The Last Word

KEN FIDLIN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:43 AM ET

Every week, dozens of entertainers audition for a role on Broadway.

Not many of them, however, have what it takes to deliver the kind of knock 'em dead impression Jalen Rose left on the New York Knicks yesterday.

One of the worst-kept NBA secrets this season is that the Knicks and Raps have been talking about a Rose-for-Penny-Hardaway trade that would free up salary cap space for Toronto at season's end.

Knicks general manager Isiah Thomas has had scouts following Rose all over North America this season, presumably trying to discover if Rose still has some game left in him. In retrospect, it seems a big waste of money, since everything they need to know was right there in their faces during the 23 minutes Rose spent take the young Knicks to school yesterday.

STANDING O

Rose sat on the bench for the first 10 minutes and the last six, leaving the floor to a standing ovation with his team leading by 27 on their way to a 129-103 wipeout. Rose played less than half the game but scored 31 points, delivered six assists, grabbed a pair of rebounds and blocked one shot.

"Yeah, I can still play a little bit," Rose said. "Somebody put a memo in my locker this morning, telling me that I'll be 33 this month, so I figured I had to step my game up."

Any trade involving Rose would be nothing more than a salary dump for Toronto, which is on the hook for the balance of his $15 million US salary this year and an additional $15 million next year. Hardaway, currently on New York's inactive list, makes similar money, but his contract is finished at the end of this year.

"(Rose) is a terrific player," Knicks coach Larry Brown said. "Coming off the bench and filling a role. That's why they're starting to win."

As true as that may be, to be able to move Rose would be a major step for the Raptors as they continue to re-invent themselves with young players through the draft.

Some of that money would, no doubt, be earmarked to keep Chris Bosh in town on a long-term deal. They might even be able to get Thomas to throw in a draft pick.

Truth is, Rose has rebounded rather well from the early-season slump which saw him lose his place in the starting five. Yesterday's monster performance simply was the latest, and best, of his recent games.

"Jalen's capable of hitting 30 every night," said teammate Mo Peterson, who says he knew it was just a matter of time before Rose broke out because he has been a difficult man to cover in practice.

"Some players just have that in them, and he's one of those guys. It's good to see him coming around."

If he keeps this up, the Knicks might have some company in the pursuit, if you can call it that, of Rose.

While New York, like Toronto, probably is a playoff impostor, there are plenty of teams who aren't. A player of Rose's quality and experience, despite his salary, might be in demand as the days start dwindling down toward the trade deadline, especially since Toronto only wants cap relief in return.

"I'm pretty sure there are a lot of other teams in this league who are probably making calls about a lot of guys, myself included," Rose said. "It's not Major League Baseball, where you have a choice. In basketball you don't have a choice whether you stay or go, so you just have to go out and play and do what you can when your number is called."

That may be true, but Rose as a high-profile veteran could have made GM Rob Babcock's life miserable and he could easily have become a disruptive force in the locker room, especially when he had to sit and watch a bunch of kids perform (and learn) at the NBA level.

Instead, he has been nothing but a classy team player, mindful that the Raps are an organization under reconstruction -- some would say perpetual reconstruction -- and quietly biding his time until the right situation for the Raptors comes along.

A few more games like yesterday's, and something might come along sooner rather than later.


Videos

Photos