NEW YORK -- Jerry Colangelo, president and owner of the Phoenix Suns, said yesterday he had had an exploratory talk with the New York Knicks about a possible deal for Patrick Ewing, and he was ready to continue talking about a trade if the Knicks are interested.
Colangelo said he had talked once with Dave Checketts, the Knicks' president, and he would be happy to talk to him again.
"We think we have a roster that is very deep, and have enough flexibility there that could result in making a deal," Colangelo said. "At the same time we're not ready to break up our team. We have no reason to."
Colangelo was responding to reports in the last several days that Ewing had designated the Suns as one of the teams he wanted to be traded to on a list he presented to Pat Riley last Tuesday during a meeting with the new Knicks coach.
While the Knicks pondered whether to trade their All-Star center, they announced that they had restructured the contract of Mark Jackson, one of their point guards. The move put them a giant step closer to getting under the salary cap, which would give them greater flexibility in making trades.
But with the opening of training camp seven weeks away, and with the need to sell season tickets, the most important order of business is settling the status of Ewing, either by holding him to the final four years of his contract or trading him.
Colangelo said he was ready to get involved in discussing a possible deal, "if in fact they come to the conclusion that it's in their best interest."
"I had discussed a possible trade for Ewing with Al Bianchi last season when he was still the Knicks' general manager but at the time it didn't appear he was ready to give it any serious consideration," Colangelo said from Phoenix.
"We have since expressed serious interest with Dave Checketts but our conversation was more exploratory than anything else."
Checketts was traveling yesterday and unavailable for comment.
If the Knicks are indeed serious about trading Ewing, the biggest problem is that the Suns, who are over the cap, will have to make room for Ewing's $3,138,900 salary.
"Since both teams are over the cap, the trade would have to be structured where the salaries of the players involved are dollar for dollar," Colangelo said.
Jackson, the sometimes starting playmaker who has fallen out of favor in recent seasons, came up with a big assist by agreeing to restructure the final two years of his contract. This lowered his salary from the scheduled $2,165,000 to $1.2 million for the coming season.
Jackson does not lose any money in the restructuring, which Don Cronson, his agent, called "very complicated and unprecedented in magnitude."
Basically, what the Knicks and Cronson did during the long negotiations was to pay Jackson $1 million in deferred money now, instead of over the nine-year period between the years 2000 and 2009, as was originally scheduled. That lowered the Knicks' total payroll by about $965,000, from $13,553,000 to $12,588,000. The cap is $12,500,000.
But the Knicks still have to sign Greg Anthony, their No. 1 draft choice, who will fit into Kenny Walker's $875,000 slot. They also need to find themselves a backup center, whether Ewing goes or stays.
The reduction in Jackson's salary also makes him more tradeable.
Riley, who had asked his players to make sacrifices "for the good of the team," released this statement:
"We appreciate Mark's willingness to renegotiate his contract for the benefit of the team."