Knicks center Mitchell Robinson’s broken foot came too late in the Andre Drummond sweepstakes to matter, according to NBA sources.
Drummond already had his heart set on the Lakers. Things had moved too far along by late Saturday night for him to back out of what had become a verbal commitment to the Lakers, though he hadn’t cleared waivers until 5 p.m. Sunday.
“Andre wasn’t coming to NYC once the Lakers got that serious,” one NBA source said.
Drummond, the former UConn star, is looking to win a title and considers LeBron James one of his idols.
In truth, the Knicks didn’t try too hard, even after Robinson went down, because Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau didn’t heavily push for it.
As The Post reported, the Knicks started to lose interest in the Mount Vernon native entering Saturday’s matchup in Milwaukee, feeling Drummond would be unhappy if he was not going to start.
And sources contend president Leon Rose and Thibodeau are very concerned about keeping the locker room happy, evidenced by them shipping out Austin Rivers.
The Knicks had plans of starting Robinson the rest of the season to gauge his future value to the franchise. Had Drummond been offered the starting job then, he’d probably be a Knick.
Rose could have blown Drummond out of the water with an offer if they wanted. After Thursday’s trades, the Knicks have $13.5 million in cap space, and since they are under the cap, any offer is not pro-rated.
The only deduction would be a set-off to Cleveland. For instance, if the Knicks offered Drummond $8 million, the net money to Drummond after a complicated set-off formula would be $4.7 million, according to ESPN’s cap guru Bobby Marks.
By contrast, Drummond’s $2 million minimum deal with the Lakers – because they are over the cap – will only net him in actual dollars, $794,000.
The Knicks have two roster openings and with Robinson assuredly done for the regular season, they will add another center – possibly on a 10-day contract. The Knicks had hoped to sign Thibodeau’s former big man Gorgui Dieng, but sources said he preferred playing for the San Antonio program with Gregg Popovich as a safe haven for veterans.
The Knicks have expressed interest in young shot-blocker Norvel Pelle. John Henson, Dwayne Dedmon, Thon Maker, Jordan Bell and DeMarcus Cousins are currently free agents.
Shot-blocker Hassan Whiteside could still be bought out by Sacramento and seems to fit Thibodeau’s rim-protecting mold. The Knicks have at the least discussed Cousins despite his baggage.
Thibodeau prefers for this group a defensive center alongside All-Star power forward Julius Randle, and wasn’t sure Drummond was the right fit after he and brass viewed film over the last few weeks. The Knicks ultimately will have plenty of cap room on Draft Night to potentially facilitate a deal.
Lakers president Rob Pelinka, in a statement, said of Drummond: “Andre Drummond gives us powerful, anchor-point skills on both ends of the court. We feel extremely fortunate to add a player of his caliber and magnitude to our core group at this stage of our journey to defend the NBA title.”