GREENBURGH, N.Y. - David Lee believes he is on par with the other forwards available on the free-agent market this summer, such as fellow All-Stars Chris Bosh and Amar'e Stoudemire. He wants to re-sign with the Knicks this summer, but don't expect him to offer any hometown discounts to help the team preserve salary-cap space.
"We'll have to see what it comes down to," Lee said. "No ill feelings coming from the last two summers, but there's been a chance, twice, to take care of that very thing."
When Lee was a restricted free agent, the Knicks opted not to sign him to an extension before the 2008-09 season and offered only a one-year contract before this season.
Lee's maximum contract will be about $13.5 million, depending upon the number at which the NBA sets the cap. Team president Donnie Walsh said he is "a great option to have" but wouldn't commit anything more.
In his fifth season with the Knicks, Lee averaged a career-high 20.2 points and 11.7 rebounds in 81 games. But he was maligned for his defense, which Walsh said is something that could improve with better personnel around him.
"When I was at Indiana, we had Rik Smits and he couldn't guard anybody," Walsh said of the former 7-4 center. "But it was amazing when we got the two Davises how good he got. You have to put players on the team that complement the ability of the players you have. And we haven't had those kind of players here."
The Knicks likely will give a long look to Stoudemire, who has said he is interested in New York and thrived in Mike D'Antoni's system in Phoenix, with Bosh and even Carlos Boozer as options. But Lee still is in the mix.
"I don't have a number in mind, I don't have a team in mind," Lee said. "At this point, I've had five great years in New York, I've enjoyed myself. I like the coach here, that makes a difference. And I like the organization. That's all I have going into free agency. I told [agent] Mark Bartelstein, 'Look, just do your job and we're going to go from there.' ''