...The larger question that will receive increased attention as the Feb. 21 trade deadline approaches, though, is whether Artest and Bibby will be back for long. Both players have options in their contracts that would allow them to become free agents this summer, but Bibby is expected to play his final year while earning $14.5 million while Artest's salary due of $7.4 million makes it likely he will exercise his early termination option.
They remain the most talked about trade bait in the league, with Cleveland the most known interested party for the point guard and the Knicks long intrigued with the prospect of adding the small forward. Miami has shown an interest in both players in the past but is believed to be more focused on Artest at the moment.
But according to two league sources who didn't want to be identified because of the private nature of trade talks, New York has an interest in Bibby, as well. Yet a possible obstacle in those dealings could be forward David Lee. The athletic second-year big man out of Florida represents the very sort of piece the Kings are coveting as they enter this new rebuilding era at a pace of measured and patient deliberation. Lee has upside galore and a contract (two years and combined $2.8 million remaining) that lends itself to a more sane salary cap.
That desire for a younger, cheaper forward revealed itself in November, as well, when Kings basketball president Geoff Petrie reportedly pursued a sign-and-trade for young Cavaliers forward Anderson Varejao. It was at least the second time Petrie had considered acquiring Varejao, the first coming in February when discussions between the Kings and Cavs over a deal involving Bibby and Cleveland forward Drew Gooden continued until the final minutes of the trade deadline. And just as Lee could still be unavailable, the same goes for Varejao, who has since secured a five-year, $32 million deal after his holdout early this season.
Ironically, Theus discussed Lee's attributes recently while making a loose comparison between Lee and Orlando center Dwight Howard.
"(Lee) is a heck of a player, a guy you don't have to run offense for," Theus said. "David Lee can't shoot his way out of a paper bag, but David Lee can play. He rebounds hard, and every time he rebounds it, he's trying to dunk it, and every time he gets around the basket he's got good hands."
Yet both sources said Knicks coach and team president Isiah Thomas still refuses to give up Lee, which will matter as long as Knicks owner James Dolan doesn't fire Thomas. And while fans at Madison Square Garden continue calling for Thomas' head, what happens in New York in the coming weeks certainly could affect the Kings.
If Thomas is fired as team president, it is believed the Knicks would reconsider various offers Thomas has recently rebuffed. Among them are scenarios that include guard Jamal Crawford leaving town, and another – according to a source – that would have put New Jersey shooting guard Vince Carter in a Knicks uniform. Interestingly, Crawford is believed to be on Cleveland's radar as well, not surprising considering the Cavs continue to look for pieces to surround LeBron James.
The Kings as they currently appear, of course, have an issue of their own to worry about.
"We have to wait and see how it turns out, see how everybody plays together and see how we feed off each other," Bibby said. "You never know until you get out there on the court."