LAS VEGAS - The KnicksNew York Knicks have agreed in principle on a two-year contract to sign free-agent guard Anthony Roberson, with the deal likely to expediate the departure of Stephon MarburyStephon Marbury , The Post has learned.
Knicks president Donnie Walsh appeared to be waiting to add another backcourt player before he made a move with Marbury. And now he feels he has it in Roberson, a 6-2 combo guard who is playing for the Knicks summer-league team here and excelled in his debut, scoring 22 points, including three 3-pointers.
Roberson played for Memphis and Golden State before last season when he competed for teams in Jerusalem and Istanbul.
The signing will give the Knicks 16 players with guaranteed contracts - one over the limit. The Knicks also have considered waiving center Jerome JamesJerome James , who played five minutes last season and still has knee pain.
Walsh is still looking for point-guard help through a trade.
The Knicks insisted there is no truth to a summer-league rumor that Marbury would be released by week's end. Marbury, who still could be traded, said yesterday he hasn't been approached. In fact, interestingly, Marbury has not yet dined with coach Mike D'Antoni, who has consulted several other veterans on whether they view Marbury as a divisive force in the locker room.
While he's been complimentary of all his guards, D'Antoni has spoken very little about Marbury, 31, this week and his apparent doomed status is a signal the Knicks are in clear rebuilding mode with an eye on another lottery pick. They view Marbury as a potential divisive force despite his exceptional skill level.
Roberson, who played at Florida, said contract details were being finalized. A source said the first year of Roberson's salary will be at the minimum for players in their third season ($790,000). Still to be determined is whether the second year is at the team's option.
Roberson's agent is Chris Lucci, who also represented Wilson Chandler, Isiah Thomas' last draft pick who excelled in the summer-league opener Monday with 26 points.
D'Antoni raved about Roberson earlier this week but admitted being concerned Roberson would draw so much attention another team would invite him to training camp. So the Knicks decided to lock him up.
"He really can shoot," D'Antoni said Sunday.
"A lot of people compare him to Jennaro Pargo, Eddie House, Daniel Gibson," Lucci said. "He can come off the bench in that style play and put up buckets."
Roberson started at shooting guard alongside Mardy Collins Monday against Cleveland. Then he slid over to point guard when Collins was out of the game.
After signing point guard Chris Duhon last week, Walsh said he also was trying to add one more shooter to the roster. And Walsh may now feel his backcourt can survived without Marbury. However, one league executive said Duhon is a top-10 backup point guard and not a full-time starter.
D'Antoni feels Nate Robinson has perfect skills to excel in his running offense. "That guy [Robinson] is like a rocket out there," D'Antoni said. "If we can open the court up for him, it will make him that more dangerous."
Roberson played 15 games with Memphis in 2005-2006, and 20 games for the Warriors in 2006-2007.