Dogged by injuries and bug, Knicks take on defending champs

Knicks head coach Mike Woodson looks on against

Knicks head coach Mike Woodson looks on against the Minnesota Timberwolves during the first half. (Nov. 3, 2013) (Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke)

GREENBURGH, N.Y. - Mike Woodson didn't have enough healthy bodies to run a single drill at practice yesterday. But he said the Knicks, at full strength, have enough to compete with the Miami Heat in the regular season and playoffs.

"Absolutely, and I still believe that if we could ever get back whole," Woodson said. "It's been tough in terms of going out on a night in and night out basis and competing.

"It's hard to judge our team from a coaching standpoint because I just have not had that core group on the floor a long period of time just to see where we are as a ballclub and see how that supporting cast can really fit in with that core group. Eventually I think we'll get there. And we still got time."

Woodson won't have that or a healthy team Thursday night when the 12-22 Knicks face LeBron James and the two-time champion Heat at the Garden for the first time this season.

Between injuries and "a bug" that's going around the team, Woodson said only four players were able to practice and isn't sure how many he will have when the Knicks try for their third straight win.

Tyson Chandler, Kenyon Martin and Andrea Bargnani were under the weather. Chandler left Sunday's win in Dallas with an upper respiratory infection and didn't play Tuesday against Detroit. Chandler and Martin are game-time decisions.

Beno Udrih is questionable with a sore left knee. Pablo Prigioni (broken toe) and Metta World Peace, who had platelet-rich plasma therapy on both knees, are out.

It sure doesn't sound like a good time to face the Heat, owners of the second-best record in the league at 27-8.

"I still expect guys to play at a high level, it doesn't matter who we play," Woodson said. "I expect them to go out and play and help us win basketball games."

"We're going to get through it," Iman Shumpert said. "Tough time for us health-wise, but everybody will pull through and we'll be fine."

The Knicks believed they built a team with enough size, scoring and shooters to contend with the Heat and Pacers in the East. But the season hasn't gone as they imagined.

Aside from injuries, the Knicks' effort and defense have been inconsistent, they've lacked leadership and chemistry and have had late-game meltdowns. But they believe they're on the right track.

"Everybody's playing with a little bit more emotion," Shumpert. "With all the losses we've had, it's brought us closer together."

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With Phil Jackson now guiding the Knicks, when will they win an NBA title?

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