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NEW YORK — In view of Scott Layden’s still smoldering dismissal, why would any clear thinker vaguely concerned with credibility hypothesize Knicks coach Don Chaney is in immediate danger of being fired?

Or nominate Isiah Thomas-Danny Ainge as the most intriguing race in the Eastern Conference, you know, who can get to the sidelines faster?

Are contract hits really that difficult to grasp?

If James Dolan felt the Knicks’ coach deserved to go, guess what, he would be long gone.

Instead, the team’s bleakness and repeated restocking of parallel players was pinned squarely on the president/GM . . . originally hired by Dave Checketts as a glorified scout /trade messenger and promoted by default when the Garden president exited without parting gifts and there was no one else around to appoint.

Let’s slowly review while the above paragraph hopefully seeps in:

Regardless of real or imagined incompetence on all fronts, Dolan — guided by his second in command, Steve Mills — found Layden guilty of providing mismatched talent in triplicate; it also was determined Chaney merited fresh faces and a new clock.

A new clock, not a lousy little three-game road trip to Memphis, Miami and Orlando! Or a couple of flimsy weeks! Or even a measly month or two!

It doesn’t get any more opaque to propose Chaney was only given an abbreviated reprieve to align Jupiter with Mars.

Or that Thomas was only going to need a jiffy to appraise Chaney’s worth or worthlessness.

Again, if Dolan was going to withdraw his effusive support of Chaney he would have sprung the trap door Dec. 22, the same day Layden’s plug was pulled.

The muddled media can harp all it wants on his imminent deportation, but barring Chaney coaching Latrell Sprewell’s crudeness by cell phone, it ain’t happening.

By the way, Layden’s firing caught him completely by surprise, according to a confidant.

“Scott’s convinced Mills orchestrated the hiring of a marquee name to save his own job. He has nothing but good things to say about Dolan, but feels Mills betrayed him.”

Despite Orlando’s mini-resurgence after getting ransacked 19 straight, GM John Gabriel, who helped Pat Williams get the franchise off the ground 15 years ago, may be joining Doc Rivers in absentia.

An embedded security risk reveals Magic COO John Weisbrod is quietly searching for a replacement in perfect synchronization with Gabriel dealing and continuing to wheel.

According to numerous suitors, Tracy McGrady is the only untouchable member of the Magic. For the time being, anyway.

Should McGrady decide not to sign an extension after the season, owner Rich DeVos would almost certainly be compelled to entertain trade offers.

You can’t do worse than overseeing Shaq’s Laker free agent get-away without compensation, but allowing Tracy to split in the summer of 2005 would finish a strong second.

A tad tainted by his criminal conduct and ridiculous rhetoric, bidding for Rasheed Weed’s services, nonetheless, has sharply escalated within the last week.

Resolved to rid themselves of the rising free agent, the Blazers gave permission to agent Bill Strickland to elicit trade propositions from teams his client would consider re-signing with come summer.

So far, all three Texas teams and the Hawks — maybe even the Pistons — are involved in the auction.

Rasheed’s preference is the Rockets, I’m informed; the obvious appeal being Yao Ming and Steve Francis, which is why they refuse to include either one in trade talk.

Meaning Houston may have to wait until the offseason to pursue Rasheed.

Unlike the Mavericks, underlines a Strickland trustee, who might be inclined to give up Antawn Jamison and Eduardo Najera (but would rather include Tariq Abdul-Wahad), depending on the health of the Lakers’ feared foursome and Mark Cuban’s mood following a two-game losing streak.

Long before the Spurs manufactured their 13-game victory march, they offered Rasho Nesterovic, Malik Rose and Ron Mercer for Rasheed, the same source maintains.

As for the Hawks, they’re eager to move Theo Ratliff and Alan Henderson for Rasheed.

The Blazers, I’m told, countered with a request for Shareef Abdur-Rahim and Stephen Jackson.

Though an Atlanta official denies it, I hear the Hawks are head hunting for a special someone to succeed coach Terry Stotts.

In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
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