There was disappointment, for sure, when David Lee got the word earlier this week that Amar'e Stoudemire had come to terms on a contract with the Knicks. He knew that meant his time in New York was up.
But there was no surprise when Lee learned the Knicks were discussing sign-and-trade scenarios rather than negotiating a contract extension for him.
"It was pretty apparent to me the day the season was over," Lee told Newsday from his offseason home in St. Louis.
The Knicks on Friday officially completed a sign-and-trade deal that sent Lee to the Golden State Warriors for three players: Anthony Randolph, Kelenna Azubuike and Ronny Turiaf. Lee received a six-year, $80-million contract. He will make $10.8 million this season, which is quite affordable for a player who averaged 20.2 points and 11.7 rebounds per game this past season.
The Knicks signed Stoudemire to a five-year, $99.9-million deal, which opens with $16.3 million in the first year. Stoudemire averaged 23.1 points and 8.9 rebounds this past season with the Phoenix Suns.
There were other offers for Lee, including interest from the Suns in acquiring Lee for Stoudemire in a double sign-and-trade. The Nets and Bulls also expressed interest in signing Lee outright. The Bulls opted for Carlos Boozer and the Nets froze all activity until they knew the result of LeBron James' decision.
If James had chosen the Knicks, the team wouldn't have had the cap space to work a sign-and-trade with the Warriors for Lee and he might have gone with the Suns. So, much like the Knicks, Lee was dying to find out what LeBron's choice would be because his future - and next employer - rested on that decision.
Though Donnie Walsh and Mike D'Antoni left the door open for the possibility of re-signing Lee to play with Stoudemire, it never really was an option.
Deep down, Lee felt dejected when Walsh didn't offer him a long-term extension last summer, instead giving him a one-year deal that preserved cap space and sent Lee into free agency this summer. But he said he doesn't harbor any bitterness towards the franchise.
"The Knicks were putting all of their efforts towards getting LeBron and aligning themselves with any guy to go with him, like Chris Bosh or Amar'e Stoudemire," Lee said. "So that was going to be their first order of business.
"You can't blame management for their attempt at LeBron because that was their best course of action to building a championship team. It's just a shame LeBron didn't choose to play in a great city like New York."
The Dolan family owns controlling interests in the Knicks,
MSG and Cablevision.
Cablevision owns Newsday.