It should have been garbage time. The Knicks had a 25-point lead early in the fourth quarter Tuesday night against the Washington Wizards, a team no one would suspect capable of making any kind of comeback.
Kenyon Martin, the one healthy Knick capable of mixing things up inside, went to grab a rebound and ended up stepping on Chris Singleton's foot. Seconds later, Martin was face down on the court pounding it in pain.
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A half-hour later, Mike Woodson was in some pain of his own as he announced that Martin had a "severe sprain" of his left ankle and tried to explain why Martin was still in the game at that point.
"In hindsight, maybe I should have pulled him out," Woodson said after the Knicks' 120-99 win. "But I didn't get him out quick enough. I can't sit here and cry over it. It happened. I just have to get him back and nurse him back."
It's a safe bet that Martin will not play in Thursday's game against Chicago, a team the Knicks have yet to beat. Given that bigs Rasheed Wallace, Amar'e Stoudemire, Marcus Camby and Tyson Chandler are all out with injuries, the Knicks are clearly facing a sizable size crisis.
Martin, who joined the team in late February, played a major role in their resurgence after they struggled on a West Coast road trip. His teammates were clearly shaken up to see him writhing in pain on the floor.
Carmelo Anthony, who was on the bench, shook his head as he watched in disbelief.
"It was tough," Anthony said. "I know him, and when he gets injured, he kind of gets right back up and tries to shake it off. Once I saw him pounding the ground, I knew it was something."
Martin had missed the two previous games with a sore left knee. Before the game, Woodson said he would likely limit his minutes to 20, 25 tops. When Martin was injured, he had been on the floor for 18:20.
"Hopefully, K-Mart's injury isn't that serious and he'll be back in a week or so," point guard Jason Kidd said. "We wouldn't be in this situation if it wasn't him. Because of our injuries, we needed a big. He came in here and changed the whole chemistry. His intensity and inside defense and blocking shots on defense. On offense, he can play above the rim. He's definitely helped us get to this point."
The Knicks, who won their first Atlantic Division title in 19 years, have five games left before the playoffs start. His teammates believe Martin will be ready to play by then.
Said J.R. Smith: "Worse comes to worst, even if he's not 100 percent, he'll tough it out. He's tremendously strong-minded."