If Prokhorov wants to steal Knicks fans, he could twist David Lee's arm

July, 1, 2010
7/01/10
5:23
AM ET
Sheridan By Chris Sheridan
ESPN.com
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David Lee lined up four visits in the hours after midnight, and look who's going first: Chicago and Miami, two of the Knicks' biggest competitors in the pursuit of LeBron James.

Lee also plans to travel to Minnesota on Saturday, then meet next with the New Jersey Nets. More meetings could follow, as agent Mark Bartelstein said eight or nine teams inquired about the only player in the New York locker room (aside from Eddy Curry, who hasn't been seen there for the better part of the past two years) who endured all of the past five brutal seasons, logging 368 games and becoming the team's first All-Star since 2001.

It has been noted here that the timing of Lee's decision could have huge implications on the Knicks' pursuit of Chris Bosh, with a lot riding on whether some team puts an offer on the table for Lee and tells him to either take it now, or it's gone.

For now, we can logically exclude the Bulls and the Heat from making such a move. They, like the Knicks, have bigger fish to fry and will wait on LeBron.

Minnesota burned a sizeable chunk of its $13-14 million in cap space in signing center Nikola Pekovic away from Panathiaikos of Greece, and it's doubtful Lee would jump at a starting salary of $10 million if the Wolves gave him a take-it-or leave it offer Saturday. He can get that number, or a higher one, elsewhere.

The wild card here is the Nets.

They will be the first team to meet with LeBron James this morning in Akron (with the Knicks going second), and they'll likely leave that sitdown with some sort of a reading on whether James would truly be willing to spend two seasons playing in Newark while the Nets' new arena in Brooklyn is built.

And if Mikhail Prokhorov and Jay-Z and Rod Thorn get back on their private jet and decide in-flight that James is not within their reach, they could be the team that forces Lee's hand when they meet with him Sunday.

Remember, the big Russian said in May that he plans to turn Knicks fans into Nets fans (and he's being bold about it).

What better way to get started down that road than by making a hard play for Lee? A take-it-or-leave-it play.

To read more on this subject, click over to a longer piece I've posted on the Knicks blog on the ESPNNewYork site.

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