The New York Knicks were set to hold a news conference Saturday to announce the arrival of free-agent center Tyson Chandler, the New York Post reported.
The planned unveiling came after sources confirmed the team was in the final stages of sending Ronny Turiaf’s $4.2 million contract to Washington.
The Turiaf deal was expected to be completed late Friday night, giving the Knicks enough room to move under the salary cap after waiving Chauncey Billups via the amnesty clause.
The Turiaf trade was the holdup to the Chandler deal becoming official.
The 7-foot-1 former Maverick confirmed Friday he would be leaving Dallas to join up with Amar’e Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony in Manhattan. He is expected to sign a contract worth $58 million over four seasons.
Teams can add a total of $3 million in trades over a full year under the new collective bargaining agreement. Turiaf played in France during part of the lockout but was injury-prone last season and has chronic knee trouble.
With the re-signing of Jared Jeffries and rookie Josh Harrellson in camp, the Knicks did not feel they needed Turiaf as a backup center to Chandler.
”You didn’t think we were going to do this though, did you?” coach Mike D’Antoni said Friday.
Though the team remains a work in progress, Chandler is what the Knicks need most.
”We got what everybody wanted New York to get, which was a big man,” forward Carmelo Anthony said. ”Tyson, he’s established himself as a dominant force on the defensive end, he showed that on the biggest stage in sports last year in the championship.”
Anthony was disappointed for Billups, his former teammate in Denver. He said they had only a few days ago talked about their expectations in New York, with Billups discussing setting up his apartment in New York.
Instead, the Knicks said they are confident with Toney Douglas running the point if necessary, or D’Antoni said Anthony could generate more of the offense.
Though Chandler provided the Mavericks the defensive presence they long lacked, they didn’t want to spend too much to keep him and take away their flexibility in the future.
The Knicks were eager to swoop in instead.
”It brings everything that we didn’t have and it will shore up our defense, our rebounding, he’s a great teammate, the intangibles are off the charts,” D’Antoni said.
While waiting for those moves to be completed, the Knicks had only seven players available for their first practice. They can’t even sign first-round pick Iman Shumpert or re-sign Jared Jeffries until the other deals are complete.
Turiaf, who likely would have been the expected starter for opening night before the trade, is due to make about $4.4 million this season.
But Chandler is a clear upgrade, averaging 10.1 points, 9.4 rebounds and 1.1 blocked shots last season. Stoudemire was so eager to add someone who keeps him from having to play center that he apparently forgot he once played with Shaquille O’Neal, saying ”it’s going to be phenomenal. I have never played with a natural center before in my career.”
Stoudemire bulked up during the offseason and now weighs 260 pounds. He said he even grew to 6-foot-11, a result of better posture after workouts to improve a bad back that hampered him during a playoff loss to the Boston Celtics. But he’s long preferred to stay away from having to defend centers, even though D’Antoni’s offense has often performed at its best when he plays there.
That won’t be necessary now with Chandler, whom D’Antoni has noted has improved on the offensive end.
Chandler was in the market for a long-term deal after last season, which seemed to rule out the Knicks. They were expected to give out only one-year contracts so they would have enough money for a run at Chris Paul or Dwight Howard next summer once Billups’ contract came off the books.
Instead, they decided to upgrade now – great news to D’Antoni, in the final year of his contract.
”There’d be no reason to bypass this to chase a dream,” he said. ”This is a dream.”