NEW YORK — The answer: Burberry, Blackberry and now seats to see Marbury.

The question: What are New York hottest selling items?

By mid-morning Monday, when only the deal makers and their trustees knew the Knicks were on the threshold of confiscating Stephon Marbury from the Suns, Lincoln High School’s defending PSAL champs already had alerted the competition throughout the city of the news that Coney Island’s pet player was sashaying home.

Pagers, phones and e-mails are burning up with excitement and anticipation. That’s how much emotional current and liquid currency Marbury’s return to the area has stimulated.

Next time the Nets will think twice before running the Knicks out of the Garden.

It only took Isiah Thomas a couple hours to retaliate; shortly after eyeballing Jason Kidd kick some serious butt, the hyperactive executive was coordinating the conquest of Brooklyn’s allegiance — before the Nets can even think about moving the team into the borough — and the repossession of the imagination of Knick fans everywhere.

Mission accomplished!

If you don’t care a microchip about scandalous salary cap/luxury tax ramifications, Marbury’s acquisition for a pair of first round picks — the quintessence of the multifaceted exchange –is scrupulously brilliant.

Clearly, the worst-in-the-west Phoenix Suns do care, which is why Jerry and Bryan Colangelo have decided to financially freshen up significantly by shaving $20 million-$25 million off their books in the next two seasons, thanks largely to the inclusion of Penny Hardaway, whose competency for 20 minutes a night is better than anyone the Knicks have at backup small forward or off guard.

Either the Colangelos are trimming down to sell, creating room to take a stab at free agent Kobe Bryant this summer, or starting over yet again; we’ll know this is true if Sean Marion is next to go.

At some point, ownership has to stay longer than a road trip with a team, I submit, in order to win.

Everything else Thomas gave up — Antonio McDyess, Charlie Ward, Howard Eisley, Maciej Lampe and Milos Vujanic — are unhealthy, unproductive, unproven or unseen.

To suggest the ghost of Dave Checketts and Scott Layden has forfeited the future (the unprotected 2004 pick is irrelevant, the other No. 1 is controlled by New York in years to come and protected through the 15th pick) is ignorant.

Aside from the pair of firsts, this cost the Knicks nothing more than money; your higher cable bill dollars at work. “Our customers will pay whatever we have to pay,” should be Cablevision’s slogan.

Capsized to such an extent (through 2006, realistically), the Knicks would have had to disband to get under it.

Therefore, they might as well take on more salary ($21 million next season alone) as long as they could secure a player of consequence capable of converting the Knicks into an instant playoff combatant, perhaps even upgrade them into an Eastern Conference contender.

“If I figured out how to get under the cap,” Thomas explains, “the players I’m going after now are the same ones I would try to get then.

“In actuality, the way the salary cap system works, you can’t get them when you’re under the cap, because the teams that have them can outbid you. The only way to get them is to trade for them.”

So, there you have it; Thomas doesn’t believe in rebuilding through free agency or the draft.

“Look at how many teams have tried,” he notes. “If you rebuild through the draft, what are you going to do, max out every top pick you have?

“You end up losing some of them and you’re constantly rebuilding. I want to build a winner now.”

The competition and impartial observers are exceedingly impressed. Though shocked at the price the Knicks are willing to pay to get people back in the stands, as well as advance in the standings, they respect Thomas ability to get something substantial done so swiftly.

With more major mind moves on tap, they suspect correctly.

My only reservations regarding Marbury are that the Colangelos might know something about his extracurricular activity that hasn’t yet surfaced.

Or his body’s falling apart; ankles get surgically repaired regularly.

Or, despite his market maturity, All-Star status and numbers that don’t quit or lie, the shooting point guard remains terribly incompatible with teammates who don’t meet his standards.

“Keith reunited with Stephon!” exclaimed a former Net who witnessed the verbal abuse Marbury hurled at Van Horn on the court and behind closed doors.

“I don’t know about that!

“Let’s see if Keith can continue his hot streak (23-point average over the last eight games) with Stephon dominating the ball. I’ll believe they might be able to co-exist when I see Stephon pass the ball to Keith in the post a few weeks from now.

“Tell Isiah, the first thing he should tell Stephon is how much he likes Keith.”

LOOK FOR THE SUNS to release Charlie Ward immediately, if not sooner; the Knicks picked up his $2 million tab.

Don’t be surprised if Thomas offers Ward his job back at the veteran minimum (pro-rated) once he clears waivers.

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