Knicks get their big man

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Associated Press
July 6, 2010
— Amare Stoudemire is headed to the New York Knicks, and both sides are hoping he’s not coming alone.

The Knicks said Monday they intend to sign Stoudemire to a contract later this week when the free agent moratorium period ends. Stoudemire’s agent, Happy Walters, said the deal is for the maximum allowed, which would be nearly $100 million over five years.

Wearing a blue Knicks hat, Stoudemire said he looked forward to rebuilding a franchise and bringing the Knicks back to the top—maybe with a player such as LeBron James or Dwyane Wade with him.

“I feel great about being a pioneer and showing my leadership,” he said at Madison Square Garden.

The deal can’t be signed until Thursday, after the salary cap for next season has been set.

It was a desperately needed score in free agency for the Knicks, who spent two seasons clearing enough cap space to afford two top players. They met with James, Wade and Chris Bosh last week and believe they could still land one of them.

Stoudemire has already started recruiting, saying he spoke to James’ people and directly to Wade last week. And he said he won’t be affected if those players don’t join him.

The move reunites Stoudemire with Mike D’Antoni, his former coach in Phoenix. Stoudemire averaged more than 20 points in every season they were together and immediately becomes the best player D’Antoni has coached since leaving the Suns after the 2007-08 season.

“He’s a dominant offensive player for sure, in a variety of ways,” D’Antoni said.

Stoudemire’s days with the Suns ended late last week when the team agreed to $48 million worth of deals with forwards Hakim Warrick and Channing Frye. The sides had discussed an extension, but the Suns looked elsewhere after they’d reached a stalemate.

Stoudemire said he understood owner Robert Sarver’s position and wasn’t disrespected by the Suns’ refusal to give him a max deal that would have paid him millions more. He said he’s always loved New York and wanted to play here since the Knicks passed on him in the 2002 draft.

He finally got to Broadway by becoming the first big player in this much-hyped free agent class to change teams. The other top players could announce their decisions later in the week, and perhaps they might take a second look at New York now that there’s another huge piece in place.

“No one wanted to make the first move, and I feel confident enough to take that first step and hopefully now we can bring a few guys in to join me,” Stoudemire said.

Stoudemire has career averages of 21.4 points and 8.9 rebounds and helped the Suns reach the Western Conference finals this season. D’Antoni called him “probably one of the best, if not the best finisher in the league” and dismissed the notion that their relationship was strained in Phoenix.

“We had no problem,” D’Antoni said.

The question now is can he help land James.

“Playing with LeBron would be great,” Stoudemire said. “But again, I’m not sure what his decision is and where he’s leaning. If he’s leaning more toward New York, then that’s a great start for us.”

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