The Knicks open training camp at 3 p.m. Friday in Greenburgh, N.Y., one day after reports surfaced that free-agent center Tyson Chandler was closing in on a deal with New York.
Here is a camp primer:
THEY'RE BACK: PG Chauncey Billups (but could be amnestied to make room for Chandler, G Toney Douglas, G Andy Rautins, SG Landry Fields, SG Bill Walker, SF Carmelo Anthony, PFAmare Stoudemire, PF Renaldo Balkman, C Ronny Turiaf, C Jared Jeffries, VP Glen Grunwald, Asst. GM Allan Houston, HC Mike D'Antoni and assistants Herb Williams, Phil Weber, Dan D'Antoni and Kenny Atkinson
NEWCOMERS: G Iman Shumpert, C Josh Harrellson and assistant coach Mike Woodson
FREE AGENTS: Derrick Brown (restricted) and Anthony Carter, Roger Mason Jr. (expected to sign a one-year deal with the Wizards), Shawne Williams and Shelden Williams (unrestricted)
STAYING OVERSEAS: N/A
BIGGEST NEEDS: 1.) A capable defensive and rebounding center to lend support to the Knicks' current defensive-deficient frontline of Stoudemire and Anthony; and 2.) a veteran backup point guard who would help guide and develop Douglas and Shumpert off the bench, and allow them to focus on scoring and defense.
CURRENT CAP SPACE: Currently the Knicks have about $62 million in committed salaries, and they're $4 million over the cap.
FIRST ORDER OF BUSINESS: Do the Knicks amnesty Billups to land Chandler? They would need $13 million in cap space to offer Chandler a four-year, $55.5 million contract, so amnestying Billups would make that happen. ... The Knicks are also highly pitching Grant Hill to be their starting two, and they're watching closely to see what the Cavaliers do with point guard Baron Davis. Because the free-agent class of starting point guards is weak, sources say the Knicks will be in the hunt for an amnestied point guard. If the Cavs amnesty B-Diddy, the Knicks expect to be the front-runners for his services. Although he's a fun player to watch on and off the court (for his unique throwback style), he's not a proven winner and he's battled several injuries in his career. But he would be the best available, and you can bet the Knicks aren't planning to start Douglas on opening day against the seasoned Celtics.
DON’T BE SURPRISED IF: Well, a major surprise factor has already happened, with news breaking that the Knicks would likely amnesty Billups in order to sign Chandler. Now that the league office has vetoed the Chris Paul trade to the Lakers, don't be surprised if CP3 eventually lands in New York this season in a trade for -- this is going to sound very cold -- Stoudemire. Picturing a Big Three of Paul, Anthony and Chandler doesn't look too bad, but the question is: Could Chandler score more on his own down low? In Dallas, he proved he was more effective playing alongside a dominant four in Dirk Nowitzki. Also, the obvious question is: Would the Knicks really want to trade the face of their franchise who helped bring it back to prominence?
STAT OF NOTE: While the Knicks were second-best in the league in scoring (106.5 points per game), they were third-worst in points allowed (105.7 points per game). That's why Woodson, ex-Hawks head coach, was hired.
REASONS FOR OPTIMISM: Chandler, first. Health, second. Stoudemire not only said he "feels great" and is "stronger than I ever was before," but that his teammates are in "great health" and "extremely focused." Also, with a solid two-week training camp ahead, he and Melo have time to jell.
REASONS FOR PESSIMISM: One immediate, another long-term. In the present, if the Knicks acquire Chandler, who will be the all-important quarterback to anchor D'Antoni's run-and-gun offense? B-Diddy? Maybe even Steve Nash, if the Suns decide to amnesty him? But that is unlikely. In the future, how will the shortened season's grind of a schedule affect the Knicks, especially Stoudemire who has surgically repaired knees? The team is playing five games in seven nights once, and four games in five nights four times. Overall, 34 of the Knicks' 66 games are against teams that made the playoffs last season.
THE KNICKS WILL MAKE THE PLAYOFFS IF: Even if they don't add Chandler, they'd make the playoffs, but adding him makes them a conference finalist contender. However, the Knicks' future starting point guard will mean a Finals appearance, or an early exit.
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