The Cavaliers hope they took another step toward keeping LeBron James. The Knicks are in better position for a run at him — and a second superstar, too.
The Knicks acquired former scoring champion Tracy McGrady on Thursday in a three-team swap with the Rockets and 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.
Forward Amare Stoudemire could be in the market for one if he decides to leave Phoenix — where he will finish the season after spending the weeks before Thursday's 3 p.m. deadline atop the trade rumor mill. He has until June 30 to decide if he will opt out of the final year of his contract worth $17.7 million next season.
Chicago, Washington and Sacramento all cleared enough salary to be able to afford a max player, and the Clippers got close.
The Cavaliers gave James more reason to stay home. They acquired forward Antawn Jamison on Wednesday.
"We're trying to build a franchise that all players want to be a part of, that can have sustainable success and do things at a high level," general manager Danny Ferry said.
"I'm okay with the trade," James said of the deal that saw Zydrunas Ilgauskas moved to the Wizards. "I'm not okay with losing Z, but I'm okay with the guy coming in."
The Knicks can afford James and perhaps someone else in the 2010 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 cap space. Those top free agents would each earn a little more than $16.5 million in the first year of a max deal.
"Let's put it this way: I think this gives us flexibility," Knicks president Donnie Walsh said. "A lot of flexibility in a lot of different directions."
In the meantime, the Knicks hope McGrady can lead them into the playoff race. He has only played six games this season after returning from knee surgery.
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 guard Nate Robinson to Boston along with Marcus Landry for Eddie House, J.R. Giddens, Bill Walker and a future conditional second-round pick.
Game highlights: Carmelo Anthony scored 40 and the Nuggets overcame LeBron James' triple double and ended the host Cavaliers' 13-game winning streak with a 118-116 victory in overtime. James finished with 43 points, 13 rebounds and 15 assists, but Anthony hit a deep jumper over James with 1.9 seconds left.
Nuggets 118, Cavs 116, OT
DENVER (118): Anthony 13-28 13-16 40, Martin 8-18 2-2 18, Nene 4-10 0-0 8, Billups 7-20 2-2 18, Afflalo 5-6 0-0 11, Andersen 2-4 3-4 7, Smith 6-12 1-2 14, Lawson 1-2 0-0 2, Allen 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 46-100 21-26 118.
CLEVELAND (116): James 15-33 12-17 43, Hickson 5-7 4-5 14, O'Neal 9-15 0-6 18, Gibson 3-4 1-3 8, Parker 4-8 3-5 13, Varejao 3-6 0-0 6, J.Williams 1-3 0-0 3, M.Williams 2-5 2-2 8, West 1-5 1-2 3. Totals 43-86 23-40 116.
Denver 31 21 23 31 12— 118
Cleveland 21 23 35 27 10— 116
3-Point Goals—Denver 5-16 (Billups 2-7, Afflalo 1-2, Smith 1-3, Anthony 1-4), Clev. 7-23 (M.Williams 2-3, Parker 2-5, J.Williams 1-2, Gibson 1-2, James 1-9, Varejao 0-1, West 0-1). Fouled Out—Nene. Rebounds—Denver 56 (Martin 17), Clev. 63 (James 13). Assists—Denver 25 (Billups 8), Clev. 26 (James 15). Total Fouls—Denver 26, Clev. 21. Technicals—Cleveland three seconds. A—20,562.