Of all the trade rumors Kurt Thomas was linked to over the summer - and there were plenty - one in particular piqued his interest.
"I'm from Dallas, so yeah, I thought about it," Thomas said yesterday. "I think playing in Dallas was a distraction for me the first time around because I was a young player. But I think I've matured. It wouldn't be a problem."

A proposed deal that would have included Thomas and point guard Nick Van Exel fell through and Van Exel was eventually traded to Golden State. But it is no secret that the Knicks, who added three power forwards during the offseason, are still looking to clear out players and Thomas is at the top of the list.

Team president Scott Layden is in the market for a starting center and has dangled both Thomas and Charlie Ward as trade bait. Layden is less inclined to trade Thomas for anyone other than a center because the 6-9 Thomas has been the Knicks center for the past two seasons and is the only healthy player on the roster who can handle the position on a full-time basis.

"I'm not a center, I'm a power forward," Thomas said over the telephone. "But I guess you can say we're loaded at one position. I'm aware of what went on this summer."

Thomas is one of seven power forwards Don Chaney will have to find playing some time for. Even if Antonio McDyess is not available, the Knicks still have veterans Othella Harrington, Clarence Weatherspoon and Keith Van Horn. Those numbers do not bode well for rookies Michael Sweetney or Maciej Lampe. It also means that Thomas will start the season at center if Layden is unable to make a trade.

"Nothing bothers me," Thomas said. "Being traded is part of the business. I figured they would try to do something after going two years without making the playoffs. It just happened to be Latrell (Sprewell) who was traded."

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