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SportsColumnistsAl Iannazzone

Willy Hernangomez looking forward to Thursday’s NBA trade deadline

The second-year center says he loves New York, but knows he could be an ex-Knick by Thursday.

Knicks head coach Jeff Hornacek, right, confers with

Knicks head coach Jeff Hornacek, right, confers with center Willy Hernangomez as he waits to check in against the Nuggets on Jan. 25, 2018, in Denver. Photo Credit: AP / David Zalubowski

Willy Hernangomez isn’t sweating out Thursday’s trade deadline. The Knicks’ second-year center is looking forward to it.

Hernangomez, 23, is one of the Knicks receiving the most interest in trade talks.

“I’m kind of excited to see what happens,” Hernangomez said.

He said repeatedly he wants to stay and play with his buddy Kristaps Porzingis. But he doesn’t know what his future is with the Knicks.

Once considered a franchise cornerstone, Hernangomez has been the third-string center, who could be an ex-Knick by Thursday.

“My situation is like this,” Hernangomez said, “I’ve been really patient. I’m working hard every day. I try to be ready for when my opportunity comes. But I’m ready for anything that comes.

“I just want to play. I love New York, I love my teammates. But I need to play. I love basketball so much. I need to play.”

Hernangomez had a standout rookie season in which he averaged 8.2 points and 7.0 rebounds in 18.4 minutes per game. Throughout the summer, Knicks officials listed Hernangomez among the players they plan to build around, along with Porzingis, Tim Hardaway Jr. and Frank Ntilikina.

Then they acquired Enes Kanter from the Thunder in the Carmelo Anthony trade.

There is no denying Kanter is a better low-post scorer and rebounder than Hernangomez. Jeff Hornacek uses Kyle O’Quinn as the backup because of his defense. That’s left Hernangomez mostly out of the rotation and essentially made him expendable. He’s played just 9.2 minutes in 25 games.

“In the summer, I heard I’m going to be part of the future,” Hernangomez said. “Now whatever happens I’m ready.”

Hernangomez said his agent “continues talking to” Knicks general manager Scott Perry about “trying to fix the situation.” If the Knicks could get a good return for Hernangomez, they probably wouldn’t think twice about moving him.

The Knicks want and need a penetrating point guard, athletic wing players and a rim protector. They also want draft picks.

They’re expected to do something one way or another, especially to clear up the glut at the center position.

The Knicks said Joakim Noah will be away from the team “until further notice.” They’re trying to trade him after he and Hornacek had a heated exchange in Denver.

But at this point, it’s more likely that Hernangomez or O’Quinn get traded. The Knicks could try to attach Hernangomez to Noah to make it more palatable for teams to take back his contract.

If O’Quinn is moved that would free playing time for Hernangomez. If neither is moved, and the Knicks continue to fade in the playoff race, Hernangomez likely will get more of an opportunity.

“After Thursday, something good is going to happen,” Hernangomez said. “I really want to be here with KP, with my teammates. I love New York. I love New York fans. But I really have to play.

“I’m ready for anything.”

KANT STOP ENES

Kanter received a total of 18 stitches this past week to close a cut in his upper lip. But it hasn’t stopped him from playing physically and with reckless abandon inside.

In the three games since his lip initially was lacerated, Kanter is averaging 18 points and 18.3 rebounds.

“I’m just going out there to fight, man,” Kanter said. “Right now I don’t really care about the stitches because we’re about to make the playoffs or not, so my thing is just sacrifice everything I have and just go out there and play for my teammates.”

Kanter originally required seven stitches after teammate Doug McDermott hit him in the mouth during Monday’s practice. It reopened Wednesday night in Boston, and Kanter needed three more stitches. Then it opened again, and he got eight more Thursday.

“He’s a warrior,” Hornacek said. “He just plays as hard as he can.”

L.A. STORY

Trading Blake Griffin to Detroit — in a deal that sent Long Island product Tobias Harris to Los Angeles — and getting out of the five-year, $171 million contract he signed in July is expected to be the start of a cleaning house by the Clippers.

DeAndre Jordan and Lou Williams could be gone by Thursday’s deadline.

The Clippers are trying to create flexibility to be in play for Paul George and LeBron James this summer. It may be a pipe dream, but Jerry West is a Clippers consultant now. Their on-the-fly rebuild could happen quickly.

They became a team in transition when Chris Paul was granted his trade request and sent to the Rockets last summer.

All of this puts coach Doc Rivers’ future in question. Will he want to stay? Will management want to keep him? If he becomes a free agent, Rivers likely would be at or near the top of the Knicks’ coaching candidate list if Hornacek is let go.

WARRIOR MENTALITY

Steve Kerr roasted his players after a 30-point loss in Utah Tuesday, calling it “pathetic” and “disgusting basketball.” The Warriors responded three nights later with a 15-point win at Sacramento.

Kerr knows how to get his players to play for him. Coaching this star-studded team, Kerr has shown what he learned from Gregg Popovich and Phil Jackson about managing egos, getting them to play within a system, sharing the ball and playing defense.

That’s what made Lavar Ball’s recent comments about Kerr and others way out of bounds.

Yes, him again.

In case you missed it, Lonzo Ball’s dad said Kerr is “the Milli Vanilli of coaching.” Ball asserted that Mark Jackson put the Warriors together, and Kerr “jumped in and is trying to take all the credit” for their two championships.

This came after Ball coached sons LiAngelo and LaMelo’s team in Lithuania this week. Ball said, “Coaching is not hard. Anybody can be a coach. Look at Steve Kerr.”

Ball said when you have great players “you turn your back and let them do what they do,” claiming Kerr does that, Jackson did it with the Bulls and Pat Riley with the Lakers.

These are ridiculous comments that undermine some of the best coaches in NBA history. As usual, Kerr handled it well when he was approached about it: “Not talking about it. We’re talking about basketball.”

END NEAR FOR MARBURY

Former Knick and Net Stephon Marbury is set to play his final professional game Feb. 11 in China. But Marbury told ESPN’s The Undefeated he will stay ready “just in case” an NBA team calls.

Marbury, who turns 41 this month, also told the website he believes his career has been Hall of Fame worthy.

He won three CBA championships and said he helped “basketball globally to bridge the gap from American to China . . . What I’ve done and given to basketball is all Hall of Fame.”

FASTBREAKS

* ESPN reported that James would meet with the Warriors in July if they cleared enough money to offer him a max contract. It doesn’t seem likely since Golden State currently is projected to be more than $30 million over the cap next year.

James called the report “nonsense” and “a non-story” and said his only focus is leading the Cavaliers to a fourth straight NBA Finals.

* When Rockets All-Star James Harden became the first player to score 60 points as part of a triple-double Tuesday against Orlando, he outscored the Magic starters 60-56.

* The Knicks will return to the Las Vegas Summer League in July after playing in Orlando the past two years. The Orlando Magic is no longer hosting summer league games. For the first time, all 30 NBA teams will be in Vegas.

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