By David Aldridge, TNT analyst
Posted Jul 5 2010 5:39PM - Updated Jul 5 2010 9:38PM
The New York Knicks finally got a return on their two years of self-induced misery on Monday, finishing up the final touches on a five-year contract for Phoenix Suns free agent forward Amar'e Stoudemire that is expected to be worth around $100 million. A source indicates a formal announcement from Stoudemire should be forthcoming within the hour at Madison Square Garden.
"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 reading "Welcome, Amare Stoudemire."
The deal can't be signed until Thursday, after the salary cap for next season has been set.
Stoudemire and the Knicks quickly found each other last week, each in need of a soft landing place. The 27-year-old Stoudemire was looking for a team that still believed he could be a dominant player in the next few years, despite concerns about his knees and his eyes following serious injuries to each. And the Knicks, who'd sold their fans for the last two years that they'd be a major player in free agency this summer, able to lure the likes of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, were desperate for a splashy acquisition that would give fans hope and add to their depleted roster.
Stoudemire chafed at constant trade rumors involving him the last two years, but after helping lead Phoenix to the Western Conference finals, he still negotiated with the Suns when the free agent negotiating period began last week. But after he and the Suns could not reach agreement on a new deal -- Phoenix was unwilling to give him five guaranteed years on a new contract, preferrring team options in the last two years of a deal -- the Suns quickly moved on, agreeing to terms with free agent forward Hakim Warrick on a four-year, $18 million deal and agreeing on a new contract with their own free agent forward, Channing Frye, for five years and $30 million.
Stoudemire spent the Fourth of July weekend in New York, ending up at a party in the Hamptons with his agent, Happy Walters, at the home of Knicks owner James Dolan on Sunday night. After the two sides commenced official negotiations Monday it did not take long for New York to make its offer and for Stoudemire to accept, with a final meeting Monday afternoon between Stoudemire and the team's ownership group, led by Dolan, making it official.
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.
What Stoudemire brings in terms of production (career averages of 21.4 points and 8.9 rebounds) isn't that much different than what New York got last season from David Lee, the 26-year-old free agent forward who finished second in the league in rebounds last season and averaged 20 and 11 in Mike D'Antoni's system last season. Neither is known for his defense, either. But Stoudemire brings a star power that the Knicks have lacked for almost a decade, since the end of the Patrick Ewing era. And he provides an anchor from which the team can try to lure other premier free agents.
Stoudemire has already started recruiting, saying he spoke to James' people and directly to Wade last week. And he said he won't be affected if those players say no to New York.
"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."
Stoudemire said over the weekend that he thought he could lure both Nuggets forward Carmelo Anthony and Spurs guard Tony Parker to New York, though both are currently under contract to their respective teams for another year. But a Spurs source said on Sunday that San Antonio has no interest in trading Parker to the Knicks in any kind of package involving Lee, the only significant chip the Knicks have left to use in a potential deal.
Yahoo! Sports first reported that the two sides had formally discussed an offer and that Stoudemire was meeting with Dolan on Monday.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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