The Cleveland Cavaliers hope they took another step toward keeping LeBron James. The New York Knicks are in better position for a run at him — and a second superstar, too.
And they aren't the only team lining up for a chance to become a summer spender.
The Knicks acquired former scoring champion Tracy McGrady on Thursday in a three-team swap with the Houston Rockets and the Sacramento Kings. The deal left them on the verge of being able to offer two maximum salary contracts to the 2010 free agent class that could be headlined by James.
Amare Stoudemire could be in the market for one if he decides to leave Phoenix — where he'll again finish the season after spending the weeks before the deadline atop the trade rumor mill.
"I've maintained that unless there was something out there that improved our team and put us in a lot better position moving forward, then we weren't going to do anything. And that was the case," Suns general manager Steve Kerr said.
Chicago, Washington and Sacramento all cleared enough salary in moves before the 1 p.m. MT deadline to be able to afford a max player, and the Los Angeles Clippers got close.
The Knicks can afford James and perhaps someone else in the class that could include Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.
By including Jared Jeffries in the deal for McGrady, whose $22.5 million contract expires after this season, the Knicks removed $6.9 million from next season's payroll and left them with about $32 million in salary cap space. Those top free agents would each earn a little more than $16.5 million in the first season of a max deal.
In the meantime, the Knicks hope McGrady can lead them into the playoff race. He's only played six games this season after returning from knee surgery, but is convinced he has plenty left.
To get him, the Knicks sent Jeffries and rookie Jordan Hill to Houston along with a protected first-round pick in 2012, and gave the Rockets the right to exchange first-round picks in 2011. The Rockets will get high-scoring guard Kevin Martin and forward Hilton Armstrong from Sacramento, while the Kings received Larry Hughes from the Knicks, Carl Landry and Joey Dorsey from Houston and sent guard Sergio Rodriguez to New York.
The Knicks also dealt Nate Robinson to Boston along with Marcus Landry for Eddie House, J.R. Giddens, Bill Walker and a future conditional second-round pick.
The Bulls were busy, trading power forward Tyrus Thomas to Charlotte for a future, protected first-round pick and the expiring contracts of guards Flip Murray and Acie Law.
Chicago also dealt guard John Salmons to Milwaukee for Hakim Warrick and Joe Alexander, whose contracts also are expiring.
The Bobcats made another minor trade, acquiring veteran big man Theo Ratliff from San Antonio for a second-round pick.