Knicks 'zzone

Newsday's Al Iannazzone takes you inside the Knicks.

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Despite odds, Knicks not bowing out of CP3 sweepstakes

Carmelo Anthony, left, and Chris Paul talk during

Carmelo Anthony, left, and Chris Paul talk during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game between Duke and Michigan State. (Nov. 15, 2011) (Credit: AP )

There are several legitimate suitors angling to make a play for all-star guard Chris Paul, according to reports by ESPN and Yahoo! Sports, but the Knicks, with very little in assets to offer, are not among the group. So here we are again in a situation where it seems a third of the league has the interest and ability to trade for a star, but only one team -- as the Yahoo! report confirmed, the Knicks -- is his preferred destination.

And other reports say the Lakers, with assets such as Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol, believe they can acquire both Dwight Howard AND Paul in preseason trades to create a Big Three with Kobe Bryant. One would have to believe playing with Kobe, Dwight and the Lake Show would replace Melo and the Knicks on the speed dial list.

Still, the Knicks aren't discouraged by this information and, based on recent history, they should not be. On the contrary, we've been assured the Knicks, despite reported disinterest from the New Orleans Hornets, are very much still putting in the effort to make this happen and complete the triumvirate that Paul toasted at Carmelo Anthony's wedding two summers ago. And just like the Melo saga last season, Paul's representation -- the notorious and influential CAA -- is aware of its client's preference and also very much involved in the process.

So what you have right now is a two-front strategy: The first is creating a large enough market for Paul that the competition is strong in case the Knicks effort fails. This is in the best interests of the Hornets. The other is working behind the scenes to find a third team with a high-end player in his prime who may no longer fit -- Memphis/Rudy Gay? or Golden State/Monta Ellis? -- to provide enough pieces to put together a reasonable trade to Paul's top choice. This, of course, favors the Knicks.

Yes, the NBA owns the Hornets right now. And no, David Stern does not want to hear about another Frozen Envelope conspiracy [Hey, it's been over a quarter-century since that Ewing lottery victory and the Knicks, who have been in the lottery plenty of times in the last 10 years, haven't won another one since. You want to talk about controversies].

Truth is, Stern and the NBA did all it could to block any chance of a team like the Knicks benefiting with Paul using his leverage as they did with Melo last season. The new CBA has limited contract extension rules that have created an environment that no matter where Paul winds up in a possible trade, he is likely to opt-out anyway, as Deron Williams will do with the Nets, because, under the new rules, it makes more sense financially.

So technically the value is in holding his Bird Rights and anticipating his desire to cash in with a max deal.

* * *

* -- For those asking, no, players can not restructure contracts to fit another player into the payroll under the new CBA. You couldn't do it under the previous CBA either. So Melo and Amar'e Stoudemire can not do anything to clear more salary cap space so the Knicks have the ability to sign Chris Paul to a max contract next summer. Those contracts are locked in . . . unless, of course, one is amnestied. Don't expect that to happen.

What worked against the Knicks here is that the NBA, to allow the finances of the new CBA to adjust, plans to keep the salary cap flat at $58.044 million, which is what it was last season and what it expects to be this season and in 2012-13. If the cap had increased with revenues as usual, there would have been an extra few million to open up more space.

* -- As four more players showed up at MSG Training Center on Monday to join Carmelo (and Toney Douglas) for workouts, the team's two other stars, Amar'e and Chauncey Billups, remained at their respective offseason homes. Stoudemire is in Miami, working out with his personal trainer. Billups is in Denver and has spent a great deal of the offseason working with renown trainer Joe Abunassar.

The fact that the two did not arrive early and march through the unlocked gym doors with Melo last week fails to produce romantic pre-training camp stories, but fans shouldn't get too hysterical about it. Stoudemire had planned all along to be in Florida and made an effort to get his teammates to join him there before camp. And Billups is spending as much family time as he can before he leaves his wife and daughters behind before he heads to New York uncertain he will finish the season here.

Both are expected to arrive Wednesday, with two days to spare before camp opens on Friday. It's not as if the players are running full court scrimmages right now. Even today, with six players in the gym, they did mainly shooting and conditioning drills before hitting the weight room.

* -- One of the new arrivals was rookie Iman Shumpert, who doesn't lack for poise or confidence, yet still displays just the right amount of wide-eyed wonder. "It's magical," he said of his first workout at the training center as a Knick. "Waited a long time to be here . . . I'm just more excited to be here in the facility and being able to put my shoes in a locker and just leave them there instead of having to carry a bag of sweaty clothes."

Shumpert still hasn't signed a contract -- he will once the lockout is officially lifted, which is expected later this week -- but said he never took out a loan or anything. Instead, he made a few bucks by doing appearances and stayed home in Chicago for some home cooking.

He's already enjoying the intensity of Knicks fans, who respond at full blast on Twitter to even the most innocuous tweets.

