That will give teams a little more than two weeks before games begin, which means a full summer of off-season moves will be compressed into a couple of days.
Although the owners lobbied for a hard salary cap and a restriction on sign-and-trade deals, neither is in the new agreement. This is good news for the , because either would have hindered their main goal of acquiring a third star to assist Amar’e Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony. Currently, the Knicks have only a handful of salaries that run longer than the coming season, which means that if they practice fiscal restraint they will have the cap space next summer to sign another one of the league’s top players.
The Knicks have nine contracts on the books, and their first-round pick, Imam Shumpert, will almost certainly be signed, bringing that number to 10. The Knicks also for the seldom-used forward Derrick Brown, giving them the ability to match any team’s offer to him.
In addition, the Knicks have five unrestricted free agents: Anthony Carter, Jared Jeffries, Roger Mason, Shawne Williams and Shelden Williams. It seems certain one or more of them will be back.
Save for a half-season with Dikembe Mutombo, the Knicks have lacked a rebounding, defensive-minded center since the days of Marcus Camby, who was traded away in 2002. Given their financial restrictions, it is highly unlikely that the Knicks will now sign a top-tier center like Tyson Chandler, or even a second-level player like Joel Przybilla or Samuel Dalembert. Even if the Knicks sign a third-tier big man on a one-year contract, how much playing time would someone like Josh Powell, Etan Thomas or Leon Powe see under the offensively minded coach Mike D’Antoni?
Most likely, the Knicks will find depth at center from their free-agent veterans (Shawne and Shelden Williams) or one of their recent second-round picks (Jerome Jordan and Josh Harrellson). Harrellson was a robust rebounder at Kentucky, but many scouts doubt he has the physical ability to become even an average defender at this level. Jordan has seen his time increase for KK Krka in the Adriatic League and has shown some scoring ability, especially with his ability to draw fouls. But and his defensive ability inconsistent.
Shumpert, meanwhile, could give the Knicks another solid perimeter defender. A backcourt of Toney Douglas and Shumpert could make life difficult for opposing guards. But the team still lacks a viable defensive stopper at forward. Renaldo Balkman has been unable to garner serious court time wherever he has played, and New Yorkers have grown weary of , especially after his fumble cost the Knicks Game 2 of the playoffs last season against the Boston Celtics.
Actually, Balkman could fall victim to the bargaining agreement’s new amnesty clause, which allows each team to release one player without detriment to its cap space; he is one of the few Knicks whose contract runs past this summer and hence could be jettisoned to increase the amount of money the Knicks would have available next summer.
Ultimately, Knicks fans should not get their hopes up when scanning . To paraphrase Rick Pitino, Nene isn’t walking through that door. Nor will Tayshaun Prince or Chandler. The Knicks will most likely dig through the clearance bin for a player the caliber of Kwame Brown or Maurice Evans. But they are not going to risk their precious cap space when Dwight Howard, Chris Paul and Deron Williams are at least possibilities down the road.