July 13, 2003 -- Who could blame Knicks GM Scott Layden for declining to comment on the news Jason Kidd and Alonzo Mourning will be Nets next season?
Kidd spurning the Spurs means San Antonio now can use the cap money to go after at least one free-agent big man the Knicks like: Rasho Nesterovic, who is still mulling the T'wolves' offer, Brad Miller (Pacers) or Michael Olowokandi (Clippers). And the Spurs now are more likely to keep free-agent backup point guard Speedy Claxton, who had piqued the Knicks' interest.

The Spurs attempted to land P.J. Brown on Friday with a five-year, $43 million deal, but the Hornets stepped up their bid and kept their forward with a four-year, $35 million deal. The Knicks, restricted by the $4.9 million mid-level exception and Brown's age, were blown out of the water, only allowed to offer five years at $28 million.

The Knicks had not crossed Mourning off their list, but they barely made a play for him, feeling his health (kidney ailment) was too big a risk.

Chaney said he was "surprised" the Nets added Mourning with Dikembe Mutombo already in place, and admitted the health risk was as big as Antonio McDyess' situation.

"[Alonzo] could play, no question, and the biggest thing is he has great heart," Chaney said. "[But] it's similar to what we have with McDyess. Hopefully he stays healthy."

The Nets now have four centers (Mourning, Mutombo, Jason Collins and Aaron Williams); the Knicks have none. Williams would be a good fit with the Knicks, and the Nets could use a backup point guard (Charlie Ward). According to a source, Nets GM Rod Thorn likes Ward but wouldn't trade one of his centers for him.

Chaney said the Nets don't have to make a trade, and Thorn believes the same, because, other than Mutombo, three of his centers also play power forward.

"This is my philosophy on big people: You can never have enough," Chaney said.

Then, sounding like he has stock in YankeeNets, Chaney added, "I'm happy they were able to re-sign [Kidd]. I would hate to see them break up a great combination."

* Willis Reed, new special basketball adviser, on the state of the Knicks: "They need some size. They're a small team. You see what they did in the draft; they got some big kids [Michael Sweetney, Maciej Lampe] and that's a significant start. It's become a much bigger league. You don't play without having a 6-10 power forward."

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