Walsh, D’Antoni biding time ‘til shot at LeBron


Knicks team president Donnie Walsh isn’t trying to trick the savvy New York basketball fan into thinking he has built a playoff team. When last season’s 32-50 campaign ended, Walsh admitted to being impressed coach Mike D’Antoni squeezed that many victories out of a flawed roster.With no significant summer upgrades, Walsh can’t change his tune and proclaim the Knicks much improved. Walsh only can confidently claim the Knicks lead the NBA in cap space for 2010.

According to Walsh, if the six Knicks with expiring contracts are renounced, the club will be roughly $26 million under the salary cap, based on the latest league estimates. That is enough to sign a maximum free agent starting at $17 million in addition to another solid player with the rest — David Lee in that mix.

D’Antoni’s rep as a fun guy and offensive genius is the strongest magnet. The hope is the remaining cast — veteran Jared Jeffries and prospects Danilo Gallinari, Wilson Chandler, Jordan Hill and Toney Douglas — are also a pull in luring an All-Star free agent. The short list includes longshots LeBron James and Dwyane Wade and more attainable studs, Amare Stoudemire, Chris Bosh and Joe Johnson.

That’s where this 82-game schedule that begins Wednesday in Miami gets in the way. If the Knicks stink badly, if Gallinari does not show great promise, why come?

“I understand that argument,” Walsh told The Post. “The truth is, I have no way of knowing how people will think when we get to next summer. But I want to be a good team. We want to be competing for the playoffs. We’ll see if we’re good enough to do that as the year goes on.”


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