Knicks’ Plans Unclear for Free-Agent Season

Knicks officials made the requisite calls Wednesday, contacting the agents for Caron Butler, Grant Hill, Kwame Brown, Shannon Brown, Shawne Williams and Jared Jeffries, among others. But their efforts may be hampered by the franchise’s fixation on Chris Paul and the free-agent class of 2012.

According to agents who spoke with the Knicks, the team is determined to sign players to one-year deals to maintain salary-cap flexibility next summer, when Paul, Deron Williams and may become free agents.

It was not clear whether the Knicks might veer from that posture to acquire a top-tier free agent, like Butler.

The Knicks prefer to trade for Paul, the New Orleans Hornets’ star guard, but they do not have the assets to complete a deal. They also might not have the salary-cap room to sign him next summer. If the cap remains flat, as expected, the Knicks could have as little as $13 million available. Paul will be eligible for a deal starting at $17.4 million.

If the Knicks are determined to make room for Paul, they may have to dump Toney Douglas and Iman Shumpert next July. They would also have to avoid signing anyone to more than a one-year contract, knocking them out of the running for the top free agents.

The cap-hoarding approach mirrors the Knicks’ stance in 2008 and 2009, when they were saving room for the class of 2010. That strategy netted them Amar’e Stoudemire, Raymond Felton and, indirectly, Carmelo Anthony.

This is the Knicks’ first free-agent period under the leadership of , and the first since Donnie Walsh stepped down as the team president. Grunwald was given the title of interim general manager in June, but he is expected to be the Knicks’ top basketball official for the entire 2011-12 season. The Knicks never conducted a search for a new team president and seem content to let Grunwald run the show for now.

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