By Ian Thomsen
July 01, 2010

Following the Nets' meeting early Thursday, the Knicks' contingent got their crack at LeBron James in Cleveland to offer at least two options to the two-time MVP.

One was a five-year max contract worth an estimated $95 million, leaving them with space to offer another max deal to either Joe Johnson, Amar'e Stoudemire or Chris Bosh.

The other option -- as reported Tuesday by -- was to offer James a five-year deal, with a starting base salary of $11.5 million, which would leave room for Johnson and Stoudemire to join James in New York at similar salaries. The Knicks essentially would be counting on James to help recruit them as teammates by convincing them to accept at least $5 million less per year than they could earn elsewhere on the promise of ultimately receiving more income from off-court deals that would be available to them in New York.

If James turns down their offer, then the Knicks will attempt to sign two max players this summer in hope of attracting Carmelo Anthony or another free agent to fill James' role in 2011, when Eddy Curry's contract with New York expires and Anthony becomes a free agent.

The offer of bringing three stars to New York is a longshot, because it is very rare for free agents in any major sport to accept less money than they can earn on the open market. But the Knicks view James as one star who can afford to accept a lesser NBA salary because of his lucrative income from Nike and other product endorsers. He would be able to tell fans in Cleveland that he wasn't departing for money but for the most promising basketball opportunity, which could help reduce the damage to his own reputation should he move away from his hometown.

More than anything the Knicks hope the alluring possibility of winning championships in New York will intrigue James. Would Shaquille O'Neal have become so popular if he'd won his first three championships in Orlando as opposed to the Hollywood landscape of Los Angeles? If so, then how much more successful would James be if he were to win in New York?

The Knicks were offering him an unprecedented opportunity to achieve his dreams of winning NBA championships and becoming the world's most popular and powerful athlete from the stage of New York.

It goes without saying that the offer would appear to depend on James' ability to recruit another two stars to join him in New York, because anything less may not be enough to boost the Knicks to championship contention.

A crucial component to the Knicks' plans was the availability of Johnson. Two Knicks sources described their meeting with Johnson in Los Angeles as "very promising."

Johnson's team of the last five seasons, the Atlanta Hawks, remained in Los Angeles with plans to hold a second meeting with their All-Star guard. They have already offered Johnson a max deal worth $125 million over six years. If Johnson doesn't accept the offer soon, said a league source with knowledge of Atlanta's plans, the Hawks may be forced to withdraw the offer and pursue other players in the likelihood that Johnson is likely to sign with another team.

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