By MARC BERMAN
Last Updated: 12:37 PM, July 1, 2012
Steve Nash would be wonderful. Raymond Felton would be realistic.
Because the Knicks probably can’t pay Nash to revive former Suns running mate Amar’e Stoudemire, general manager Glen Grunwald will reconnect Sunday with another point guard in Felton who has flourished with the maligned power forward.
Though Nash said Wednesday at his soccer tournament he would visit the Knicks if invited today, the first day of free agency, because of their proximity, his chances of wearing the orange and blue still are remote.
A source said the Knicks contacted Nash, who lives in the West Village, soon after free agency opened this morning at 12:01 a.m. to set up a meeting. Nash said he hoped to host a few teams in New York Sunday and Monday. A Raptors contingent reportedly was flying into the Big Apple this morning.Nash has never been to the Knicks’ Tarrytown facility and probably would like to test the commute.
As one of the top two or three free agents available, however, Nash has told multiple sources the Knicks are on the outside looking in because they only have the $3.09 million taxpayer mid-level exception to wield. Nash made clear this week money is a major factor, and playing for a contender for less money is “tempting’’ but could backfire if the chemistry does not work out and it leads to him getting traded. Having Jeremy Lin on the roster also could create issues.
Nash is the best candidate to lift Stoudemire out of last season’s funk, but Felton also is on their radar and is more attainable.
Felton made sweet music with Stoudemire on the pick-and-roll in Mike D’Antoni’s Knicks offense in the first half of the 2010-11 season.
Felton loved D’Antoni’s offense, and new coach Mike Woodson has tried to keep some of D’Antoni’s principles.
After a down season with Portland, Felton’s market value has fallen, possibly into the Knicks’ range. Former Knicks president Donnie Walsh never wanted to trade Felton, but was under great pressure from owner James Dolan to make the Carmelo Anthony deal happen late last February.
After Felton was traded, Stoudemire was never the same. Felton, who signed a two-year, $11.8 million deal with the Knicks in the summer of 2010, passing on a longer-term package elsewhere, was bitter about being traded and replaced by Chauncey Billups. It’s unclear if he still holds a grudge.
Felton shot just 40.7 percent last season with the Blazers, including a sickly 30.5 from the 3-point line, amid whispers he was out of shape. He appeared disenchanted, too, and almost never spoke to writers after practices.
“I’m not the only one in NBA history or the NBA this year that had a bad season,’’ Felton said after the season.
The Trail Blazers moved forward, drafting acclaimed Weber State point guard Damian Lillard with the No. 6 pick Thursday.
Felton is not highest on the Knicks’ wish list, but possibly the most doable. Jason Kidd has been linked with Deron Williams in a package deal with the Nets or Mavericks. Andre Miller, who had a solid season as the Nuggets’ backup, is looking for a bigger payday than the Knicks’ $3 million mid-level.
On the shooting-guard front, Ray Allen has interest in the Knicks, but the Heat may steal him. The defending champs also are offering the $3.09 million midlevel. Jason Terry of Dallas could fit the budget, but O.J. Mayo and Jamal Crawford should be out of range as will as Orlando point guard Jameer Nelson.
After the Knicks and the union routed commissioner David Stern in the Lin/Steve Novak arbitration case, Stern gets the last laugh today with his restrictions on middle-class spending in the new CBA. Grunwald said he projects having only the $3 million mini-midlevel and not the full $5 million exception because the Knicks are expected to be over the luxury-tax threshold.
That’s why their chances of signing Nash seem dim. With Dallas, Toronto and Phoenix in pursuit, Nash could get an offer exceeding $10 million per season.
Grunwald said after Thursday’s draft he needs to beef up the backcourt and add a either a veteran point guard to share minutes with Lin or a shooting guard to compensate for the loss of Iman Shumpert, who is expected to return from knee surgery in January.
Grunwald plans to re-sign Lin, Novak, J.R. Smith and Landry Fields. But The Post reported yesterday Grunwald won’t offer Lin the maximum, early-Bird-rights contract of $24 million over four years, waiting to see if another team gives him an offer sheet first.
Mark Bartelstein, Steve Novak’s agent, was excited Stern dropped his union appeal, allowing Novak to re-sign with the Knicks under the Bird-rights provision. The Knicks had no other means under the salary cap to re-sign Novak, who led the NBA in 3-point percentage (47.2). However, Bartelstein said it’s not a done deal with the Knicks. Milwaukee, Novak’s hometown team, and Brooklyn could be among teams interested.
“This brings more options for Steve, and it helps him and helps the Knicks,’’ Bartelstein said. “He had the time of his life last year, and the Knicks and fans were great to him.’’