get another big payday. If so, the Knicks and their playoff-starved fans will be the beneficiaries.