1. The Knicks' New Franchise Player
We asked our NBA experts to give us their thoughts on Amare Stoudemire coming to New York.
Who is the most prominent player you expect the Knicks to get besides Amare in this offseason or the next?
J.A. Adande, ESPN.com: Mike Miller. Not the name Knicks fans hoped for, but he could flourish in Mike D'Antoni's offense, and the Knicks can use a chunk of their remaining cap space to lure Miller away from a team such as Cleveland that is offering the mid-level exception.
Henry Abbott, TrueHoop: Through NBA history, a lot of coaches have preached the merits of the up-tempo offense. You know how many of them have had good teams without great point guards? Just about none. If your coach is Mike D'Antoni, you simply have to have a really good point guard. That's doubly true if you're building around Amare Stoudemire, who is amazing at catching and finishing, and less good at posting up.
The Knicks are long overdue to get a good point guard. Luke Ridnour is said to be the pick of those available. Perhaps he's good enough.
But I don't expect anything too exciting here. The King is not walking through that door.
Kevin Arnovitz, TrueHoop: The Knicks are going to have a hard time luring LeBron or Wade, the remaining perimeter stars. So unless they are willing to slot Stoudemire as a center and go after one of the elite power forwards, this could be it in terms of impact signings. Stoudemire's signing doesn't help them with LeBron much -- and doesn't change much -- because he's always had the power to go to New York and would probably take a top power forward with him.
Zach Harper, TrueHoop Network: LeBron James has been the No. 1 target for years, and he has to continue to be. Putting him in pick-and-roll sets with Amare in an up-tempo system would set the league on fire. If they miss out on LeBron, then the Quest For Carmelo begins immediately. As good as Amare is, the Knicks must know they have to put a better player alongside him in order to maximize his production.
Dave McMenamin, ESPN Los Angeles: If New York can't land The King in LeBron James, their next-best option is to find a serviceable point guard who can play up and down (think Jordan Farmar or Kyle Lowry) and go after a player whose game resembles another King from Knicks history -- Bernard King (here's a photo of him hamming it up in a crown ) -- Carmelo Anthony next summer. Like King, Anthony is a do-it-all scorer with NYC roots -- he was born there -- and his authentic charm and ability to fill it up would be electric in a city desperate for a star.
Chris Sheridan, ESPN.com: I still believe they are going to land LeBron James, and the fact that they made sure to get his blessing before committing to Amare only strengthens that belief. To me, the fact that James has delayed announcing his decision until after his camp in Akron ends is a sign that he is leaning toward leaving Cleveland.
Marc Stein, ESPN.com: I have little doubt that the Knicks would have interest in Tony Parker. I also believe that Parker would embrace life as a Knick if he had to leave San Antonio. But a third team would have to get involved to facilitate a Knicks-Spurs deal, because I don't see anything on the Knicks' roster that would prompt the Spurs to send them an All-Star point guard.
I also have little doubt that Carmelo Anthony would have serious interest in signing with the Knicks as a free agent next summer but I struggle to see him turning down the extension offer he has on the table from Denver. Just can't see Melo making it to next summer's free-agent market. Can they get someone good in a sign-and-trade for David Lee? Knicks fans will be dreaming of a deal with Minnesota that somehow lands Ricky Rubio, but I don't see the Wolves giving Rubio in a Lee deal. Golden State and Monta Ellis? Maybe.
If Amare is the only top free agent signed by the Knicks this summer, rate their offseason on a scale of 0 (worst) to 10 (best).
Adande: 7. They signed an All-Star, but they wouldn't have The Star, so a letdown. Not a total disaster, however, which is why they were wise to strike early and lock up Amare.
Abbott: 2. They fought forever to get that cap space -- and cap space really can be used reliably to create great teams over the long term -- but they spent a lot of it on a guy who has been longing to be the centerpiece but who doesn't play defense and has some of the more profound injury concerns in the league. What's more, his calling card is offense, and while he is right there with LeBron James in finishing with power when catching the ball on the run, he has only really been efficient when catching passes from the kind of guard the Knicks don't have. Don't get me wrong; he's an amazing player, but chart his efficient scoring, and you'll see the best parts of his game feature a ton of Steve Nash.
He's the Knicks' best player, but they're still far from contending, while they have already given up a lot of hard-won cap space.
Arnovitz: 3. Stoudemire is a potent offensive force, but his deficiencies as a defender and rebounder will be as problematic for the Knicks as they've been for Phoenix. But for a few days, at least, they can bask in the warm glow of being the first team to poach a max player.
Harper: 7. The Knicks needed to get one of the big free agents in order to finally start the reclamation project. Now they have an actual direction instead of just pipe dreams.
