CLEVELAND - After three days of talks with the top free agents in this summer's heralded crop, the Knicks' braintrust met at the team's Westchester practice facility Saturday to go over the results of the meetings and plan for what they hope will be a big week.
It appears that Amar'e Stoudemire could be one major catch. He arrived in New York last night to attend a Broadway show and celebrate the Fourth of July holiday with his family before he meets with the Knicks Monday.
Though there is a strong possibility that Stoudemire and the Knicks eventually will come to terms - teams can't officially announce signings until after the NBA moratorium lifts Thursday - a person with knowledge of the situation said nothing will be done with Stoudemire until Chris Bosh makes a decision.
Meanwhile, the Knicks have moved versatile sharpshooter Mike Miller, a Mike D'Antoni favorite, up on their priority list, according to a person with knowledge of the situation. But Miller, who met with the team Wednesday night in Los Angeles, likely won't be signed until Joe Johnson is officially out of play.
The Knicks have not given up on Johnson; a source close to the player said Johnson is "torn" and "still wavering" on whether he wants to re-sign with the Atlanta Hawks for a full max offer of six years and $119 million or take the Knicks' offer of five years, $92 million.
With this knowledge, the Knicks - and Stoudemire - are trying to talk Johnson out of it by suggesting how by playing in New York, he can make up most of the difference in the max offers and how he could be joined by a second star, such as his pal Stoudemire. Knicks representatives also are working Johnson over with the thought that if he signs with the Hawks, they'll be financially burdened by his contract and might not be able to keep a playoff-caliber team around him. Next summer, Al Horford and Jamal Crawford will be looking for new deals.
With the Knicks getting a sense that LeBron James may find it too difficult emotionally to leave Cleveland, they are making every effort to still come away with at least one piece, if not two, in free agency. At this point, Stoudemire seems to be one potential saving grace after two years of salary-cap dumping.
The Knicks are well aware of the risks that come with signing Stoudemire to a full maximum contract (five years, $92 million). Stoudemire recently had an MRI on his left knee, which underwent microfracture surgery in 2005, and the Knicks' medical staff will carefully review it.
The knee is a concern - it's the reason why the Phoenix Suns wouldn't fully guarantee the final two years of their four-year, $94-million offer, which Stoudemire rejected - but for the Knicks, it shouldn't be a deal-breaker, especially with the knowledge that Stoudemire might be the only player they'll get among the top free agents.
Stoudemire showed great durability this past season, playing in all 82 games. He is a fitness and diet fanatic and spends a great deal of time working on keeping the muscles around the knee strong. The Knicks love what the 6-10 Stoudemire can bring in length to a front line that could include 6-11 Danilo Gallinari and 7-foot Eddy Curry.
The lineup still needs guards, however, which is why the team's braintrust also spent Saturday discussing the next wave of free agents, who will start to come in once the team knows whom they have from the top group. Point guards Raymond Felton and Luke Ridnour are two players who will be targeted. Other options, such as a trade for Tony Parker, remains high on the priority list.
As for other trade scenarios, after the report in Saturday's Newsday about Carmelo Anthony's uncertainty in signing a three-year, $86-million extension with the Denver Nuggets, a call was placed to the Nuggets. The Knicks were told that Anthony has a year to accept the offer and is not on the trading block. That could change if Anthony informs the team he wants to explore other options.
The Knicks also are clinging to faint hopes involving Bosh, though rumors persist that the All-Star power forward is almost certain to land in Miami and join Dwyane Wade. But there are no guarantees that Wade will re-sign with the Heat. In fact, he's had two meetings with the Bulls, including a hastily arranged sit-down Friday night at the Chicago-based office of his agent, Henry Thomas.
Wade could wind up with a shared-custody agreement with his ex-wife. Living in Chicago, where his two sons, his ex-wife and his mother live, could appeal to him.
Though it's probably mere posturing, Wade gave the Knicks good vibes during their meeting with him Friday in Chicago. A person with direct knowledge of that meeting said that when Wade was told the Knicks would build a team around him, he replied, "Just get me one player and I'll get you a ring."