With reports of the Knicks "gathering intel" on Thunder point guard Chris Paul surfacing this week, Paul entered Madison Square Garden with his Oklahoma City teammates for Friday's tip-off with the Knicks.
While walking up the tunnel, Paul was heard speaking about those recent Knicks rumors, saying "They're trying to take some of that attention away from that Spike Lee stuff."
"They trying to take some of that attention away from that Spike Lee stuff" - CP3 on Knicks rumors upon arriving at MSG 👀 pic.twitter.com/xmE8kYzWMg- Knicks Videos (@sny_knicks) March 6, 2020
Some members of the organization feel that Paul would provide strong leadership for their young group and help to instill a winning culture, per SNY sources. Plus, Leon Rose, current Knicks president, is Paul's former agent.
After leading Oklahoma City to a 23-point win over the Knicks, Paul was asked about his relationship with Rose.
"Man, I'm so happy for Leon. I almost get emotional talking about it because I went through a lot with him. It's bigger than an agent-player relationship. He's like my family. you know what I mean?" said Paul, who embraced Rose on the court before the game. "…Today was the first time I seen or really talked to him since (Rose took the job). So I'm happy for him. I wish him the best."
Paul declined to address a question about reportedly wanting to come to New York in 2010. He also didn't elaborate when asked about how he thought Rose would fair as team president.
"I don't know. I'm a player. Obviously, I know sort of how the league goes. I don't know anything about the team or anything like that. All I can do is root for him from afar and control what I can control - my team," Paul said.
The future Hall of Famer seemed to be careful to avoid fueling any speculation about a potential trade to New York.
Depending on how a deal is structured, adding Paul, 34, could compromise the Knicks' cap space.
He has two years remaining on his current contract. He's set to earn $41.3 million in 2020-21 and $44.2 million in 2021-22. The 2021-22 season is a player option.
But he's shown that he's certainly still an effective player. Entering play Friday, Paul was averaging 17.5 points, 6.7 assists and 1.5 steals per game for the Thunder. Some with the Knicks feel that his veteran leadership and history of winning would be worth any sacrifice in cap space, per SNY sources. However, given Paul's age and the trajectory of the team, it wouldn't seem to make sense for New York to surrender significant assets to acquire Paul.
When Paul was on the trade market last summer, the Knicks had little interest in trading for him.
Contract numbers aside, it's easy to see how Paul could help instill the kind of winning culture that the new Knick regime hopes to build.
What would it take to acquire Paul in a trade? That's obviously unclear. No deal could happen. It's also unknown if OKC is even interested in trading him. But there are scenarios where New York could absorb some of Paul's contract into cap space this summer if the club declines the 2020-21 options on some veteran players.
Sign for Spike
Paul had 'Do the Right Thing' written on one of his sneakers on Friday. He said it was a tribute to Lee, the director who had a public back-and-forth with the Knicks over an arena entrance this week.
"I've known Spike for a while, man," Paul said. "Shoot, I had talked to Spike a couple of days ago, actually looking forward to him being here at the game to watch me play, because I hadn't played here in two years. Yeah, I haven't played here. 15 years I've been in the league I might have played here like eight times or something. I usually always miss this game, so I'm excited to see Spike and I didn't see him."
Paul, the NBPA president, was asked if issues like the Knicks' public feud with Lee and former Knick Charles Oakley impacted players' willingness to play in New York.
"I don't know about all that. I can't speak for anybody else," he said. "I've been fortunate enough to Oak. Oak is like my uncle. I've known Oak for years. I know Spike. I don't know all the ins and outs so I can't speak for other guys. But I have a relationship with those guys. That's that. And that has nothing to do with whether we win or lose the game. That's just life."
Fans again chanted "sell the team!" late in the Knicks' loss to OKC. On Wednesday, a group of fans say they were escorted out by security for chanting the same phrase late in the Knicks' loss to Utah. Officials say that no fans were escorted out that night. It's unknown if fans chanting 'sell the team' on Friday were escorted from the building.
Knicks have effort issues on defense
Mike Miller said the Knicks defended well in the opening minutes against Oklahoma City, but New York allowed too many straight line drives and ran into too many screens after the first ten minutes, leading to too many easy OKC baskets.
"We tried different coverages, we tried different personnel, we tried some different things and just didn't do a good job containing them or stopping them," Miller said.
OKC shot 39 percent from beyond the arc. New York entered play ranked 23rd in defensive efficiency.