Nick Van Exel is officially available for the taking today, except the Warriors apparently have no interest in moving their prized point guard.
Golden State executives continue to deny rumors the team is working on a deal with the Knicks for Kurt Thomas and Charlie Ward. The trade has been rumored since Aug.18, when Van Exel was traded from Dallas to the Warriors in a multi-player deal.

Under league rules, Golden State needed to wait 60 days from the time they obtained Van Exel before they could trade him again. Last week, Warriors head coach Eric Musselman said there was "zero chance" of the Warriors trading Van Exel, which is an unfortunate development for the Knicks, who are 0-5 in the preseason and could desperately use Van Exel's scoring in their lineup.

Yesterday, a source familiar with the Warriors' thinking said Golden State would consider trading Van Exel, but not for a few months. The concern the Knicks have is that Ward's $6 million salary for the 2003-04 season becomes guaranteed in early January.

If Ward is released before January, the Knicks would have to pay him a $2 million buyout. In recent days, the Knicks have tried to generate interest in Ward. Don Chaney called the veteran point guard the team's most consistent player in the preseason.

Chaney also hinted that Ward could replace Howard Eisley in the starting lineup. Of course, it is no secret that Ward is the Knicks' best point guard, and the reason he serves as a backup is because Chaney wants Ward on the floor at the end of the first half and especially at the end of games. Assuming Van Exel stays with Golden State, Knicks president Scott Layden still must make a move because the team has 16 guaranteed contracts and can carry only 12 players on the active roster and three additional players on the injured list.

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