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Stein: Nets were high on Kristaps Porzingis list

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NBA: New York Knicks at Brooklyn Nets Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

In Marc Stein’s column on the end of Kristaps Porzingis saga, Stein notes that the 7’3” Latvian had given the Knicks a list of four teams he preferred as his next destination. The Mavericks, who traded for him, were not the list. The Brooklyn Nets were on it along with the Clippers and two other unidentified teams.

Stein chronicled the events that led up to Thursday’s deal that sent Porzingis and three teammates to the Mavericks for Dennis Smith Jr. and two expiring deals.

Porzingis had indeed expressed his unhappiness with the way the Knicks had treated him and the Knicks were concerned he wanted out. And so the New York brass spoke to Dallas brass and worked things out.

It all came to a head in meeting between Porzingis and his brother, Janis, on one side and the Knicks president, Steve Mills, and GM, Scott Perry on the other. In effect, Stein reports, the Knicks and Mavericks had already negotiated the outline of a trade.

A person with knowledge of the meeting, however, said it was requested by the Porzingis brothers — after they had canceled a similar meeting earlier in January — and that it lasted less than five minutes. Later in the day, according to the person, Janis Porzingis provided the Knicks with a list of four teams he and Kristaps had deemed acceptable trade destinations.

The Nets and the Los Angeles Clippers were among those teams, but Dallas was not on the list. The Knicks, meanwhile, were told Porzingis was prepared to leave the team and continue his knee rehabilitation in Spain if he was not moved by this week’s league trade deadline.

Mills and Perry then moved quickly to seal the deal with Marc Cuban and Donnie Nelson, his GM. They were convinced that it was better to let Porzingis go, despite his long portrayal as the team’s future, a Unicorn. Moreover, Cuban was willing to take the onerous contracts of Tim Hardaway Jr., owed $39 million over two after this season, and Courtney Lee, owed $12.8 million next year, give up Dennis Smith Jr. and two expiring deals, DeAndre Jordan and Wes Matthews, to make it all work.

Stein reports there was an incentive to getting the deal done ASAP.

The Knicks also were fearful that letting the Dallas offer linger, or engaging other teams in the week leading up to the trade deadline, would have enabled the Porzingis camp to scare off the Mavericks or other potential suitors by threatening to sign long-term only with teams like the Nets or the Clippers.

In other words, the Knicks knew Porzingis was willing to sign a long term deal with Brooklyn. Their once favorite son would be abandoning the Garden for Barclays. And their leverage was slipping.

Stefan Bondy, who a month ago suggested Nets interest in KP, also wrote Wednesday of the events leading up to the trade.

The Knicks wanted to pull the trigger (on the Dallas deal), got the sentiment they expected from Porzingis and quickly the circumstances were leaked to the media. Within an hour of the meeting going public, news circulated that Porzingis was traded to the Mavericks. The Knicks’ front office, according to a source, did not believe in Porzingis as the franchise star. It had valid reasons, too: the 23-year-old is coming off ACL surgery, struggled to stay on the court previously because of other injuries and faded in the second half of seasons.

Stein also writes that Cuban has no assurances that Porzingis will sign a new deal with the Mavericks in the off-season. Instead, his swash-buckling nature makes him believe that the presence of European stars Luka Doncic and Dirk Nowitzki will be more than enough to convince KP to stay. Problem is Porzingis isn’t going to be playing with the Mavericks this season. On-court chemistry will have to wait.

So where does that leave the Nets, Clippers etc.? Will the knowledge that Porzingis was willing to sign with them encourage them to make a bid for him come July? Porzingis will still be a restricted free agent and the Mavs, like the Knicks, will have the right to match any offer sheet. It’s a gamble and a big one for Dallas. It’s a gamble for Porzingis as well. His market value is not what it used to be and this week’s events don’t help.

Of course, the Nets will be looking for big players, big draws this summer. And in New York, the Unicorn is the ultimate big.