David Lee Set To Cash In

Former Gator basketball player David Lee is about to become the richest former Gator of sll-time. The New York Knicks power forward will become a restricted free agent at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday morning putting him in position to sign the biggest contract any former Gator has ever inked in any sport.

If reports out of New York are to be believed, David Lee will receive an initial offer from the Knicks that will guarantee him between $40-50 million over the next six seasons. Lee is not expected to accept the offer right away and will likely test the market to see if someone is willing to give him even more. If he gets a superior offer, Lee will present that offer to his current team which will have three choices. The Knicks can match the contract and keep the versatile forward. They could let him leave or they could try to negotiate a "sign-and-trade" agreement with the team making him the offer. One thing for certain, they will not let Lee leave and get nothing in return.

Lee came into his own this past season, his fourth in the NBA. He led the league with 62 double-doubles and finished the season averaging 16 points and 11.7 rebounds a game. Only Orlando Magic man-child Dwight Howard (20.6/13.8) topped him in both statistical categories.

Lee has added value because he is a trouble-free "low maintenance" player who never has a conflict with management, never gets arrested and never fails to hustle. In the NBA -- the home of more Divas than the Metropolitan Opera House -- that's important. Add in the fact that Lee is just 26-years-old and you have the ultimate no-brainer. But is it?

The problem for Lee and the Knicks is that New York is in the second year of a three-year plan to get far enough under the salary cap to be able to offer maximum contracts to a pair of superstars in the 2010 free agent class. The class potential could include LeBron James, Dwayne Wade, Amare Stoudamire, Chris Bosh, Joe Johnson and Tracy McGrady. The team doesn't want to do anything to disrupt that plan and holding the line on Lee's contract is a key in that regard.

Whether or not it's with the Knicks remains to be seen, but one way or the other David Lee will cash in big-time this summer. It's too late to impact Nick Calathes, but it's a good message to others that four years of college basketball is not exactly a death sentence when it comes to a successful and lucrative professional career.


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