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BLAZERS WOOED KNICK HEAVI-LEEMOST of us - me included - only know what newspaper and on-line accounts disseminated about the NBA during the offseason.

That means that the well-read majority believe restricted free agent David Lee had no other choice but to re-sign with the Knicks for one year, albeit at the exceedingly generous figure of $7 million (far above his CBA-defined qualifying offer of $2.6 million, the first time in league history anyone has exceeded his entitlement), in addition to a $1 million bonus should somehow they crash the playoff party.

So, I was startled a few days ago to learn from Lee he actually had a considerably more lucrative, long-term option.

After being out-recruited by the Raptors for Hedo Turkoglu's multi-talented services (any cryonicists who came in from the cold to watch Orlando throughout the playoffs may well have judged him to be its .400 hitter), and signing restricted free agent Paul Millsap to a fancy, front-loaded guarantee - only to see the capsized Jazz match seven days later - the Blazers zeroed in on the NBA's double-double champ.

But Portland insisted Lee make up his mind quickly. Andre Miller was their next target and his Philadelphia Freedom had no strings attached. A well-documented sitdown took place in Las Vegas, attended by Blazers GM Kevin Pritchard, coach Nate McMillian, Chicago-based agent Mark Bartelstein and Lee. Unreported was the Blazers' solid pitch.

"They felt I'd fit in perfectly with LaMarcus and Aldridge," Lee said. "Believe me, I was flattered. They've got a great team."

No firm offer was made that evening, says a Blazer source. However, it was felt a satisfactory compromise could be reached (Bartelstein wanted $50 million over five, Portland countered with $28 million over four with an escape clause after three) if Lee told them he was as serious about them as they were in him.

"I was given one night to think it over," Lee said. "I couldn't commit. I was worried about playing time.

"If this was the old regime with all the accompanying craziness I would've been outta here. But I talked to Mike [D'Antoni] a lot over the summer and I'm down with everything he and Donnie [Walsh] are trying to accomplish. I want to ride this out on a positive note and see what happens."

Seems to me we already know what that will be. Should LeBron James and/or Dwyane Wade, or any two quasi-quasars join the Knicks , goodbye cap space! So long David Lee and Nate Robinson and the other four free agents!

The good news is there will be 8-to-10 teams owning cap space between $10 and $20 million, depending on what the projected dwindling number turns out to be; it could be as low as $50 million, down $8 million from this year.

In other words, Lee will have many more options than the three prospective teams that were well under the cap this past summer.

Of course, LeBron and Wade can always decide to remain the selected saviors of Cleveland and Miami. In that case, Lee is likely to get rewarded by the Knicks for his loyalty/gamble, and Walsh can get down to the business of developing a championship team instead of trying to buy one.


At dinner Friday night I asked Walsh who he would have selected had he been able to acquire the fourth or fifth spot in last June's draft: Curry or Ricky Rubio?

"Curry," he answered without a pause. "Not only is he a great shooter but he can get his shot on anyone. He tore up every top-rated guard he went up against at our workout."

"Kanye West got confused," e-mails reader Richie Kalikow. "I told him to interrupt your Hall of Fame speech."

Author: Fox Sports
Author's Website:
Added: October 7, 2009


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