The New York Knicks knocked down the first major domino in the NBA’s free agency period by coming to terms with former Phoenix Suns forward Amar’e Stoudemire, inking the five-time NBA All-Star to a five-year, $99.7 million deal July 5.

Stoudemire represents the first name of a popular free agent group to sign a deal this offseason, and hopes to pave the way for the Knicks to possibly add another.

“I feel great, really, about being a pioneer,” Stoudemire told reporters at his introductory press conference. “It’s a situation where no one wanted to make that first move and I felt confident enough to take that first step, and hopefully now we can bring in a few guys to join us.”

Stoudemire admitted he has spoken to LeBron James and is actively recruiting him to join him in New York. “I’m definitely going to reach out to him again and see if we can get him to come. I really have no reading on which way he is leaning at all. But, again, he’s totally open right now; he hasn’t made a decision yet, and hopefully I can get him to choose us.”

The Knicks have spent the last two seasons clearing cap room to lure big time free agents to the Big Apple with the appeal of a major market and millions of dollars. Several sportsniks have speculated that James would head to New York under the enticement of the media spotlight that the city would bring. Although James has been heavily linked to the Knicks, his leaving the Cleveland Cavaliers would depend mightily on a strong supporting cast, which the Knicks have now upgraded with Stoudemire’s signing.

Despite a rash of injuries over the past few years, Stoudemire has averaged more than 20 points per game in four straight seasons. He will be rejoining head coach Mike D’Antoni, whom he played for from 2003 to 2008 before D’Antoni left to become the Knicks head coach.

D’Antoni made a pitch himself to help land another marquee free agent by telling reporters, “If somebody wants a real good basketball player to play with and win a title … this could help get the dominoes falling.”

Free agent deals cannot be made official until July 8.


Stephen D. Riley

Special to the AFRO