Though most indications are the Knicks won't be part of any Draft Night blockbusters, they are checking in on the availability -- and cost -- of several players that might become targets after July 1. The most recent name we've heard about today is Trail Blazers guard Rudy Fernandez.
The New York Times first reported that the Knicks have had discussions with the Blazers about Fernandez on its basketball blog earlier today. Newsday confirmed it with a league source, who said the Knicks "are interested" in Fernandez. It is unclear if the deal, which would likely involve a swap of forward Wilson Chandler, could be done on draft night.
The players aren't an even match of salaries, so a one-for-one would actually save the Knicks some salary cap space. Fernandez is scheduled to make $1.2M next season and Chandler is at $2.1M. The near $1M difference in salary is something the Blazers can absorb under their cap and might be willing to, considering the fact that Chandler gives them more athleticism and defense and rids them of the unhappy Fernandez.
For the Knicks, along with the $900K in cap savings, which, if the trade was done on draft night, could allow them to move up into the first round to ensure landing one of their top targets -- Craig Brackins, Jordan Crawford and Armon Johnson, among others. A first-round pick counts against the cap, which would cost the Knicks valuable space before July 1.
Fernandez, a high-flying Spaniard, had a terrific start to his rookie season, but then tailed off because of back issues. He struggled under taskmaster Nate MacMillan and often simmered in frustration as a bench player and even openly discussed a desire to be traded. When he did get the opportunity to start in the playoffs after Brandon Roy's injury, however, Fernandez was underwhelming.
The thought is his effectiveness in an uptempo game could make him a good fit in Mike D'Antoni's system. Fernandez has longed to play in New York and could be rejuvenated by the move. But there's no question the 25-year-old needs to be more dedicated to his conditioning and take care of his body better than he has to date.
Meanwhile, on other fronts....
* - In the midst of all the speculation about Chris Paul, who, himself, admitted he'd be open to a trade if the Hornets weren't planning to be a championship contender, Hornets owner George Shinn released a statement that said Paul was the cornerstone of the franchise.
Via New Orleans Times-Picayune:
"We are about building and sustaining a winning tradition. Chris Paul is the cornerstone of our franchise and brings us unequaled support on and off the court. We will continue to build around Chris Paul, and we want to see him in a Hornets uniform for the remainder of his career. We have an exciting future, and with the leadershipo of our new head coach and players like Chris Paul, we know the best is yet to come. We plan to take advantage of any opportunities to improve our team."