There’s rarely a dull moment for the Knicks, as Thursday night’s draft proved that, when they selected relative unknown Kostas Papanikolaou from Greece with the No. 48 pick.

Team president and general manager Glen Grunwald insisted that Papanikolaou was the “best player available” on his board, but also hinted that money played a part in the shocking selection. The team can stash away Papanikolaou for at least another year overseas and avoid paying any money to the second-rounder.

This is important because the Knicks are teetering close to going over the salary cap and with four players from last year’s roster (Jeremy Lin, Steve Novak, Landry Fields, and J.R. Smith) in their sights as desirable assets to retain, Grunwald said adding a non-salaried player was the prudent route.

“We’re focusing on free agency now and we want to keep all four free
agents,” said Grunwald, who added he doesn’t think the team will be
active in the trade market this summer. “They’re all valuable players,
so we’ll try to keep them all. But we can’t negotiate until July 1. … We
want them all to know we want them; we love them. Hopefully it all
works out.”


New York is awaiting verdict on the appealed Bird rights case which they won last week. How the appeal unfolds will play a major role in whether the team can be a player in the free agent market for the likes of Steve Nash -- or even determine if they can re-sign Lin and Novak to salaries that can exceed the team’s salary cap, as per the current ruling of the Bird rights case.

The most important Knick to retain is Lin, who is a restricted free agent. Grunwald said it’s a no-brainer that they’ll do everything they can to re-sign the rising star, but until the appeal is heard the team is in a helpless position.

“With the circumstances of the new CBA, I’m not sure how teams will operate. I’m uncertain how it’ll play out,” he said when asked if he foresees a strong market for Lin. “We have the ability to keep him and match any offer that he’d get, so hopefully we’d meet a mutually agreeable number should he get an offer. … I can wish for whatever outcome I want but it’s out of my hands. We’re interested bystanders until this is resolved.”

Knicks notes

» Grunwald tried to explain the complicated mid-level exception rule and how it’ll affect the team’s salary cap going forward into free agency this summer: “If you’re a taxpayer, the MLE becomes $3 million, but if not you can pay the $5 million. … Whatever happens with our own free agents, it’s likely we’ll be a taxpayer this year and we’ll operate under that $3 million number.”

» After hinting that money might’ve played a role in the selection, Grunwald later insisted the Papanikolaou pick was more about quality of player at that slot and not over any issues to add to the bloated payroll: “We just didn’t think there was much difference in second round [talent] and we felt a player drafted in the second round would not likely contribute this season or the next two seasons. This way he’ll get to season overseas.”

Follow Knicks beat writer Tony Williams on Twitter @TBone8 for all your offseason news.

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