McMenamin: 3.5. Out of all the max players on the market, I put Amare behind only LeBron James and Dwyane Wade (and ahead of guys like Chris Bosh and Joe Johnson) because he's a highlight machine and is a player who actually puts butts in the seats, which is a necessity in today's economy. His numbers might not be all that different than David Lee's were, but his a star quality makes the Knicks more relevant than some of the other available free agents could have.
Sheridan: If he is the only one, I'll give them a 1. They could have had David Lee at a fraction of that cost, and Lee has none of the injury history or other assorted baggage that Amare brings. But again, I don't believe they are done, and an LBJ signing would bump them to 11.
Stein: It would be a 5 at best. As much as I've always been an Amare fan, I can't ignore the red flags here. The health concerns, concerns about Amare reuniting with Mike D'Antoni, concerns about Amare's ability to score freely without the set-up work of Steve Nash all valid concerns. The presumably outgoing David Lee, who actually became something of a point forward in D'Antoni's system last season, is more versatile and can fill more holes for the Knicks as the roster currently stands.
The good news for New Yorkers: Amare has a long history of proving us know-it-alls wrong, especially when it comes to his durability. And I see his supreme confidence as a big plus in the cauldron of Gotham. He's going to take criticism for his rebounding and defense like he's never heard before, but I think he has such stubborn self-belief that he's going to be able to tune it out.
Are the Suns done?
Adande: As we knew them, they're done. Yes, they did well when Stoudemire missed most of 2005-06 with knee injuries, but that was with Shawn Marion and an in-shape Boris Diaw. Nash was younger, too.
Abbott: How best to express support for Grant Hill and Steve Nash? Say that it's impossible to count out such warriors? Or admit that the chaos at the top of their organization has dealt them a very tough set of cards?
Amare was most valuable as a Sun, so it's a crying shame to think that he won't be there. However, this team nearly made the West finals this year, and they'll see some more development from young players like Robin Lopez and Goran Dragic, and they added Hakim Warrick. Maybe they can conjure the magic one last time to get Suns fans the ring they have felt close to for a long time.
Arnovitz: Unless the Suns can replace Stoudemire's production in the pick-and-roll with a mobile power forward (David Lee in a sign-and-trade, anyone?), the days of putting up ridiculous offensive numbers are over in Phoenix.
Harper: The Suns are not done in terms of getting to the playoffs. They are such a difficult matchup on any given night of the regular-season grind; they can still take advantage of that by running teams out of the building and accumulate enough wins. However, their realistic hopes of title contention are officially dashed.
McMenamin: Not in the least. Everybody was ready to close the window on Phoenix before last season began, and Steve Nash & Co. smashed it wide open by winning 14 of 17 games to start the season before ending their improbable ride just two wins away from the Finals. They should win a playoff series or two again next year. They made a smart free-agent signing in Hakim Warrick, getting a gazelle who can run the floor and finish well enough to fill in as Amare Lite, and Robin Lopez showed that he's closer to Brook than George on the last-name scale.
Sheridan: Depends on whether they can salvage something through a sign-and-trade with the Knicks, but New York has little of value to move except David Lee, and they can probably get more for Lee in a sign-and-trade with someone else. As I said in a chat the other day, the over/under on Steve Nash's trade request is Feb. 4.
Stein: Can't say I'm feeling a lot of optimism. They're not just asking Hakim Warrick to replace an All-Star. They've also lost their whole front office and much of the momentum from the Cinderella season we just witnessed. It's not exactly breaking news to reiterate that I'll be the last guy who ever exits Steve Nash's bandwagon, so "done" is too strong, but layers of a franchise that has always been one of the league's best keep getting stripped away.
2. The Latest On LeBron James
3. Daily Dime Live Wrap
ESPN.com writers and TrueHoop Network bloggers chatted with fans, giving their opinions about free agency -- all in Daily Dime Live.
4. Hawks Spend Too Much On J.J.?
We've heard of the hometown discount before -- in fact, Dirk Nowitzki and Paul Pierce each gave their team one in agreeing to deals Sunday.
The hometown premium? That's a rarity.
Apparently the Hawks made a really positive impression on Joe Johnson over the past half-decade, because he agreed to stay with them only after effectively being handed a sack with $30 million in unmarked bills. Even then he did some hemming and hawing before finally agreeing to take the loot and run, agreeing to return to the Hawks on a six-year deal worth approximately $120 million, depending on where this year's cap number comes in.
Atlanta was in a position to offer an extra year and nearly $30 million more than any other suitor, two factors that eventually won out over the lure of teaming up with LeBron James or Dwyane Wade somewhere like Chicago or Miami.
And in this case, I say, "won" in the most ironic way possible. The Hawks might have won the battle here, but as a result they'll almost certainly lose the war.
