ORLANDO'S GORTAT ON KNICKS RADAR
By MARC BERMAN
LOS ANGELES -- Though the Knicks likely will take a combo-type guard in the June 25 NBA Draft, Knicks team president Donnie Walsh will eye a center with his $5 million mid-level exception during free agency, and Orlando's 7-foot backup Marcin Gortat is very high on his list, The Post has learned.
The Knicks had no interior defensive presence, and that's Gortat's strength. He also blocks shots and rebounds. (The Knicks were last in blocked shots the past two years).
The Polish big man originally was drafted by coach Mike D'Antoni's Suns in the second round of 2005, but they traded his rights. Gortat probably will not be re-signed because he plays a smallish role as Dwight Howard's backup and the Magic can't pay him accordingly.
Gortat said the Knicks could be an ideal spot. Gortat (four points, three rebounds) played 15 minutes last night as Magic coach Stan Van Gundy often used a twin-tower alignment to combat the Lakers' size.
Magic general manager Otis Smith can match any offer, but said he knows it will be a financial challenge to retain Gortat.
"He's got the best job in America, playing behind my best player, playing 8 to 10 minutes," Smith said. "He goes out and does his job and probably has the best work ethic of anyone in the locker room. Can he start for another team? Yeah he can.
"I'll just deal with it and the market will dictate where he goes," Smith added. "I would like to keep him on our team, but it depends if someone wants to make him a starter and figures out what's my breaking point. I'm sure teams will make a run for him."
Gortat averaged 12 minutes, scoring 3.8 points and 4.5 rebounds. Van Gundy, whose Magic team lost 101-96 in overtime and trails the best-of-seven series, 2-0, said he may play him more in The Finals to combat the Lakers' size advantage.
"I love New York, I can tell you that," Gortat said. "It was the first city I landed when I landed in the states five years ago. I love Coach D'Antoni and I know [Danilo] Gallinari from Europe."