Knicks’ Courtney Lee has become attractive trade target, but he’s not concerned by rumors
Talk that he could be traded within the next 12 days doesn’t concern Courtney Lee. Over the summer, rumors flew that he would be gone by training camp after the Knicks signed Tim Hardaway Jr.
Then Lee got a phone call from Knicks’ officials. They told him they wanted him to play alongside Hardaway, and to be more aggressive offensively. Lee said he would. He has followed through on that promise, and now he’s garnering interest around the league.
Lee would be attractive anyway because he plays both ends of the floor. But he hopes to remain with the Knicks after the Feb. 8 trade deadline. He’s been given the opportunity to show he can be more than just a role player, which he essentially was in his six prior stops.
Lee’s scoring average (13.5), shot attempts (11.0) three-point tries (3.9) and assists (2.8) are career-highs.
Last April’s exit interview with former Knicks president Phil Jackson, then-GM Steve Mills and coach Jeff Hornacek, and subsequent conversations over the summer put the wheels in motion for Lee’s best season of his 10-year career.
“They broke down all the analytic stats and said, ‘You’ve always been consistent. We want you to kind of step out of your comfort zone, and be aggressive, try to make plays on both ends of the court,’” Lee said. “That’s what I’m trying to do.
“I stayed in contact with them throughout the whole summer. When they signed Tim, they told me that they envision us playing together, but they want me to go out there and be aggressive. I told them that’s what I was going to do. I’m just trying to keep my word.”
Delivering on his promise to the Knicks has Lee potentially playing his final games with them. Joining Lee on the list of Knicks who could be gone by next Thursday include Kyle O’Quinn, Willy Hernangomez and Lance Thomas.
The Knicks are expected to be active in trade talks.
They would love to move on from Joakim Noah, who is away from the team for “personal reasons.” But his injury history and his contract — he’s in the second year of a four-year, $72 million pact — make him difficult to deal.
Their needs are: a penetrating point guard, an athletic wing player, and a rim protector. They also want assets in the form of young players and draft picks.
Lee is 32 and doesn’t fit into the Knicks’ long-range rebuilding plan. But he’s a captain and leader of this young team. Thomas and Lee called a players’ only meeting Friday that apparently inspired a 22-point win in Phoenix to close out their seven-game trip.
He definitely is valuable to the Knicks in the short term, and they would want something of value for Lee. Knicks GM Scott Perry is smart to see what he can get for Lee in a career year.
“That comes with the territory,” Lee said. “You play bad, you lower your status with your team and they want to trade you. You play good and you raise value with other teams so you have a chance to get traded.”
Lee has been traded five times so he’s not sweating his future. He won’t get caught up in the talk unless he hears from his agent, Mills or Perry.
High on Beas
Kevin Durant is happy that childhood friend Michael Beasley is playing well for the Knicks, and he didn’t disagree when Beasley said he’s as talented as Durant and LeBron James.
“I love Beas,” Durant said. “I love what he’s doing. He never had a fair chance. I seen a comment earlier this year before the season where he said he was just as skilled as LeBron and myself, and I was feeling him on that. I was feeling him, because he is.
“He can score from anywhere. He can score on anybody. He can use both hands, but there’s something else that’s separating us. I think that’s just the difference, the mental part of it. And he’s got the foundation of his game set. It’s just time to build on top of it.”
Beasley is a gifted scorer, but his defense still needs plenty of work.
When the Knicks signed him over the summer, they hoped he could write his redemption story. He is averaging 12.8 points overall and 17.4 points in his last 24 games.
“I think he’s found a solid home in New York, and hopefully he sticks there,” Durant said.
Beasley’s reaction to that? “Me too.”
Another Westbrook assist?
OKC’s Paul George will be a free agent after the season, and the conjecture has been that he will return home to Los Angeles. But George said Russell Westbrook is making his decision “easier” after Westbrook called it “outrageous” that George didn’t make the All-Star team. “It was awesome for a teammate to have your back and to stand up,” George told ESPN. “The fact Russ had my back, that’s my guy forever, and it’s more apparent what this decision needs to be made when it comes down to it.”
Melo’s streak snapped
Former Knick Carmelo Anthony had his eight-year All-Star streak broken, but he wasn’t broken up about it. In his first season with the Thunder, his scoring (17.6), shots per game (15.5) and field-goal percentage (.422) are career lows. “No hard feelings for me,’’ he said. “I get to enjoy that week with my family, so I’m actually looking forward to that.”
- All-Star point guard Damian Lillard said he hasn’t requested a trade. When a tweet asked if he will “remain with the Trail Blazers beyond this year,” Lillard responded, “Sure will.”
- Before Kevin Durant was ejected from Tuesday night’s win over the Knicks, volatile Warriors teammate Draymond Green tried to calm him down. “Yeah,” Durant said, “the irony.”