Chauncey Billups talking to the media about his knee at...

Chauncey Billups talking to the media about his knee at the end of practice. (April 17, 2011) Credit: Newsday/J. Conrad Williams Jr.

There is a reason why the Denver Nuggets insisted that Chauncey Billups be included in the Carmelo Anthony trade: his $14.2 million salary for 2011-12 that the Knicks yesterday decided to lock in.

There was no chance Denver was going to keep him on the payroll at that number, not with Ty Lawson showing (and later proving) he was ready to be the starting point guard. The last thing Josh Kroenke wanted as a $3.7 million buyout on his payroll for a player who would be playing elsewhere, or a $14.2 million backup.

The Knicks wanted to keep the trade concentrated on Carmelo, with just Wilson Chandler involved as the main piece going the other way. But Denver's determination to shove Billups out the door turned it into a complicated, NBA-record 13-player swap.

So if the Nuggets were intent on dumping Billups, why would they now want him back under the same deal, as the Post's Berman, a closet Fixer, you know, suggested today?

They don't, of course. But Berman is right, the Knicks have a strong interest in bringing Chandler back and a source close to Wilson, who will be a restricted free agent this offseason, told me he is pining to return to New York. If only the Knicks had cap space.

Had the Knicks decided to waive Billups by Friday and eat the $3.7M, they might have.  Then you'd have to assume Denver would jump at the chance to bring back Billups under a much more affordable deal.

But the Knicks weren't going to make it that easy for the Nuggets, especially after they didn't make it easy for them back in February.

Keeping Billups makes sense for the Knicks because of his value as an expiring contract and, of equal importance, for exactly what he said on Monday: when you have two stars like Amar'e Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony, you need a respected veteran running the offense, someone they can't intimidate. With needs in other areas, it might make more sense to invest in Billups with an extension after next season and use the 2012 cap space to make improvements to the roster. 

But let's assume Denver (read: George Karl) realizes what they miss now that it's gone and doesn't know what to do with Felton ($7M expiring), who isn't happy about being a backup at 26, and our good friend Wilson is homesick.

Donnie Walsh and Mike D'Antoni both loved Felton and didn't want to include him in the deal in the first place. Chandler is a D'Antoni favorite. So hypothetically, you can do an easy one-for-two swap here and make everyone happy: the Knicks get back two players they never wanted to give up and Billups gets to go back home with his money locked in. The only one not happy in this scenario, of course, is Kroenke, who would be paying $14.2M for Billups to be Lawson's backup. 

Oh right, there's that.

This scenario really doesn't solve everyone's problems. In D'Antoni's eyes, a deal like this settles his issues at center, because Chandler played so well at power forward in his system. But when you ask Amar'e what the Knicks need, he says a center. And it doesn't sound like he's interested in the job.

"It puts everybody in the right position and we can go from there," Stoudemire said of acquiring a center. "When you play out of position sometimes you have certain weaknesses that other players can take advantage of, so being in the right position you have to hold your own, so I think that would help us defensively."

Billup also strongly suggested that a center would help Amar'e the most: "Definitely one big for sure that can rebound, block shots and control the paint for us, keep Amare from playing centers and getting into early foul trouble a lot and getting worn down a lot. That’s probably one of our biggest needs."

None of this will be an issue until the offseason and not until new collective bargaining agreement is settled. So in other words, fugedaboutit.