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The Knicks are maybe, possibly interested in trading for Russell Westbrook...at the right price

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Who really knows, you know?

Houston Rockets v New York Knicks
Westbrook’s face when he finds out about the trade.
Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Russell Westbrook is up for grabs, and the Knicks — reportedly among a small group of potential trade partners — have held discussions with the Houston Rockets about a deal that would bring the feisty former MVP to New York.

The idea of Westbrook being traded to the Knicks has been uncomfortably lurching towards us like lava lately, and on Friday, the molten magma caused the rumor mill to burst into flames.

That’s right, the Knicks are “on the short list of viable trade destinations” for Westbrook, who turned 32 this week (happy birthday!) and is owed more than $130 million over the next three seasons. Wrangling Westbrook would be a blockbuster first move from Leon Rose, who has worked mostly from the shadows since starting as team president just before the coronavirus cut short the Knicks’ 2019-20 campaign. But would it be a smart move?

Before we try to answer that question, it’s important to acknowledge that Jonathan Macri of Knicks Film School is reporting that RJ Barrett and Mitchell Robinson, and maybe other key young cogs, are not on the table, nor are any of New York’s own draft picks. That’s reassuring, and a step in the right direction for the franchise.

Meanwhile, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, the market for Westbrook’s services isn’t exactly booming, so perhaps the Knicks could get him for cheap.

Still, the question remains. Should the Knicks trade for Westbrook, especially in the event they don’t have to give up anything of much consequence? As an onlooker, the easiest thing to do is be extreme in either direction.

Trading for Westbrook would suck! At best, the Knicks will be a low seeded playoff team in the East. They’ll probably never even get out of the first round.

Trading for Westbrook would be great! Maybe the Knicks will be a low seeded playoff team in the East. They might even get out of the first round!

Not to get all metaphysical, but there’s no way to know how trading for Westbrook would work out because the future hasn’t happened yet. The multiverse theory would argue there are infinite possibilities.

Here are some things we do know: Russ would immediately become the alpha dog on a team full of innocent young pups, meaning he’ll either eat the Knicks alive or shepherd them towards respectability. Westbrook has earned All-NBA honors nine times, including making the Third Team in each of the last two years. During the 2019-20 regular season, Westbrook averaged 27 points, 8 rebounds and 7 assists as Robin to James Harden’s Batman, but injuries contributed to an uneven performance in the bubble. He’s had a variety of surgeries across the course of his career, including multiple procedures on his knees, which are used for jumping.

There are solid arguments for and against getting Westbrook. On the one hand, his contract is an albatross of epic proportions, and his acquisition would give the Knicks far less wiggle room when it comes to the salary cap for the next few years. On the other hand, what if the Westbrook-led Knicks were good and exciting enough to lure more stars to Madison Square Garden?

Back to that first hand, where we can see that Westbrook has had his problems with the media, meaning things could get ugly if he’s unable to carry the Knicks on his shoulders. Finally, to the other hand again, where we’re reminded that Westbrook is the ultimate competitor who gives it his all and clearly cares about winning.

This back and forth dance will continue in our heads until the trade moratorium is lifted and something actually happens. If Leon Rose really wants to get our attention, he’ll shock everyone by trading for Harden instead.