We’re about 96 hours away from the start of the craziest NBA free agency period in recent memory and while the machinations of the LeBron James camp will continue to dominate most headlines, it appears the New York Knicks are already gearing themselves up for the consolation prizes.  ESPN’s Marc Broussard reports Donnie Walsh and Mike D’Antoni will meet with Joe Johnson in Los Angeles Thursday morning, prior to a discussion with James later that afternoon.  More damning, Broussard characterizes Johnson’s interest in New York as something slightly different than a burning desire to lift the Larry O’Brien Trophy.

While the Hawks hope to keep Johnson in Atlanta, several sources said the Knicks have emerged as his first choice. If they must lose him, the Hawks’ preference is to work out a sign-and-trade deal with the Knicks.

But if no players on the Knicks’ roster appeal to Atlanta, Johnson, believing he will make up the difference through endorsements and through buying stock shares in Madison Square Garden, is willing to take less money to play with the Knicks, according to sources.

Whatever the case, the Knicks could offer Johnson a maximum-salary contract worth approximately $96 million over five years, or a deal worth $125 million over six years through a sign-and-trade.

Anyone who witnessed Johnson’s performance during Atlanta’s first round loss to Milwaukee who believes this is a wise investment on Walsh’s part, raise your hand.  Rick Sund, your vote doesn’t count.