Focusing on the Knicks’ cash reserves (ie. Cablevision’s gouging of customers all over New York), ESPN’s Chris Sheridan says of the Knicks’ payroll, “why should that matter to the average fan? All they should care about is results, not costs?”

Well, aside from the results being rather piss poor, there is the salary cap to contend with. And there’s also the squandering of an asset like Penny Hardaway’s expiring deal in exchange for a player (Francis) whose skills and temperment so closely match that of an untradeable, highly paid point guard New York already possesses. But other than that, yeah, why pay attention to money?

The New York Post’s Peter Vescey provides more ugly numbers for us to ponder ;

In obtaining Stevie Disenfranchised from Phony Orlando ” converting him into, with my deepest apologies to Fleetwood Mac, Stevie Knicks ” Thomas has raised the team’s salary next season to $125 million.

Figuring the luxury tax will be bumped up several million from its present $61.9M, Camp Cablevision stands to be penalized an additional $60M that’s distributed among the teams (20 or so) under that number.

Factor in the millions lost (roughly $15M) from being disqualified from that group and you’ve got a payroll approaching that of the Yankees. With one slight difference: The Yankees win.

Exceeding the national defense budget while being ridiculed as a national disgrace has been known to cost executives their bathroom keys. On the other hand, if James Dolan doesn’t flinch at Thomas’ decadent waste of money, why should the fans (unless it continues to translate into higher ticket prices) or the media give a hydroelectric damn?

Between Francis and Marbury you can count on frustrated front-court teammates battling for the right to inbound the ball . . . it may be their only chance to touch it.

The good news is, Thomas doesn’t plan cities, our families or exit strategies.

The Newark Star-Ledger’s Dave D’Allessandro writes that yesterday’s Nets/Hornets trade is a mere prelude to New Jersey’s acquisition of Tim Thomas (above).

In a move that will enable the Nets to avoid paying the luxury tax, they dumped Marc Jackson and Linton Johnson III on old friend Byron Scott, whose New Orleans/Oklahoma City Hornets are in desperate need of frontcourt help. In return, the Nets received Bostjan Nachbar, a once-promising shooter from Slovenia who has been a crashing disappointment in his four-year care.

But that is merely a footnote to what has become the Nets’ primary objective at the deadline, which is to wait out the final minutes of Tim Thomas’s brief and fruitless stay in Chicago.

Team officials disclosed yesterday that the Nets will put a full-court trap on the Paterson native as soon as the Bulls buy him out and release him, though it all has to happen by Wednesday — the last day a player can be waived and still remain eligible for the playoffs.

“They’re talking again today, and nothing’s happened yet, but I’m very confident they’ll get something done,” Thomas said yesterday, referring to agent Arn Tellem and Bulls GM John Paxson. “I don’t think Chicago will hold me back. I think something will get done very soon.”