If Jalen Rose and Donyell Marshall are really headed to New York, as the New York Daily News’ Frank Isola hints, it is a shame for the Knicks said trade couldn’t have occured prior to last night’s 4th quarter capitulation to the Toronto Raptors.

Isiah Thomas’ month-long pursuit of Donyell Marshall and Jalen Rose (above) has finally reached a point where the Knicks and Raptors are discussing a deal that would send Kurt Thomas and Penny Hardaway to Toronto.

According to a league source, Thomas and Rob Babcock, the Raptors general manager, exchanged phone calls yesterday in an attempt to hammer out a deal that would represent Thomas’ first major roster move since he acquired Jamal Crawford from the Bulls in August.

More importantly, the deal would also change the way the Knicks play since Marshall, who would play power forward, is regarded as a perimeter player. The 6-11 Marshall had six 3-pointers in Monday’s win over Minnesota and is averaging 10.5 points and 6.8 rebounds in 24.1minutes.

The under-rated Marshall, who has even played center for Toronto this season, is the player who interests Thomas most. However, Rose is also a proven scorer, averaging 14.9 points in 28.9 minutes. He also has a reputation of being a disruptive presence in the locker room, which is why Indiana, with Thomas as its coach, traded Rose three years ago.

The success of both the Phoenix Suns and Seattle Sonics has apparently encouraged Thomas to adopt a smaller and quicker style. The theory is that if the Knicks can spread the floor with shooters – Crawford, Marshall and Allan Houston – it would maximize Stephon Marbury’s ability to penetrate and pass.

The one major risk is that the Knicks would be sacrificing defense. Kurt Thomas, a natural power forward, is the team’s best low-post defender. He is also effective in playing the pick-and-roll game that is Marbury’s strength. Isiah Thomas, however, may be convinced that unproven second-year forward Michael Sweetney is ready to play significant minutes.

Marshall, who is also coveted by Minnesota, is in the final year of his contract that will pay him $5 million. Marshall’s agent, Andy Miller, refused to comment yesterday when asked about the possibility of the UConn product being traded to New York.

Rose is making $14.4 million, $15.9 million next year and $16.5 million in 2006-07. The Raptors have been looking to move his contract since last summer. The same is true of the Knicks and Hardaway, who asked to be traded two weeks ago and hasn’t been seen or heard from since. Hardaway’s contract expires after next season.