• SHARE

NEW YORK — Two weeks after replacing coach Lon Kruger with assistant Terry Stotts, the Hawks are trying to arrange a trade involving restricted free agent-to-be Jason Terry. According to sources, the Blazers and Heat are ardently interested in acquiring Atlanta’s assist leader (7.4 per game) and its third-highest (16.8 ppg) scorer.

For salary purposes, Alan Henderson ($7.09 million/$7.6 million/$8.2 million due over the next three seasons) and another low-budgeted Hawk (DerMarr Johnson, perhaps) would have to be part of any package since Terry’s skill value far exceeds his current ($2.15 million) earnings.

Terry figured his three-year-plus tour was coming to an end when Stotts’ first command decision was to return him to his unnatural position at off guard (in favor of rookie Michael Wilkes, fresh from the Developmental League), where he’s being asked to split time.

Miami is offering Brian Grant or Eddie Jones, whom flaunt maximum ($11 million) contracts and own four guaranteed years after this one. Other than rookie Caron Butler, they are Pat Riley’s only two recruits who remotely qualify as assets.

Having already done Padre Riles one big favor (getting snuffed at home by 34 points), why not, I submit, extend more goodwill by bailing him out of an outlandish max deal?

Portland’s various proposals incorporate just about everyone on the roster, exempting Rasheed Wallace, Zach Randolph and GM-in-training Chris Dudley.

Obviously, at least one guard — Damon Stoudamire, Jeff McInnis, Derek Anderson, Bonzi Wells or Antonio Daniels — must go in order to create sufficient minutes, shots and money for Terry, whose max pact demand is definitely an influencing factor in his availability.

Wells makes perfect sense for the Hawks, who don’t have to worry about alienating the already turned off public.

On the flip side, given the choice between Georgia and jail, Wells confided, “You might as well measure me now for an orange jump suit.”

Pacers coach Isiah Thomas went after himself following last week’s fiasco, in which the Knicks climbed out a pair of 17-point holes to win by default, 98-96. “I apologized to the team” for leaving Ron Artest, Jamal Tinsley and Al Harrington in there too long, he disclosed.

“Their families and friends were in the stands and I wanted to give them every opportunity to do well. At the same time, I knew I should pull them.

“It was clear they were trying too hard to impress. I was like that when I played in Chicago and I was a lot older than these guys. And Jermaine (O’Neal) was like that when he went back to Portland. I coached out of character and I promised the team it would never happen again.”

O’Neal says he plans to see an L.A. specialist regarding his tender left knee (which sidelined him for almost two weeks recently).

Only Medical Bill Walton (32 “successful” operations) may be able to explain why Indy’s franchise player continues to play since he’s forced to practice (reduced to jogging) with extreme caution.

Why would management/agent/mother allow O’Neal to continue to play? Explosions to the hoop are limited to elevating off his right foot?

“I thought I blew it out,” he said, referring to a specific awkward landing in the Knick game. That sounds promising.

Tinsley’s irresponsible backward flip to a wide open Charlie Ward (resulting in a tap-in after three misses) with the Pacers leading 95-94 reminded me of Rod Strickland’s crushing circus turnover that cost the Spurs a playoff series to the Blazers.

Not the way you want the designated brains of the outfit reacting when possessions are precious.

It occurs to me, we’ll know Amare Stoudemire has truly attained Kevin Garnett-elite status when Stephon Marbury instigates a trade away from him.

You’ve heard of kids going straight from high school to the pros. Well, Amare’s the first kid I ever heard of who went straight from six high schools to the pros.

Desperate for talented height, Orlando made a recent pitch for Washington’s Kwame Brown (two first-round picks and a player pocketing in the vicinity of $3.9 million), but was rebuffed. The hunt persists . . . Nice to see Kobe Bryant commit to play for the United States in the qualifying tournament and the 2004 Olympics. “Fifth place is as good as ours!” exclaimed George Karl upon hearing the news.

Wallace only has four technical fouls after 30 games, down from 10 a year ago. He blames it on off-the-court distractions.

In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
By subscribing, you can help us get the story right.

SUBSCRIBE NOW