The Knicks' Marcus Morris Sr. drives to the basket against the...

The Knicks' Marcus Morris Sr. drives to the basket against the Cavaliers' Cedi Osman in the second half om Monday in Cleveland.  Credit: AP/Tony Dejak

CLEVELAND — The Knicks were all together Monday night, one of the rare occasions when the entire roster was healthy enough to take the court. Elfrid Payton returned after a one-game suspension, too.

But the real action wasn’t taking place between the lines in their hard-to-watch 139-134 overtime win over the Cavaliers. It was in the hallways and hotel rooms where Knicks general manager Scott Perry and other executives fielded calls and tried to sort out the next steps for the franchise heading into Thursday’s trade deadline.

This version of the Knicks’ rebuild, like most of them over the last two decades, has not taken hold. The franchise’s most attractive asset remains flexibility, with young players signed to inexpensive deals and veterans on bloated but short-term deals.

One Knicks source said the team is talking to everyone at this time of year. That’s how they get linked to players such as Warriors guard D’Angelo Russell, who signed a four-year, $117 million deal last summer, or Pistons center Andre Drummond. But unless it’s clearing cap space and dumping middling assets, the Knicks are unlikely to remove the flexibility that would keep them in the 2021 free-agent market.

While rumors are circulating around the NBA because of the big-name talent available, the Knicks hold one of the more enticing pieces in Marcus Morris.

Morris, on a one-year, $15 million contract, has been the Knicks’ most consistent player this season, averaging 19.4 points and shooting a career-best 43.8% on three-pointers.

Monday’s win could’ve been his last game as a Knick. “I’m aware of that part,” Morris said. “I’ve said it since the day I stepped here, I want to be with the Knicks. It’s not my call. We’re getting to the deadline. Me personally, I love being here and I want to continue to be here.”

He sat out the morning shoot- around with an illness but led the Knicks against the Cavs with 26 points — 22 in the second half and overtime — a performance that could be alluring to a team seeking an offensive boost. Elfrid Payton had a triple-double with 17 points, 15 assists and 11 rebounds and Dennis Smith Jr. added 15 points and six assists.

With an expiring contract, Morris is the sort of player who could help a contender. For that reason, as well as the Bird rights that come with him in a deal, he is more valuable to a win-now team than he is to the Knicks, who are 15-36.

The Knicks have been linked to a number of big names. Russell was the latest to surface. But with a front office that has as little security as the players on the roster, the permission to deal assets, such as an unprotected first-round pick or young players such as RJ Barrett or Mitchell Robinson, seems a long shot.

The players have tried to dismiss talk of trades, including Morris and Smith, both of whom are being shopped and refuse to talk about it.

The Knicks like Morris and reportedly hope to sign him in the summer, but they certainly can pick up assets by dealing him now and revisiting it in the summer when he’s a free agent.

Julius Randle, who entered Monday averaging 18.9 points and 9.5 rebounds, is the only one of the Knicks’ seven free-agent signings with a guaranteed deal beyond this season. That has brought his name into talks about Drummond, who is expected to opt out of next year’s player option.

The players seemed hopeful, though not optimistic, that this group can stay together past the deadline.

“Yeah, that’d be great,” Randle said, “but I’m starting to understand the business of basketball, what it is. So you know, you can’t predict what will happen. It would be great, but we’ll see.”

“I can’t control that. So I put no energy into it,” Payton said. “I can’t speak for other players. But me, I literally don’t look at it.

“Obviously, the season didn’t start off how we wanted it, but we’ve shown a lot of signs. Especially against good teams, we’ve been right there teams at the top of the conference and things like that.

“We definitely think we have enough,” Payton said. “It’s just about finishing some of those games. I definitely would like to see it through. But like I said, I don’t control those things.”


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