The Milwaukee Bucks have "strong" interest in the New York Knicks' J.R. Smith and also want to make an offer to his teammate Chris Copeland, two league sources confirmed to ESPN.com.
The Bucks will be entering free agency with their starting backcourt, Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis, testing free agency. But they also have leverage because they are under the cap, unlike the Knicks, and they can outbid for the services of Smith and Copeland.
The most Smith can make in New York is $5.58 million with early Bird rights. He declined his player option of $2.9 million earlier this month, making him an unrestricted free agent. For Copeland, who is now a restricted free agent because the Knicks extended an qualifying offer to him on Tuesday, the highest amount he could receive is $3.18 million -- the Knicks' mini mid-level exception.
According to one league source, several other suitors will make pitches for Smith and Copeland. Smith has received early interest from the Detroit Pistons and Phoenix Suns, and Copeland's list includes the Dallas Mavericks, Indiana Pacers, Los Angeles Lakers, New Orleans Pelicans, Oklahoma City Thunder, Toronto Raptors, Utah Jazz and Washington Wizards.
Both Smith and Copeland have expressed a burning desire to stay in New York. After the season, Smith said, "I want to retire a Knick. I don't want to go anywhere else." And Copeland said, "I can't think of anywhere else I'd rather be."