Knicks looking at Mayo

Published 12:00 am Thursday, June 26, 2008


NEW YORK — Three years ago at the NBA draft, David Lee was part of what was to be the building blocks of the future Knicks, who took home three first-round picks. But at Thursday night’s draft, Lee might be the first player jettisoned in a roster overhaul geared toward a new future under Donnie Walsh and Mike D’Antoni.

Walsh is pushing hard to make a big splash _ he’s well aware the New York crowd at the WaMu Theatre will have a boisterous opinion _ at his first draft as Knicks president. It is believed he and D’Antoni would love to land O.J. Mayo, but the coveted USC guard doesn’t figure to be on the board by the sixth pick. If they can somehow move up to grab Mayo, the Knicks believe they will have the player to replace Stephon Marbury at the point.

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Mayo, who like D’Antoni is from West Virginia, is all for playing in the player-friendly, up-tempo D’Antoni system. “It definitely would be fun playing for Coach D’Antoni,” he said Wednesday. “But I’ll be happy wherever I end up.”

Mayo, who worked out for the Knicks on June 12, said the Knicks are looking for a point guard “not necessarily like Steve Nash, but one who can bring it up and get others involved.” With that in mind, some other shoot-first guards in the draft _ Arizona’s Jerryd Bayless and Indiana’s Eric Gordon _ might not fit the mold. UCLA guard Russell Westbrook impressed the Knicks at his workout, but his stock has skyrocketed to the point that the Seattle SuperSonics might take him as high as fourth overall.

But if the Knicks can’t land Mayo and Westbrook is gone by the sixth pick, they might not go for a guard at all and instead choose Italian forward Danilo Gallinari. Walsh would then look for a veteran point guard via the mid-level exception or trades in July. Walsh did want to land T.J. Ford, but the Raptors on Wednesday apparently traded him along with Rasho Nesterovich and the No. 17 pick to the Pacers for Jermaine O’Neal.

There will be other options for the Knicks to consider this summer and Lee would remain Walsh’s most valuable trading chip.

The 6-10 Gallinari, a multi-talented player who impressed Walsh with his shooting ability, would essentially replace Lee, a tireless rebounder and intangible player who lacks a consistent mid-range jumper that D’Antoni desires at just about every position.

Lee, who was the 30th overall pick in 2005, is heading into the final year of his rookie contract, which will pay him $1,788,033. He will be a restricted free agent next summer and is seeking a long-term contract extension, but the Knicks’ new regime does not want to commit a large chunk of salary-cap space to him.

“He’s just waiting to see what’s going to happen,” Lee’s agent, Mark Bartelstein said. “It’s flattering to know that many people would like to get you, and we’ll just wait and see what happens.”