Last spring, then-agent Leon Rose was intrigued by the notion of the Rockets offering up his client Chris Paul to the Knicks, according to a league source.
A report arose last June the Knicks had turned down the Rockets’ offer of Paul and his four-year, $159 million contract. Paul was eventually traded to Oklahoma City in a superstar swap for Russell Westbrook and is having a throwback season at age 34 — capped by a terrific performance in last month’s All-Star Game that included an athletic alley-oop slam.
Rose is now the Knicks president, having taken over officially Monday. Paul, proud member of the resurgent Thunder, plays his lone game at the Garden on Friday.
According to an NBA source, Paul adores Rose, and a SiriusXM report surfaced Thursday that the Knicks are doing intel on the veteran point guard. Not that they need a lot of information — Paul had been with Rose at Creative Artists Agency for much of his career.
In 2010, there was that infamous wedding toast at Carmelo Anthony’s wedding in which Paul stated with Amar’e Stoudemire present, “We’ll form our own Big Three,” referring to himself, Anthony and Stoudemire.
It never panned out.
The Post reported last week that NBA executives expect Rose to make a play for Anthony to come back to the Knicks. Could Paul be next? He is averaging 17.5 points and 6.7 assists, in addition to shooting 48.8 percent and 35.5 from 3.
The Knicks are desperate for a starting point guard, and Paul could be a good mentor to either Frank Ntilikina, Dennis Smith Jr. or their lottery pick. The Post reported the Knicks are prioritizing a scoring point guard in the draft.
The Knicks could absorb some of the Paul contract with their cap space, making it a less-clunky deal. Paul will make $41.3 million next season and $44.2 million in 2021-2022, which is a player option.
Regarding whether he would opt out to take a discounted rate and facilitate a trade, Paul told Sports Illustrated, “No chance. That’s not happening. Nope.”
That final season is the virtual killer, however, as it could clog up the cap space for the 2021 free-agent class that will include Giannis Antetokounmpo.
“Could Chris be like the Jason Kidd version for New York that New Jersey got in 2001?” one team personnel man asked, referencing the Nets’ trade for the star Phoenix point guard. “I know he’s older, but he’s really been tremendous this season.”
While Paul’s craftiness has always overshadowed his athleticism, he will be 36 when he starts the final year of his pact. The Paul-Anthony reunion may have sailed away years ago.
As one NBA executive put it, “Are the Knicks going to do their plan from 2010 10 years later? They get Chris, Melo and maybe Amar’e will come out of retirement.’’
Another team personnel man doesn’t see it as crazy.
“The East is up for grabs,’’ he said. “If you make a few good changes … [Chris] has been pretty amazing, off the charts what he’s done to get the team winning, taking the leadership of a new team. He’s still burning to win a championship.”
Paul also has had a positive effect on his new Thunder backcourt mate, 6-foot-5 combo guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, whom the Knicks passed on in 2018 at No. 9 to take his Kentucky teammate Kevin Knox.
Knox has had a struggle of a sophomore season while Gilgeous-Alexander (19.3 points, 3.3 assists. 6.1 rebounds) has soared after his trade from the Clippers.
Indeed, it’s a risky move, but certainly Knicks fans could use a reprieve from the Spike Lee-versus-James Dolan fiasco that has put a black eye on the franchise and stifled what momentum — if any — new branding consultant Steve Stoute gained.
The Garden is expected to be sold out for Paul’s Thunder (38-24) after drawing an shockingly paltry crowd Wednesday against Utah. The Knicks announced it at 16,588 — or 3,200 below capacity — for the 112-104 loss.
Garden officials did not attribute the attendance dip to fears of the coronavirus that’s been popping up in New York. Instead, they cited being in the middle of five home games in eight days and facing the Jazz, who are second-worst in the league in road attendance.