Amid their search for a young big man who could provide interior scoring, rebounding and defense, the Knicks are having discussions with free agent Ivan Johnson, a player source told ESPNNewYork.com.
The 29-year-old Johnson, who became an NBA player in 2011 and has played for the Hawks, was initially campaigning for a mini mid-level contract. But with remaining attractive free agents like DeJuan Blair and Antawn Jamison in the veteran's minimum financial ballpark -- Blair signed with the Mavericks for that amount -- the free-agent market is quickly changing.
"I think the mini mid-level will be tough to get at this time," the source said.
So it's likely that the 6-8, 255-pound Johnson will be financially accessible to the Knicks. The question is: could it mutually work out?
The source said, "I think it would be a great fit for Ivan to get big minutes [in New York] and further prove he can play in this league."
Johnson is known for his high motor, finishing ability and being a tenacious defender, who has good hands and timing to deflect balls and grab rebounds. Sometimes, however, he can be a little out of control. In 2012, the Hawks fined him for "conduct detrimental to the team" and later for making an obscene gesture.
Johnson could bring versatility to the Knicks' frontcourt. Carmelo Anthony is still mostly an outside facilitator even when he's at the 4 position; Amar'e Stoudemire will play limited minutes because of his surgically-repaired knees; Tyson Chandler missed 16 games last season and is now one year older and needs more support; Andrea Bargnani only played 66 games in his past two injury-riddled seasons; and Kenyon Martin has had serious injury issues in the past and he's turning 36 this December.
Johnson can play forward and center, which would fill a need for the Knicks.
"That would be a nice get for the Knicks," another source said. "I like him."
Another big man the Knicks had "strong interest" in, according to a player source, was Kris Humphries -- if the Celtics carried out their potential plan to buy him out. Humphries was also interested in playing for the veteran's minimum in New York. But a source familiar with Humphries said a buyout is unlikely at this point, as the Celtics, who acquired Humphries in the Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Jason Terry trade this summer, envision a key role for him next season.
Other bigs on the Knicks' radar include (via sources): Cole Aldrich, Hamed Haddadi, Jerome Jordan, Gani Lawal, Shavlik Randolph, who was waived by the Celtics on Thursday, and Henry Sims. Jeremy Tyler, who played on the Knicks' summer league team, has received a training camp invite.
JANNERO PARGO IN THE PICTURE: According to a player source, the Knicks are now in conversations with Pargo, a veteran point guard who played for the Wizards, Hawks and Bobcats last season.
Pargo, 33, is known for his transition playmaking and spot-up shooting, but he's not great at getting in the lane and creating his own shot. However, he works well off of pick-and-rolls, and his court vision and quick reaction time enable him to see passing lanes through traps.
The Knicks also remain interested in point guards Beno Udrih and Bobby Brown, according to a source familiar with the Knicks' thinking. The Knicks have until Aug. 15 to decide on an offer for Brown, who has an opt-clause on that date in his upcoming contract with Chinese basketball club Dongguan. Regarding Delonte West, he's unlikely to be considered, according to a player source.
The Knicks will also invite Toure Murry and "a few young developmental point guards to training camp," according to a source.
Looking ahead, the Knicks have three roster spots remaining, so even if they sign a free agent soon training camp invites, such as Murry and Tyler, could still receive guaranteed contracts at the minimum.
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