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Knicks, Stoudemire agree on max deal

Free agent Amar’e Stoudemire, posing outside Madison Square Garden, will embrace a five-year, nearly $100 million deal with the Knicks. Free agent Amar’e Stoudemire, posing outside Madison Square Garden, will embrace a five-year, nearly $100 million deal with the Knicks. (Louis Lanzano/Associated Press)
Associated Press / July 6, 2010

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Amar’e Stoudemire is headed to the New York Knicks, and both sides are hoping he’s not coming alone.

The Knicks said yesterday 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, where signs throughout the entrances showed the player pictured in a Knicks uniform and read, “Welcome, Amare Stoudemire.’’

The deal can’t be signed until Thursday, after the salary cap has been set. It was a desperately needed score in free agency for the Knicks, who spent two seasons clearing enough cap space for 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’s people and directly to Wade last week.

“Totally comfortable, totally confident that my leadership qualities will uplift all of us to do something great this upcoming season,’’ Stoudemire said. “So again, the Knicks are back.’’

The move reunites Stoudemire with Mike D’Antoni, his former coach in Phoenix. “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. He said he’s wanted to play for the Knicks since they 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 a 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.

The Knicks decided they no longer needed to wait on an answer from Bosh, especially because Stoudemire showed such a commitment to New York. They even gave him the longest contract allowable without knowing if it could be insured because of Stoudemire’s injury history that includes microfracture knee surgery and a partially detached retina.

“I think to a degree the fact that Amar’e really wanted to come here, stepped up front, it got to the point where we had to acknowledge that and say that means something to us,’’ Knicks president Donnie Walsh said.

Walsh said Stoudemire’s arrival didn’t necessarily mean the end for David Lee, the Knicks’ own All-Star free agent who plays the same position. Lee could also be used in a sign-and-trade, though Walsh indicated he hadn’t received any good proposals in discussions with Lee’s agent.

LeBron keeps ’em waiting
James took a break from his whirlwind courtship to get back on the court. He made a surprise appearance at his Nike Skills Academy in Akron, Ohio, to work out. James was not expected to attend the camp featuring some of the nation’s top college and high school players until today.

Wearing a Yankees cap and white T-shirt, James strolled into Rhodes Arena just before 3 p.m. He was accompanied by former Cavaliers teammate Damon Jones and others. James shot jumpers as New Orleans star guard Chris Paul, his closest friend in the league, looked on. Paul was dressed in street clothes and did not join James on the floor, where the two-time MVP played many of his high school games for St. Vincent-St. Mary.

James pointed at a reporter, smiled and shook his head when asked if he had anything to say about where’s he’ll sign. As James fine-tuned his game, camera crews filmed his every move, hoping to catch some sign that he has come to a decision. James is not expected to say which team he’ll choose until the camp ends tomorrow. Last week, James heard presentations from the Cavaliers, Nets, Knicks, Heat, Clippers, and Bulls.

Dumars not bound for Nets
Joe Dumars said he is not a candidate for a job with the Nets. Responding to reports that he could be a replacement for Rod Thorn, the Detroit president insisted he doesn’t have “any interest in a basketball operations position with the Nets.’’ Dumars added his priority is putting together a team to get the Pistons back on track next season.

Thorn is leaving next week after 10 years as Nets president. General managers Jeff Bower of New Orleans and Sam Presti of Oklahoma City, and Nets vice president Bobby Marks are among the leading candidates to replace Thorn.

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