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WALSH: KNICKS 1ST IN CAP ROOM After re-signing David Lee and Nate Robinson to one-year deals yesterday, team president Donnie Walsh said the Knicks were No. 1.

In salary-cap flexibility, that is.

In re-signing Lee and Robinson for just one year, the Knicks emerge from the offseason with a league-best $21 million in cap room to spend on 2010's free-agent class. The Knicks will need to be at least $16 million under to offer LeBron James the maximum contract next July 1.

"We have the most room in the league," Walsh said. "That's good. We're No. 1."

The Knicks , however, likely will be at the bottom of the 2009-10 Eastern Conference standings, as training camp begins Monday with deathly low expectations.

It's so bad that in trying to convince skeptics that the Knicks are a playoff contender despite virtually the same roster as last season, coach Mike D'Antoni said a full season from Danilo Gallinari could be the difference. That's right, a 20-year-old quasi-rookie who played 28 games last season and is coming off back surgery.

D'Antoni feels the Knicks , who went 32-50, aren't far off because they lost 18 games by five points or less with Gallinari mostly hurt.

In laying on the hyperbole, D'Antoni raved, "He's the best shooter I've ever seen. He passes the ball well and is a much better defender than anyone gives him credit for. Can he physically take it and go with his back not bothering him? We don't know.

"He played 28 games last year at half speed, we were 14-14 and he shot 47 percent from 3. Does having that wing who can really shoot the Basketball get us over the hump of not losing 18 games by five points or less? The bar's high to get up where we want him, but with a little luck he can get there."

Neither Lee nor Robinson, despite gaudy stats, has proven to be a major difference-maker. In each of their four Knicks seasons, Lee and Robinson missed the playoffs.

Gallinari, in D'Antoni's eyes, could be the go-to scorer late in games the team desperately missed last season. But even the Knicks coach admits the team will have to "overachieve" to qualify for their first playoff berth since 2004.

"We have a lot of question marks," D'Antoni said. "If a few of these question marks come through, we'll have a very good chance. We're going to have to overachieve without a doubt."

Walsh's only aim this summer was to protect his cap space and that's all he did. Their three additions, first-round picks Jordan Hill and Toney Douglas, who had subpar summer leagues, and Darko Milicic may not even make D'Antoni's nine-man rotation.

"I hope we develop chemistry where the whole is better than the individual parts," Walsh said.

Author: Fox Sports
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Added: September 29, 2009


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