<
>

Hawks still not out of the picture

Free-agent center Erick Dampier will fly to New York tomorrow to meet with the Knicks in hopes of finalizing a sign-and-trade deal with the Warriors or, barring Golden State's cooperation, agreeing to a one-year contract for the mid-level exception of $4.9 million.

The Atlanta Hawks, the only other legitimate suitors for Dampier, have the salary-cap room to offer considerably more than that, but have yet to do so.

Dampier's agent, Dan Fegan, said the Hawks have become more attractive to his client with the acquisition of Al Harrington from the Pacers and a pending deal with Dallas that would bring in power forward Antoine Walker. However, Fegan added, the only team Dampier would consider signing with for the mid-level exception is the Knicks because of team president Isiah Thomas' diligent pursuit of Dampier since free agency began July 1.

Dampier opted out of the final two years of a seven-year, $48 million deal with the Warriors that would have paid him $8.1 million this season and $8.7 million in 2005-06. The Warriors, according to sources, have refused to participate in sign-and-trade deals for Dampier with teams in the Western Conference, which pre-empted offers from both the Los Angeles Lakers and Memphis Grizzlies.