NEW YORK -- So I ran into Reggie Miller twice Thursday night at Madison Square Garden: once pregame, when I explained to him the merits of including Landry Fields in a trade for Carmelo Anthony; and again afterward, when he had something to say, too.
"You still want to trade Landry Fields, Chris?"
As Miller, myself and everyone else knows, it doesn't matter whether I think Fields should be traded or whether Miller thinks Fields should be kept. It's a matter of whether Fields will be in the mix when the Knicks and Nuggets arrive at whenever their 11th hour is and decide whether they are going to make a trade sending Anthony to New York.
And if Stan and Josh Kroenke and Denver general manager Masai Ujiri were watching this particular game, which was televised nationally on TNT, they had to be asking themselves whether this Fields kid is someone they can rebuild around if they decide to set off the dynamite.
Fields, the 39th overall pick of this past June's draft, is looking very much like a lottery pick -- perhaps never more so than he did on this night. He had a line of 19 points and 13 rebounds to go along with a continual infusion of energy that led the Knicks to one of their better victories of the season, 93-88 over the Miami Heat.
"I just came into this game wanting to be a little more aggressive -- not worrying if shots were going to fall. That's pretty much it," Fields said. "Our last two losses to the Heat, I didn't do so well, and I said, 'I'm kind of tired of this and I'm going to do something different.'"
That difference in attitude and energy was most evident on a missed free throw by Amare Stoudemire in the second quarter when Fields came flying in from the 3-point line to grab an offensive rebound and went right back up with the ball to draw a foul. The crowd went nuts over the hustle play, and Fields knocked down both foul shots.
But Fields' biggest play of the game came as the clock ticked inside the final minute and the Knicks were holding an 86-84 lead. James Jones had just missed a 3-point attempt for Miami (which seemed to be playing this game at half-speed -- especially LeBron James). The Knicks fed the ball to Stoudemire on the low block and watched the Heat's defense do what everyone else's defense does at times like this -- collapse on Stoudemire.
But this time, rather than put the ball on the floor and put himself at risk of having it swiped away, Stoudemire rifled a pass to Fields at the 3-point line for a long-distance jumper that put the Knicks ahead 89-84 and sent the building into a frenzy.
That shot pretty much wrapped up the Knicks' first victory in three tries against the Heat this season, providing a midseason boost of energy and confidence for a Knicks team that had been showing itself to be interesting and exciting to watch but that wasn't fooling anybody into believing it could be championship-worthy.
The Knicks still can't hope to rise into that echelon unless and until they put a second superstar alongside Stoudemire, which is why they are proceeding diligently with Denver in their pursuit of Anthony.
And as I told Miller before the game when he was arguing against giving up too much in an Anthony trade, it comes down to this: The Knicks will not have enough salary cap space to sign Anthony as an unrestricted free agent this coming summer unless they either renounce their rights to Wilson Chandler or trade enough players to free up enough cap space to sign both Anthony and Chandler.
So either way, Chandler is likely a goner.
That goner label applies, too, to Eddy Curry, who would be a key component of any Anthony trade because the Knicks need his $11.3 million salary to make the money match.
So assuming Chandler and Curry would be part of any Anthony trade if one is made by the Feb. 24 deadline, you then have to look at what else it would take for the Knicks to get Anthony.
And that list begins with Fields (who can be sold to the Denver fan base as a lottery-worthy talent), and likely would also include Anthony Randolph (or a No. 1 pick acquired in exchange for Randolph) and possibly a fifth player (Bill Walker fits the bill of a young player with considerable upside and a low salary).
Those five still might not comprise as enticing a package as the one the New Jersey Nets were prepared to give to the Nuggets. (When exactly was the last time a lottery-bound team was willing to give up its upcoming lottery pick along with the lottery pick -- Derrick Favors -- it just acquired?)
But those five -- or whatever package of players and picks Knicks president Donnie Walsh is trying to woo the Nuggets with -- probably would end up being more valuable than any package another team would be willing to relinquish, especially if that team had no guarantee from Anthony that he'd be willing to sign an extension with it.
As James said in the infamous toast he gave at Anthony's wedding: If the Knicks ever want to have any hope of competing with the Heat between now and 2015, they had better find a way to put Anthony and Stoudemire alongside each other.
"You blame me?" James asked when reminded of the toast. "That particular day was all about Carmelo and his wife. Let's not take away from the fact that was an unbelievable day for two parties coming together in matrimony. That was more important than anything. We said what we said, but we were excited to be there for the wedding."
That was about as colorful as James was on this particular Thursday, and he nonchalanted his way through this game to such a degree that it took 13 consecutive made field goals by Dwyane Wade (before be went 0-for-6 in the fourth) to enable to Heat to play from ahead for much of the game.
But in the end, Fields was the guy making the biggest plays and the biggest shot (for those wondering why Spike Lee has taken to wearing a Fields jersey to all Knicks games, here was your reason). And it should not go unmentioned that Fields had a similar prolific night (21 points, 17 rebounds) back in November when the Knicks made their one and only visit to Denver.
So if there is an Anthony trade, logic dictates that Fields could be one of the key pieces leaving town.
"I'm not a speculation guy. I want to see what happens," James said. "When it happens, then I can make a comment about it. The No. 1 thing is Carmelo being happy. It doesn't matter where that's at."
Chris Sheridan covers the NBA for ESPN.com and ESPNNewYork.com.