Knicks 'zzone

Newsday's Al Iannazzone takes you inside the Knicks.

Eddy Curry staying out of touch

  Amar'e Stoudemire had been at the MSG Training Center in recent weeks working out with some of his new teammates and, coincidentally, the guy he replaced, David Lee. The former Knick, according to several people, has been putting in extensive work in Greenburgh while he rehabs from what was diagnosed as a "mallet finger" injury to the index finger on his right hand, which he suffered during workouts with USA Basketball in July.

Another familiar face that arrived recently at the Knicks facility is Danilo Gallinari, who is said to look lean after returning from Italy, where he spent most of his offseason. Gallinari and new Knick Anthony Randolph both were in Africa in early August for the Basketball Without Borders program. Gallinari, Randolph and Toney Douglas have been the mainstays at the facility, along with Lee.

Meanwhile, the one player everyone in the organization wants to see -- OK, maybe not everybody -- working out on a daily basis at the training center is Eddy Curry. The maligned center had maintained regular attendance in the spring while he got treatment for the injury that kept him out for all but seven games last season (the torn myofascial band in his right calf) but left in July to return to Chicago and be with his wife, Patrice, who gave birth to the couple's fourth child, a boy, on July 16. 

Curry originally told the Knicks that he planned to work out with other veterans in Las Vegas during the NBA Summer League, but he did not show up and never made contact to inform them that he was not coming. Curry did finally reach out to Donnie Walsh after the fact and explained he did not go to Vegas because of his wife's pregnancy. Curry assured Walsh that he would be back at the MSG Training Center to work out, but, according to several people within the organization, he has not been seen -- nor heard from -- in quite a while.

"They've been trying to reach him for weeks," one player told me.

I made a few calls and discovered that Curry is apparently back in Ocean City, N.J., the famous summer spot along the southernmost tip of Jersey. It's the same place he spent the month of August last year when he was working out on his own with personal trainers hired (I recall the term du jour was "outsourced") by the Knicks. I'm told Curry is there working out with a strength and conditioning coach (his own hire, this time) and, naturally, those closest to him are insisting he is in great shape and is motivated to have a big season in this, the final year of his contract.

It's hardly breaking news here that Eddy is literally playing for his career and he can ill-afford another bad training camp to set him back like the previous two have done under Mike D'Antoni. We all know from previous experience that D'Antoni doesn't need much of an excuse to dismiss Eddy as a legitimate option.

Curry is expected to start making appearances again at the training center once the calendar flips to September. Most of the Knicks players who have school-age children (Eddy and Amar'e Stoudemire are the only ones this year who have kids old enough to attend school) usually settle into their New York digs in early September to get the family situated. Last year, however, after a summer that involved a lot of talk about his off-season regimen and 30 pound weight loss, Curry didn't show up at the training center until a week before camp started and even then he didn't engage in scrimmages, which disappointed the coaching staff. Then came the injury to his calf on the first day of camp.

It wasn't until after that setback -- and some heat from upper-management -- did Curry finally put some real work in at the gym. With the team's strength coach Greg Brittenham conscripted to get Curry under 300 pounds before the season opener, Curry went through an amazing physical transformation within a month's time. He was finally under 300 pounds for the first time since anyone could remember and, most likely, since he arrived in New York in Oct. 2005.

Even with the calf injury, which hampered his ability to run, Curry stayed under 300 for the season and remains there now, or so his friends say. We won't know until he shows up again at the training center. And even still, we won't know if he's really ready to play, to get back to the level he was at in 2006-07, when he showed the promise of a formidable young big man, until he gets out on the court and gets into a run with his teammates.

D'Antoni can't afford to dismiss Curry so quickly this time around. Ronny Turiaf is much more suited as a backup center that brings energy and toughness off the bench than he is a starter next to Stoudemire. Timofey Mozgov is still raw and will need time to develop as an NBA player. Curry, with his mind on his money and his money on his mind, could be exactly what the Knicks need. Short-term speaking, of course.

And Curry can't go into this stubbornly resistant to playing the way D'Antoni wants him to play, which is constant motion and pick-and-roll. D'Antoni could be Curry's ticket to another big contract. Look at what David Lee was able to do in two seasons here. Look at the numbers Earl Barron -- [Mad Dog voice] I mean Earl Barron, Mikey! -- put up in seven games in this system. Eddy has to see the potential in this and what it could mean for him financially. If not, someone at Rothstein Kass, the Manhattan-based accounting firm that is now handling his finances, needs to alert him of this fact.

C'mon Eddy, everybody sells out these days. Ice Cube has a sitcom on TBS. A sitcom. On TB-freaking-S.

As we reported in Thursday's Newsday, Curry appears to be getting his personal life in order, finally, after a couple of very alarming years mired in embarrassing litigation and financial self-destruction. This is literally his last chance to save his career. And if that's not enough of a motivating factor, perhaps Eddy should consider that even if he signed with a team for the veterans minimum next season (after a potential lockout ends, of course), Eddy won't be able to afford to live the lavish lifestyle he has enjoyed over the last five years, thanks to that $60M deal Isiah Thomas gave him in 2005.

Let's also note that, according to the website ShamSports.com, Eddy's contract also awards him a trade kicker if he is ever dealt during the life of his contract. He'd stand to get the greater amount of 15 percent of his remaining salary or $5M (so consider that when you're all fiddling with the ESPN Trade Machine, my beloved Fixers).

If Curry doesn't do it now (and many people believe he won't) there's no question next summer he'll be among that list of unsigned players late in the offseason that stand out on the page the way Rashad McCants' name stands out right now.

Of course that only hurts Curry and his family. Whatever Curry does this season, the Knicks already know they'll open up $11M in cap space next summer when his contract finally melts off the payroll. 

You can wait that long, right Carmelo?

 

Tags: NBA , Knicks , Eddy Curry , David Lee , Amar'e Stoudemire , Mike D'Antoni , Ronny Turiaf , Danilo Gallinari , Anthony Randolph , Toney Douglas , Timofey Mozgov , Ocean City , myofascial band

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