Steve Nash, the longtime Phoenix Suns star and part-time New York resident, is now the pivot point upon which the ’s free agent market turns. Four teams — the , Toronto Raptors, Dallas Mavericks and Los Angeles Lakers — are vying for his services and are prepared to spend lavishly despite his age (38) and history of back trouble.
Knicks officials would love to install Nash as the starter and mentor to Jeremy Lin. But Lin’s status is also in flux. He was in Houston on Wednesday for a meeting with the Houston Rockets, who were expected to tender an offer.
The Knicks can match any offer to Lin, because he is a restricted free agent. Signing both Lin and Nash could test the bounds of the N.B.A.’s new supertax on high-spending teams.
The Knicks once seemed the least likely destination for Nash because of their salary-cap constraints. But they were pushing hard Wednesday afternoon to find a way to land him in a sign-and-trade deal, even as he considered other offers.
The Raptors have already offered Nash a deal worth a reported $36 million over three years. The Mavericks can offer just as much, if they are inclined. The Knicks have only a $3.09 million cap exception, but they could manufacture a richer contract through a sign-and-trade deal.
The details are complicated, and there was no indication Wednesday that anything was imminent.
The Suns are willing to grant Nash his wish and send him to New York on a three-year deal worth about $25 million, according to , but the Knicks would have to part ways with their best young prospect, Iman Shumpert, in return.
To make the deal work under salary-cap rules and to give Nash a starting salary around $8.3 million, the Knicks would have to send Phoenix nearly every minor player available, including Toney Douglas, Dan Gadzuric, Jerome Jordan and Josh Harrellson, as well as Shumpert.
The Knicks lost Landry Fields as a potential trading chip when he reached a handshake agreement with the Raptors on a three-year, $20 million offer sheet. The Knicks could have given Fields up to $5.3 million in a starting salary in the sign-and-trade deal, allowing them to offer Nash a bigger contract.
Fields averaged 9 points and 4 rebounds a game last year, numbers that declined from his rookie season.
Fields is expected to sign Toronto’s offer sheet once the N.B.A. moratorium is lifted on July 11. The Knicks will have three days to match the offer — though they have not given any signs they will — but they cannot use Fields in a sign-and-trade deal once he signs it.
Nash is reportedly pushing the Suns to trade him to either the Knicks or the Lakers. The Suns’ owner, Robert Sarver, is willing to help Nash get to New York, but not to the Lakers, a divisional rival.
Whether or not they land Nash, the Knicks need a veteran point guard to complement the 23-year-old Lin and to stabilize their backcourt. Presumably, Nash would also bring order to the clumsy pairing of Carmelo Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire.
Signing Nash would give Lin time to develop. Lin became a sensation in February and had some brilliant moments, but he has started just 25 games in the league and remains an unproven commodity over a full season.
Lin averaged 15 points and 6 assists in 35 games with the Knicks last year after the team claimed him off waivers from the Golden State Warriors.
The Knicks have made it clear throughout the offseason that resigning Lin was a top priority for two reasons: his improved play and his highly profitable marketability in New York.
On Wednesday morning, the Knicks reached an agreement on an offer sheet for a one-year deal with James White, who spent the last three years playing overseas. White, who was drafted in the second round in 2006, will make the league minimum of $854,000.
The signing of White was the Knicks’ first indication they are prepared to start replacing their backcourt.
White, who is 6-foot-7, has played the past two seasons in the Italian Serie A league, the country’s highest professional level. He averaged 17 points, 5 rebounds and 3 assists a game last season for VL Pesaro.
This will be his third stint in the N.B.A.
White, 29, said he planned to be a valued role player for the Knicks.
“I’m not coming in to be a guy who doesn’t play,” he said. “I think I have the ability to contribute a lot and to make everyone around me better.”
Besides Lin and Fields, the Knicks are also still hoping to re-sign guards Steve Novak and J.R. Smith.
Novak was able to retain his early Bird rights last week, which allows the Knicks to re-sign him for up to $5.3 million. Smith declined his option with the team last month, but he hopes to return for close to $3 million next season.
The Nets are reworking the contract of the recently acquired Mirza Teletovic, in order to maintain cap flexibility and to keep alive their faint hopes of landing Dwight Howard. Teletovic agreed in principle Tuesday to sign for the $5 million midlevel exception. By rule, a team using the midlevel must abide by a hard cap of $74 million, which would virtually eliminate the Nets’ chance of acquiring Howard, and perhaps preclude them even from resigning Kris Humphries.
At the Nets’ request, Teletovic and his agent returned to the table on Wednesday and were moving toward a new agreement for the “mini-midlevel” of $3.09 million.