LAS VEGAS -- The Knicks are interested in one of the best centers still available in free agency, Samuel Dalembert, according to a player source.
On Friday, the first day of the NBA summer league at UNLV's Cox Pavilion, Knicks GM Glen Grunwald and Dalembert's agent, Marc Cornstein, were spotted chatting. The Knicks currently have no real backup behind Tyson Chandler, as Marcus Camby, Kurt Thomas and Rasheed Wallace are all gone, and Kenyon Martin and Earl Barron are still free agents.
At this point, however, the Mavericks are the front runners to land Dalembert, who averaged 6.7 points, 5.9 rebounds and 1.1 blocks in 16 minutes per game last season for the Bucks. Sources indicated to ESPNDallas.com that the Mavs are optimistic they will reach an agreement with Dalembert soon.
Dallas can offer him a salary of a little more than $3 million next season without further cap tinkering. New York, on the other hand, can only sign Dalembert for about $1.7 million -- the remaining amount of their mini midlevel exception -- or the veteran's minimum. The 32-year-old center made $6.7 million in 2012-13. While he played in only 47 games, he was constantly shuffled in and out of the rotation, and he eventually made it no secret he wanted to leave Milwaukee.
The Knicks could lose out twice to the Mavericks -- also in the pursuit of big man Brandan Wright. That's because Wright will likely re-sign with the Mavs because they can exceed the cap to sign him using the Early Bird exception. Even though the Knicks are a competitive team that plays in the No. 1 media market in the league, they are cash-strapped. And this hasn't been the offseason for financial sacrifices due to the new CBA, which has resulted in thinning roster spots and fewer opportunities to make more money.
Even beyond obtaining a backup for Chandler, the Knicks need bigs who specialize in rebounding, interior defense and doing the dirty work down low. Martin could return to the Knicks -- they are the leading team to secure his services, according to a player source. Here are other big-man candidates who could come cheap: Lou Amundson, Jason Collins, Gani Lawal, Lamar Odom, Shavlik Randolph, Henry Sims, Tyrus Thomas, Anthony Tolliver and Chris Wilcox.
While in Las Vegas, the Knicks will be closely monitoring bigs Jerome Jordan, Liam McMorrow and Jeremy Tyler, who finished with 10 points and 11 rebounds in the team's summer league debut Friday. Tyler has the most NBA experience out of the three, playing in 63 games since 2011 for the Warriors and Hawks.
The Knicks have five roster spots to fill, and they could use them to book two point guards, two big men and a small forward. Point guards on the Knicks' radar include Aaron Brooks, Daniel Gibson, Charles Jenkins, John Lucas III, A.J. Price, Nate Robinson, Nolan Smith and Sebastian Telfair. Toure Murry, who's in Vegas and scored 11 points on Friday, will get a serious look, too.
Small forwards being evaluated include Raja Bell, Josh Childress, Dahntay Jones, Metta World Peace, Mickael Pietrus and Shawne Williams. World Peace, who was waived via the amnesty provision by the Lakers on Thursday and has stated that the NBA is not an option for him next season, could clear waivers at 5 p.m. on Sunday. Former Knick Al Harrington, who might not return to the Magic according to the Orlando Sentinel, could also draw some interest.
While the Knicks signed summer league player C.J. Leslie to a partially guaranteed contract -- it would become fully guaranteed on Jan. 7 -- they're still interested in securing a veteran small forward who could possibly start alongside Carmelo Anthony, according to a source. That's because coach Mike Woodson favors using Anthony again at the 4 next season.
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