by Lang Whitaker

QUOTES OF THE DAY
“Every two weeks you just pinched yourself and said, This cannot be real.” — Joe Klein, on being paid $1.2 million not to play in his final season.

“I was there for three months, and it just rained a lot. We had a lot of controversy. We had a young team and a lot of expressed comments of people not wanting to be there. When you have players that just don’t care, it’s contagious. Even the players who were dedicated and really wanted to be there, it just made it seem like it was for naught.” — Brian Skinner, on playing in Portland.

THE LINKS…
Yee-uh!

• You really have to love Isiah Thomas. I know, for Knicks fans it’s not so much fun, but he just keeps on keeping on. Now the Knicks have signed Jared Jeffries, who is an adequate defender and a subpar offensive player, for what will work out to be about $60 million. The best part? Larry Brown asked Isiah to draft Renaldo Balkman and sign Jared Jeffries. So he did. About two months after he fired Larry Brown. And Fred Kerber drops the line of the day in the Post, writing about the Knicks being over the cap: “They could, of course, get under the luxury tax during the course of Jeffries’ deal. Pigs also could start flying tomorrow.”

Linas Kleiza is ready to take on his teammate Carmelo in the World Championships…assuming Carmelo has recovered from his injured knee, which he hurt while colliding with Coach K.

• You know your organization hasn’t been doing so well when Brian Skinner — Brian Skinner! — is putting you on blast.

• Well, this isn’t good.

Lenny Cooke scored 35 points yesterday for his latest team. Sounds great, until you read that his latest team is called “Uptown Haircutters.”

• Will the Nets re-up with Vince Carter (like the Celts did with Pierce), or let him become a free agent next summer? Vince says he isn’t worried either way, and that he didn’t even know Paul Pierce had re-upped.

• Interesting story here about the Pacers and the players they’ve had that never really were part of the franchise. The best story is Joe Klein‘s toward the end.

Pat Croce says he’s not going to contact any of the potential Sixers ownership groups. He adds that he will, however, return his phone calls. Well isn’t that nice.

• A day after a web site said a team in Croatia “may be close” to signing Steven Smith, and then other outlets saw that and reported it, Smith and his agent said quite frankly, that’s wrong. He wants to play in the NBA. Duh.

• Finally, coming up with names for the Kings’ new arena. My favorites: Taj Maloof and The Mint.