NEW YORK — The Nets, at this point, are not just a super team. They are a special event crossover super team special. Expectations have elevated to title-or-flop for the outer borough.
But as one NYC squad collects Infinity Gems, the other will probably ride out their feel-good season at status quo, or close enough to it. Andre Drummond, the last remaining former All-Star on the market, will likely join another team as a free agent, presumably either the Celtics or the Lakers, as the Knicks began leaking Saturday that their interest has waned in Drummond. Either way, it’s no great loss for Tom Thibodeau’s squad.
Drummond’s fit in New York would’ve been awkward: They have a young starting center, Mitchell Robinson, who has been hailed as a future cornerstone. His spring and size make him a worthy of a stronger look before a decision on Robinson’s contract, which is currently extension-eligible. There were also concerns about Drummond’s ball-dominating/paint-clogging presence stifling Julius Randle’s game.
New York still owns roughly $14 million in cap space that doesn’t roll over into the 2021 free agency. The money’s best use now is to facilitate a trade around the draft, but there are also lesser players still available in the buyout market like Jeff Teague and Gorgui Dieng.
“Just use it wisely,” coach Tom Thibodeau said of the cap space. “Always looking at opportunities to improve the club. If something makes sense, then we’ll do it.”
The Nets, meanwhile, inked LaMarcus Aldridge as a free agent Saturday, securing yet another former All-Star to their obscenely rich roster. They have a combined 41 All-Star appearances on the roster. FORTY-ONE. And that’s not counting the coaching staff.
If the NBA is worried about competitive balance, it should change the buyout process.
The Knicks, who entered Saturday’s game against the Bucks tied for the fifth seed in the Eastern Conference, have one combined All-Star appearance. But it’s significant because it occurred this season as Randle’s reward for lifting the team into playoff contention.
KENNY PAYNE STAYING PUT
Despite heavy interest from DePaul University, Kenny Payne is remaining with the Knicks as an assistant.
Payne had spoken to DePaul officials, including an athletic director he previously worked with at Kentucky, and was “close” to securing the school’s head coaching job, according to the university’s student-run newspaper, The DePaulia.
But it never happened. The entire Knicks staff is intact after some uncertainty. Two other Knicks assistants — Johnnie Bryant and Mike Woodson — were also linked to NCAA jobs at Utah and Indiana, respectively.
“Obviously very pleased that they’re being recognized and all are very capable but I’m obviously pleased that they’re staying,” Thibodeau said.