Chris Paul dropped by the Orlando bubble virtually Sunday to watch Game 3 of the NBA Finals and was guest of ABC.
Jeff Van Gundy surprised Paul with a question on his feelings about being in the twilight of his career in a rebuilding situation in Oklahoma City, which parted ways with coach Billy Donovan.
Paul paused, then responded: “I just love to hoop. You call it my twilight years. I call it a blessing.’’
Some NBA sources believe Paul would feel blessed to be on a winning club such as the Bucks. But perhaps Paul, too, would desire to play in the world’s biggest media market and reunite with Leon Rose, his former agent.
“He’s 35 — he wants to win,’’ one NBA executive said.
While Rose, the Knicks rookie president, has Paul on his trade radar, putting together a package for younger Pacers’ guard Victor Oladipo is expected to be a higher priority, according to NBA officials.
Reports have surfaced — and have since been denied — that Oladipo prefers a change of scenery.
What’s paramount in the Knicks’ potential interest is GM Scott Perry drafted Oladipo while with Orlando and still is enamored. Once Perry falls in love, it’s permanent. Just ask former Orlando lottery picks, Mario Hezonja and Elfrid Payton, two recent Knicks free-agent signees.
Rose has said the Knicks’ path to returning as a winner may entail salary-cap space used in a blockbuster trade rather than free agency.
For instance, the Knicks have cap room to make a deal for a high-salaried player without giving back the same cluster of wages. The Knicks believe they have a trove of future assets — including seven first-rounders in the next four drafts.
Here are five potential trade targets. While Donovan Mitchell appears off the board with a reported intention of signing a Utah contract extension, Paul George may emerge after the clumsy ending to the Clippers’ season.
The Knicks are realistic, of course, with no guarantees all these players will actually become very available.
One NBA personnel man said Dallas’ two first-round picks (2021, 2023), Julius Randle and Dennis Smith Jr. or Frank Ntilikina could whet the Pacers’ appetite. The 28-year-old Oladipo made the All-Star teams in 2018 and 2019, but could have lost explosiveness after tearing a tendon in his knee late in the 2018-19 season. Oladipo didn’t look sharp upon his return.
After the Pacers got bounced in the first round in the bubble, reports surfaced that Oladipo wanted a new challenge as he enters the final year of his $85 million pact. Oladipio, 28, denied that this week in an Instagram chat: “I’m a Pacer, dawg. I’m a Pacer. I can’t control the rumors, man. All of the ones on the internet, I don’t even know where they come from. I’m just in the background, working on my knee, trying to get right for next year.”
The obvious concerns about netting Paul is not just age. Even if Randle and Smith go in a package, the Knicks would still be bottled up cap-wise in the summer of 2021 with Paul’s $44.2 million wage. Oklahoma City fired Donovan to get on with a rebuild and should be highly motivated to deal Paul. Randle has to be in any deal with Smith just to get salaries close enough to work, but nobody believes they’d have to also give more than one future first-round pick (Dallas’ 2021), even if Paul was second team All-NBA. Perhaps Paul ignites a Knicks’ rebuild and makes them playoff contenders for 2020-21, but there’s less sustainability than with Oladipo. Rose can’t let emotions get in the way. Paul is Rose’s favorite former client.
Another former Rose CAA client would bring a sharp talent infusion to New York and he can make a scary tandem with shot-blocking defensive center Mitchell Robinson. Embiid’s range for a 7-footer is nice — out to the 3-point line (33.1 percent). The Sixers need more change than just new coach Doc Rivers. Embiid didn’t mesh well with Ben Simmons and is a quirky personality that perhaps only Rose could manage. Embiid, who will enter the third year of a five-year, $147.7 million package, making $29.5 million in 2020-21, considers Rose family. If the Sixers embark on “Trust The Process II,” the Knicks have two 2021 first-rounders to deal for the 26-year-old.
After the Clippers blew that 3-1 lead to Denver, George reportedly annoyed teammates with a postgame sermon that hit the wrong chords, especially after his own disappointing output. Owner Steve Ballmer reportedly was so incensed, he threatened to trade everybody and fire all the coaches. Rivers was the first casualty. The Knicks desperately need a starting small forward since Marcus Morris was dealt to the Clippers. Because of his low-energy defense, Kevin Knox may only become at best a sixth-man scorer. This might be the deal in which the Knicks have to put either RJ Barrett or Mitchell Robinson on the table as George, 30, is in his two-way prime. He’s in the third year of a four-year, $136.9 million pact, making $35.4 million this season. The final year is a player option so George can become a free agent after next season.
If the Knicks hired Jason Kidd, a Towns move would have more traction. Tom Thibodeau and Towns didn’t get along in Minnesota. One source believes it was more Towns’ distaste for Jimmy Butler than it was the head coach. Of course, Thibodeau sided with Butler on all fronts. The Knicks have hired Kenny Payne, the former Kentucky assistant whom Towns adores. Towns’ former agent is Rose. There’s always been rumblings the Piscataway, N.J., product would one day ask out of Minnesota and want to play closer to home. Towns is in just the second year of a five-year, $158 million contract.
The Wolves have the No. 1 pick, but the Knicks would need to stockpile Minnesota with more draft picks and likely Randle. Minnesota also inquired before about Smith.
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