Marcus Morris shook hands with the three traveling Knicks beat writers, saying goodbye as he left the visitor’s locker room in Cleveland on Monday night.
Just in case it was the last time he sees the group for a while.
Morris, in what could have been his Knicks’ swan song, went out with a bang, delivering another clutch performance in their overtime victory.
And this was before president Steve Mills, who had eyes on signing Morris long term and keeping him off the trade market, was fired Tuesday morning and replaced. Sources indicated GM Scott Perry — now running basketball operations — is more apt to deal Morris to collect assets with the young Lakers guard Kyle Kuzma the latest to be linked to the Knicks.
The trade deadline is 3 p.m. Thursday — 4 ¹/₂ hours before the Knicks return to the court at the Garden against the Magic.
“Yeah, I’m aware of that part,’’ Morris said when asked if Monday could have been his last game as a Knick. “I’ve said it since the day I stepped here, I want to be with the Knicks. It’s not my call. We’re getting to the deadline. Me personally, I love being here and I want to continue to be here.”
More than ever, Dolan has veto power on significant salary moves like taking on point guard D’Angelo Russell’s $117 million contract as the point guard star of the future. The sense is Mills — not Perry — pushed for Russell.
On Monday, Morris finished with 26 points — 22 in the second half and overtime. Drilling two game-deciding jump shots in the final 30 seconds proved again he had inherited the closer role.
The Knicks have shopped Morris, 30, but want a nice payback to deal him — more than simply a late first-round pick, as The Post has reported.
Sources indicated several contenders have expressed interest. The Clippers attempted to sign him to a long-term deal this summer and could use him. So could the Sixers, his hometown team.
The Knicks like young Clippers guard Landry Shamet. Mo Harkless, the small forward from St. John’s, would have to be added to any deal for the math to work. Morris is making $15 million this season.
Morris is having a career year, averaging 19.6 points on 43.9 percent shooting from the 3-point line, but admits the trade winds have him on edge.
“I’m a vet,’’ Morris said. “I know how the business goes. I know things won’t start moving probably until the day of or the day before. It’s hard to ignore. I’d be lying if I said I was. At the end of the day, I just keep my head down and continue to go forward. Whatever comes my way I’m going to attack it head on. That’s how I handle it.”
The Knicks, who are on a two-game winning streak, are exploring multiple scenarios with their slew of expiring contracts as their season has gone down the tubes despite the uptick with interim coach Mike Miller, who is 11-18. (David Fizdale was 4-18 before being fired Dec. 7).
Morris said he’s spoken to the young players about the trade tension. The Knicks are also looking to move Allonzo Trier but that’s more for his benefit to give him a renewed chance after falling out of favor here.
“We’ve been talking for a while,’’ Morris said. “At the end of the day, this is their job. Regardless if they go somewhere or they stay here, they still have to continue to work hard and continue to play. It’s tougher for a younger player. For me, I’ve been a lot of places. It’s tougher for a young player to go somewhere and still play. But I told them it’s not the end of the world. They’re still NBA players. If you’re called somewhere else, just continue to work hard and continue to be professional.’’
Miller obviously hopes Morris stays because he is carrying them late in games. But there’s more to it.
“I’ll just talk about how valuable he’s been,’’ Miller said. “He’s been incredible.
“And the big thing I’m going to tell you, we’re seeing all the stuff that he does when the lights are on. The stuff that he’s doing behind the scenes, in the locker room, with our young players, the practices, having guys do the workouts that he’s doing, have been unbelievable. He’s had such an impact on those guys. He, as we say, has been a great veteran for these young guys to teach them the way to be successful and build a career.’’
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