If Russell Westbrook is on the discount rack, Knicks president Leon Rose is all in, according to NBA sources.
With Chris Paul’s trade situation up in the air, Rose still has some interest in seeing if he can pry Westbrook from Houston, if he’s on sale, but it would seem like a long shot.
Reports state the explosive point guard wants out. The Knicks feel they have a lot of leverage and aren’t trying to give up any key future pawns, according to sources. Their potential interest could stem from using it as a scare tactic with OKC in any Paul talks.
With plenty of gas left in the tank, Westbrook is coming off a 2019-20 season in which he averaged 27.2 points, 7.0 assists and 7.9 rebounds for the Rockets.
The Knicks have cap space to inherit the three years and $130 million left Westbrook’s contract. It would be more palatable cap-wise if a deal includes Julius Randle and Dennis Smith Jr., plus sweetened by one of Dallas’ two future first-rounders.
It does not appear the Rockets, if they trade him, are going to get a monster package for Westbrook, who turned 32 Thursday. The Clippers and Hornets reportedly have some interest, too.
Fair or not, Westbrook comes with baggage beyond his contract, as far as not being a consummate leader for a star-level player.
By contrast, Paul is older but wiser and considered one of the top leaders in the NBA. CP3 claimed Thursday night he’ll be OK staying in Oklahoma City and playing for their just-promoted new coach, Mark Daigneault.
Appearing on “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon,” Paul was shown a photoshopped picture of him in a blue Knicks No. 3 jersey.
Paul only could laugh when Fallon said he can be the co-host if he becomes a Knick.
“Jimmy, I don’t know,’’ Paul said. “You know probably more than I do.”
Regarding the Suns/Knicks reports about trading for him, the 35-year-old Paul said, “Man, I’m going into Year 16. I’ve heard every rumor you can possibly hear. You learn to control what you can control. I’m training, getting ready for the season. If something happens, it will. I love being in Oklahoma with our team. We got a new coach yesterday. The league is constantly changing.”
OKC reportedly has a very high asking price for Paul, whose leadership is unquestioned after being credited for saving the season in the Orlando bubble as president of the National Basketball Players Association.
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“I played a role, but there were a lot of people who helped,’’ Paul said on “The Tonight Show.” “It was a lot of phone calls that had to happen and hard conversations among players. Not only [COVID-19] and social justice when George Floyd occurred and we were trying to decide as players, should we play or should we stay in our communities? When we made that decision to go play, I was proud of our players.”