Economists often talk about a term called the "winner's curse." In any bid or auction situation, the person who wins the bidding is likely to be the one who most erroneously misgauges the value of the prize.
• To read the full column, click here.
5. Candidate For King's Court?
Mike Miller is headed to Cleveland to play with LeBron James -- in James' Nike Skills Academy basketball camp.
And no, he won't ask him The Question.
"If he shares with me, he shares with me," Miller said.
Where James decides to play could affect Miller's next team as well. The free-agent shooting guard who has made 40 percent of his 3-point shots during his 10-year career could be everything from a perfect shooting component to play alongside a star such as James to a Plan B playing a bigger role for a team left on the outside when the first wave of free agents sign up.
• To read the entire blog entry, click here.
6. Noah's Great; Now Sign Him
Interesting question posed in a chat I just had with a longtime front-office chief: How many young players have more contract leverage right now than Bulls center Joakim Noah?
Answer: Aside from Kevin Durant, absolutely no one from the NBA's 2007 draft class.
Noah, like Durant, is eligible for a contract extension this summer. But Noah also happens to be one of the Bulls' major selling points to LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and especially Chris Bosh in free agency, because Chicago's pitch to the top free agents centers around the fact that it already has an elite point guard (Rose) and a blossoming big man (Noah) in place. When it comes to Bosh specifically, Noah's presence means Bosh could stay at power forward as opposed to masquerading as a center, which is something Bosh does not want to do.
You'd figure that the Bulls would prefer to wait until after their expected free-agent splashes -- with the $30 million in salary-cap space they're throwing at James, Wade and Bosh -- before getting serious with Noah, even though an extension wouldn't affect this summer's cap room.
Yet you could also make the case -- something I'm quite sure other teams chasing the top free agents have made clear to James, Wade and Bosh -- that the Bulls don't really have Noah "in place" until he's locked up long-term.
• To read the blog entry, click here.
7. Free Agent Slot Machine
The ESPN Free Agent Slot Machine results are based on the likelihood of each potential scenario for each player and team, as provided by ESPN.com NBA experts.
• Click SPIN for another possible outcome.
Complete 2010 Free-Agent List
8. Welcome To NY, Amare
The New York Knicks aren't getting Chris Bosh or Dwyane Wade, and they probably aren't getting LeBron James, either.
But at least the Knicks got somebody.
Monday's announcement that New York agreed to terms with Amare Stoudemire on a five-year, $99.74 million deal at least forestalls the Armageddon scenario for the Knicks. Their two years of self-imposed playoff exile in order to create cap space weren't for naught.
Stoudemire obviously comes with some asterisks. He's had microfracture surgery, and one bad hit to his eye could be a career-ender. He's not a great defender or passer and wouldn't win a most popular teammate competition.
That said, the pros outweigh the cons for New York. For starters, Stoudemire obviously has had success in coach Mike D'Antoni's system. This was probably the best landing spot for him careerwise if he couldn't return to the Suns.
• To read the entire column, click here.
9. Celtics Open Up Summer League
ORLANDO, Fla. -- When the Charlotte Bobcats take the floor for the opening game of the 2010 AirTran Summer League on Monday, their roster will include Darius Miles, an NBA veteran with eight years of service.
Miles, who nearly made a comeback with the Celtics in 2008 after microfracture surgery on his right knee sidelined him for two seasons, is attempting another run at an NBA return with Charlotte this summer.
He boasts 446 NBA games and 11,729 minutes played in his career. By comparison, the Celtics' entire 12-man summer roster features a total of one regular-season game of NBA experience.
Yes, the summer league is geared more toward rookies and the league's youngest players, so Boston's lack of experience isn't exactly shocking. And although a few notable names such as Miles dot the rosters of the eight teams competing here this week, you're more likely to be Googling the game's leading scorer to find out exactly who he is.
• To read the full column, click here.
10. Shaq Drawing Plenty Of Interest
ESPN The Magazine
Even at 38 years old, Shaquille O'Neal is drawing plenty of interest on the free-agent market. Boston, Dallas and Atlanta have all expressed interest in O'Neal, according to league sources.
The discussions have been in the preliminary stages and no financial terms have been broached. But with each team over the salary cap, they can offer O'Neal no more than the mid-level exception of $5.8 million per season.
O'Neal, who played with the Cleveland Cavaliers last season, would like to play two or three more seasons, according to sources close to the future Hall of Fame center.
An AOL Fanhouse report Monday said O'Neal has been offered a two-year deal starting at the mid-level exception by Atlanta and that he is seriously considering it. However, his agent, Perry Rogers, denied that an offer had been made.
"We have had no offers from the Hawks," Rogers said.
• To read the entire story, click here.