UCLA's Kevon Looney could fit with Knicks

Kevon Looney grew up rooting for Phil Jackson’s Los Angeles Lakers. So it was a bit surreal last week when he got the chance to talk basketball with Jackson at the New York Knicks training facility.

“He still has that aura,” Looney, a draft-eligible big man from UCLA, said by phone on Saturday. “He’s a legend in basketball so it’s kind of nerve-wracking sitting next to him and talking about the triangle.”

Looney, Kentucky’s Trey Lyles, Wisconsin’s Frank Kaminsky and Georgetown’s Joshua Smith worked out for Jackson and the Knicks on Thursday.

Derek Fisher, Allan Houston, Kurt Rambis and other members of the Knicks’ coaching staff were all on hand.

Looney has worked out for more than 10 NBA teams but said his workout with New York was the most detailed.

The workout started with a 20-30 minute film session with Jackson and Fisher. The Knicks’ coach and team president showed the assembled big men a few basic actions in the triangle offense. From there, the players took the floor to run through some sets and play 2-on-2, among other activities.

“The competition was pretty good,” Looney said.

Looney and the other three big men who worked out on Saturday are all projected to be drafted outside of the top 4 picks. The Knicks have the fourth selection, but Jackson has said that they are exploring all of their options, including the possibility of trading the pick.

The workout Thursday was further evidence that they are at least considering their options when it comes to trading for a lower pick in the first round.

In his latest mock draft, ESPN’s Chad Ford projected that Looney will be selected 19th.

The Knicks, according to sources, have scouted Looney for much of his college season at UCLA.

One Eastern Conference scout believes the 6-9 forward would be a strong fit in the team’s triangle offense.

“He could be an [Lamar] Odom-type,” the scout said. “He can shoot it and score from the interior, pass and make plays off of the dribble. I like him there.”

Two separate scouts said recently that feel as if Looney is one of the most underrated players in the draft.

“We could be having a different conversation about Kevon Looney in five years,” one said.

Looney had strong rebounding numbers in college (he had 15 double-doubles) and made 41 percent of his 3-point attempts. Those statistics -- and his 7-4 wingspan -- are reasons why NBA executives view him as a first-round talent.

But Looney feels that his versatility extends beyond what he showed at UCLA. In high school, Looney handled the ball frequently.

“I was more in the pick-and-pop and a rebounder in college,” Looney said. “I’d like the chance to show that I can make plays off the dribble.”

Looney sees his versatility as a fit in the Knicks’ triangle offense.

“I can pass it, I can stretch the floor, I can dribble it,” he said. “I tried to show that in the workout. I think I did a pretty good job at that. Everybody in the workout was pretty versatile and those are the kind of players they want in the system.”

Looney said he has two more workouts. After that, he’ll be waiting to see what happens on Thursday night.

“To have a chance to play with [NBA players] is an unbelievable feeling,” Looney said. “But I’ll feel much better after my name is called.”

Pistons have interest in Hardaway Jr.: If you're looking for any clues regarding potential draft-night trades, here's one: the Detroit Pistons are said to have interest in trading for Tim Hardaway Jr. and have tried to engage the Knicks on a deal, per league sources.

Detroit may be looking to move guard Brandon Jennings because the organization traded for fellow guard Reggie Jackson last season. Jackson will be a restricted free agent this summer.

Jennings is entering the final year of his contract and will make $8.3 million next season. In a Jennings-for-Hardaway Jr. swap, the Knicks would likely have to use their trade exception and adjust their outgoing assets to make the deal work.

It's unknown if the Knicks would want to take Jennings' salary out without further enticement. It's also worth noting that former NBA star Tim Hardaway Sr., Hardaway Jr.'s father, is an assistant coach with the Pistons.