Knicks 'zzone

Newsday's Al Iannazzone takes you inside the Knicks.

TD a nice pick for Knicks

Jordan Hill is certainly playing more like a No. 29 right now, which he admitted himself after Wednesday's preseason finale win over the Nets when the lottery pick told me, "It's going to take time."

Fixers, take heart. At least you have Toney Douglas.

As several scouts predicted when the Knicks got him from the Lakers in a purchased pick, Douglas came NBA-ready as a defensive player. And after four weeks of training camp and preseason, Douglas' offense is starting to pick up, too.

He had his most effective game in the finale, where he played the fourth quarter and came up with the biggest basket of the night: a drive right at 7-footer Brook Lopez for a tough finish that all but sealed the game (aside from a wild ending with Courtney Lee getting purposely-missed free throws and being fouled - twice - by Larry Hughes. But with 1.1 seconds left, Lee had to actually make both FTs to tie and he missed the front-end).

Douglas finished with 13 points and made 6 of 9 from the field in 19:49. By the looks of the first three quarters, when Mike D'Antoni looked like he was going with his regular rotation, Douglas has secured the nine-hole as the second guard off the bench. This is where Larry Hughes would have likely fit if Douglas wasn't ready to contribute. But he clearly is and since he is also the future and Hughes is an expiring contract with noticably fading skills, Douglas gets the spot.

For more on the Hughes situation, check my story for Thursday's print editions.

* * *

* - Speaking of spots, the team has to cut one player from the 15-man roster by Monday's deadline, or officially waive the retired Cuttino Mobley. The fringe players are center Chris Hunter, who made his preseason debut against the Nets (4  points, 0 rebounds in 8:37), forward Marcus Landry (1 point, 4 rebounds in 9:34) and guard Joe Crawford, who remained on the bench in the preseason finale. D'Antoni opted to keep Hughes on the court down the stretch rather than insert Crawford.

I don't believe it's any indication of how the coaching staff feels about Crawford, who has impressed observers with a good release and confidence on offense. Hunter has battled shin splits through camp and has only gotten himself back on the court over the past week. But he has great size and a soft touch. The versatile, hardworking Landry seems to be a favorite.

* - It was somewhat disappointing to see Danilo Gallinari's shot regress after a little breakout performance against the Celtics in the previous game. Gallinari was 2-for-8 from the floor and made just 1 of 3 from downtown for 7 points, but he did grab 6 boards with 2 assists and 3 turnovers in 20:45.

* -The Knicks and Nets faced each other three times in the preseason and the Knicks (5-2) won all three. The Nets, who were once again without Devin Harris (groin) went 0-6 in the preseason and were on the verge of being blown out of this game at the cavernous Prudential Center in Newark when D'Antoni's regulars suddenly - and inexplicably - pulled off the accelerator after taking an 18 point lead at the half.

"In the third, for whatever reason, some guys thought they could just turn it off, which is too bad," said D'Antoni, who was thrilled with the first half effort and with the work from the bench in the fourth quarter to hold on for the W. "It was the part in between we can forget about and move on and hope doesn't repeat itself."

Early in the fourth, things got chippy when Nate Robinson took a hard foul from Bobby Simmons and when the two grabbed arms and went face-to-face, burly replacement referee Michael Henderson (a former NBA referee) put Robinson nearly in a sleeper hold to pull him away.

That didn't stop Robinson from keeping up a dialogue with Simmons when play resumed.  Simmons then buried Nate with a hard pick at the other end of the floor, which drew another whistle and fury from the Nets bench. As temperatures started to rise, D'Antoni quickly summoned Landry and gave Robinson the rest of the night off.

* - The team was free from practice on Thursday, but will then have a five-day mini-camp to prepare for next Wednesday's season opener in Miami against Dwyane Wade and the Heat. We go live from here, Fixers.


Tags: Knicks , Nets , NBA , Toney Douglas , Jordan Hill , Danilo Gallinari , Nate Robinson , Bobby Simmons , Marcus Landry , Joe Crawford , Chris Hunter , Larry Hughes , Mike D'Antoni

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