The New York Knicks are interested in former Suns big man Gani Lawal, according to a report from ESPN New York's Jared Zwerling.
Lawal's agent, Dan Curtin, says that the Knicks will likely work out the 24-year-old after he finishes up his season with Virtus Roma in the top division of the Italian league. Lawal has flourished in Italy this season, averaging 13.4 points, 8.4 rebounds and 1.5 blocks while leading Virtus Roma deep into the playoffs. Curtin feels this strong performance should earn Lawal a minimum contract in the NBA next season.
Lawal has three workouts confirmed so far with the Orlando Magic, Indiana Pacers and Toronto Raptors, with five more expected, including with the Knicks. Lawal does have a connection with the Knicks, as he played with Iman Shumpert at George Tech.
Like Shumpert, Lawal has had to deal with a lengthy rehab after tearing his ACL. Lawal suffered the injury on January 6, 2011 and has not played in the NBA since, spending time in Poland, China, France and now Italy. Shumpert said Lawal reached out to him after the Knicks guard tore his ACL in the 2012 NBA Playoffs.
While an ACL tear is a devastating injury, Lawal believes that it actually may have helped his career:
"To me, it was actually a blessing because I got a chance to really appreciate the game," he said. "I did re-change my body. I'm stronger than I've ever been at 245 pounds, 5 percent body fat, my vertical is five inches higher -- I've got a 41-inch vertical now -- and all the testing for the combine after my rehab, all my numbers were better. So I'm just a more finely-tuned athlete physically on the floor now."
Lawal and Shumpert have talked about reuniting in New York, and Lawal would provide some of the ingredients that were missing against the Pacers in this year's postseason. The Knicks were thin up front due to all the injuries to the bigs, and the 6'9 Lawal is a big, athletic body who likes to mix it up and play physical.