"They demand a lot," he said. "I may tweet, 'I'm with my Mom' or something like that and Knicks fans are like, 'You should be shooting 1,000 shots!'"

And that's just from the beat writers.

"But just having that on you all the time," he added, "it makes you work a lot harder."

* -- Landry Fields also was back with a set of shoulder and back muscles he didn't own last season. He came into the room with a soaked Knicks shirt, and I couldn't help but greet him with a wisecrack.

"Is it raining out?"

"Rainin' J's!" he replied.

Fields was making it rain all summer from the elbow extended to the deep corner three-ball, the areas where he knows he has to be a reliable shooter to be effective in this offense.

But aside from adding muscle and a consistent jumper to his game, the Stanford grad said his No. 1 focus during the offseason involved his mental approach.

"A lot of people look at post-trade and all that stuff and the kind of mentality I had," he said. "So I wanted to really work on that."

Fields candidly discussed his struggles after the Melo trade and, especially, in the playoffs.

"It could have been a number of things," he said. "A lot of people like to call it 'The Rookie Wall'. I just couldn't fit in with the new guys. But I'm not looking to make excuses. I know this year is going to be a lot better."

He actually repeated that last line two more times throughout the conversation.

"I definitely felt some fatigue toward the end," he would say later. "But I'm not going to make any excuses. I know this year is going to be a lot better."

The first guest on the Andy & Landry Show: Tony Robbins.

"The dynamics changed a little bit [after the trade], but I usually pride myself on being able to adapt," he said. "I've always been a player that's been like that. It didn't come to me as quickly last year as I wanted it to, so I think this year is going to be a lot better."

So, what you're saying is, this year will be better than last year.

"I've thought about that," he said of potentially losing his starting shooting guard position, "especially toward the end of last season, right when it ended. But over the summer, I've gotten a lot more confident and going into this year, I'd say it was a lot better."

It's hard to not come away impressed with Fields. Last season was still an overall success for him and, despite how it ended, the experience he had against Ray Allen and the Celtics was a baptism by fire.

"I'd say so," he said. "I think it's something that people can talk about, say, 'You're in for this, watch out for that.' But until you've actually gone through it and gotten that experience, you wouldn't know."

* -- What we do know is the backcourt includes two defensive-minded combo guards in Toney Douglas and Shumpert, who both could play alongside Billups at times. Fields is smart and versatile, but where does he fit in?

And something else to consider is that there could be more competition in the backcourt when training camp opens. We know that the Knicks have been monitoring the progress of 33-year-old Brooklyn-born playmaker Jamaal Tinsley, who is currently in the D-League attempting to be this season's renaissance man. Tinsley is said to be in great shape and could be a very good fit behind Billups, especially in this offense.

We also know that the Knicks have had discussions with free agent Shannon Brown's agent, Mark Bartelstein. If Chris Paul is traded and somehow comes off the market as an option, the Knicks may be motivated to be more aggressive with their Mid-Level Exception, which could be split in half to land a shooting guard and a big man.

* -- Miscellaneous notes: As I tweeted on Sunday, the Knicks will NOT be wearing those green holiday uniforms for the Christmas Day opener as they have in the last two Christmas Day appearances. Would have been a fashion faux pas against the Celtics. Expect the stars, Melo (Jordan Brand) and Amar'e (Nike), to sport special signature green sneakers, however, for the game . . . It's sounding like Grant Hill will pass on coming to New York yet again and stay with the Phoenix Suns, but Hill has yet to make a commitment so the Knicks are still holding out hope . . . Free agent Bostjan Nachbar, who played the last three seasons in Europe, is scheduled to have a workout with the Knicks on Tuesday. He and Mike D'Antoni have a relationship that goes back to when Nachbar played for D'Antoni with Trevisio in Italy. He'd be a nice stretch four -- he can shoot the three -- off the bench, especially if Shawne Williams signs elsewhere . . . Of course the Knicks are always interested in shooters, so Jason Kapono will be on the radar . . . Donnie Walsh, now an advisor to the franchise, loves Jeff Foster from his Indiana days and Foster would be a nice fit as a backup center to add toughness behind Ronny Turiaf. But Foster is old and seems inclined to retire with the Pacers . . . Jared Jeffries could be back (a D'Antoni favorite) but there are other teams interested in him . . . Anthony Carter has been working out in Denver and running with his old Nuggets teammates. Will be interesting to see if he gets an invite. Depends on needs in the backcourt . . . No word back from agent Todd Ramasar about whether center Jerome Jordan has been invited to training camp. You'd think he'd be on his way to New York from Slovenia by now if they called. Remember, Ramasar told Berman of the Post that if the Knicks didn't bring Jordan to camp, he'd request a trade . . . We have a LIVE CHAT scheduled for 11 a.m. on Tuesday. I'll beat y'all to the punch: Opening game starting lineup: Billups, Fields, Melo, Stoudemire and Turiaf. Tell me where I'm wrong and why.
 

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