Newsday's Al Iannazzone takes you inside the Knicks.
Tempers flare in post-practice scrimmage
SAN FRANCISCO -- Shawne Williams is going to get his chance soon, that much appears to be fact. The 6-8 forward has continually made a case to get playing time because of his heady plays and good shooting in practice, but because minutes had to first go to certain players (see: Anthony Randolph) early in the season, Williams has had to wait his turn.
The former first round pick, who was given a second-chance when the Knicks opted to keep him over fan favorite Patrick Ewing Jr. after training camp, has been biding his time and doing extra work to keep himself prepared. He understands his place on the roster as , but that doesn't mean he accepts it. So when Bill Walker caught him with a hard foul early in a post-practice scrimmage here at The Olympic Club on Thursday, Williams got up and went right after Walker, furious with the overzealous foul.
The players had to be separated and Williams had to be restrained by two teammates, including Eddy Curry, as he clearly wanted a piece of Walker, who glared back. It took a few minutes for his emotions to cool and when the game resumed, Walker went right next to Williams to guard him again. But the remainder of the game went without incident.
Williams has yet to appear in a game this season and has only put on the uniform for six of the first 12 games. The other six he spent in a suit on the inactive list.
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* - In the post-practice scrimmage, which were three full court four-on-four games to seven or five minutes, which ever came first, was Kelenna Azubuike. The injured guard just started running full court, full contact basketball this week and he said he was close to being game ready. He predicted about another week, but considering the extent of the injury (torn patellar tendon in his left knee) and how long it has been since he last played in an NBA game (369 days ago), it seems doubtful he'll make that quick of a return. But the fact that he's back on the court and talking about being ready is encouraging. The Knicks can certainly use his athleticism, defense and three-point shot to bring depth to the two-guard position.
* - I guess it should be noted that Curry was part of the scrimmage and ran up and down the court, which tells you he is fully recovered from the hamstring injury from training camp. Curry certainly didn't move quickly and wasn't very active, but he did have one monster dunk around Anthony Randolph. Will he ever get into a game? Maybe, but most likely against a team that has big bodies to bang with, such as the Celtics.
* - Danilo Gallinari showed renewed confidence in his game over the last game and a half, but he made some curious remarks after Wednesday's win in Sacramento, in which he had 27 points and shot 16 for 17 from the free throw line in what was his best performance of the season.
It was somewhat of a catharsis, an admission by the 22-year-old Italian that the pressure to perform and take his game to the next level, on top of the trade rumors involving Carmelo Anthony, had been weighing on him.
"I know you expect a lot from me and people expect a lot from me, but I'm not a superstar, an all-star, I'm not LeBron or Kobe, not those great players," Gallinari said. "I'm an important player for the Knicks, that's what I'm trying to be, that's what I'm trying to help the team every time."
I then asked him, but isn't that the goal, to be an all-star? (He is, in fact, one of three Knicks -- along with Amar'e Stoudemire and Raymond Felton -- on the NBA All-Star Ballot, which was released on Thursday).
"I would never say that, you know me," Gallinari said. "It's not in my mind. It's in my mind to win with this franchise. I was selected, I was picked by this franchise three years ago and I want to stay here, I want to win with this franchise and that's all that's in my mind . . . I'm just trying to be the best player I can."
If he continues to follow the formula of his game from Wednesday night, he should do just fine.
* - Timofey Mozgov has a sore left calf and is questionable for Friday's game against the Warriors. That could open the door for Anthony Randolph to get back off the bench, but not necessarily. As we mentioned above, Williams could get his first look of the season and against the Warriors, who generally play small, Williams could see time at the three or four.
While playing Randolph, especially against his former team, seems a given, D'Antoni said he's not going to consider anything other than what would work best to win rather than worrying about pumping up someone's trade value or keeping others within the organization happy by playing certain favorites.
"We do need a win and right now, I'm trying to think about wins," D'Antoni said. "I told everybody on the team, right now it's about the Knicks trying to win and we'll get into individual stories later after we get rolling. But I can't coach for anything other than tomorrow's game."
There has been suggestions made that Walsh and D'Antoni may be at odds about playing Randolph or how he should be used in the rotation. But D'Antoni says he talks regularly with Walsh -- via text most recently while Walsh is recovering from hip surgery -- and he said Walsh is on board with his decision to leave Randolph on the bench for now.
"He wants to win, too," D'Antoni said of Walsh. "He knows what I want: I want to win and I want to develop [Randolph]. Now I've got to figure out how to do that."
What ever happened to letting young players develop in practice and earn their playing time? And if that is the case, doesn't Williams deserve a crack at it if he's playing well in practice?
* - Andy Rautins, by the way, is another who has quietly worked in practice waiting for his chance. And that chance might come in the D-League, D'Antoni said, so the rookie from Syracuse can get the reps he needs at point guard, which is the position where the Knicks would like to see him develop. The team shares an affiliate with Springfield, which is coached by Dee Brown. The one hang-up right now is to send Rautins to Springfield while the team is on the West Coast is tricky because of the distance. D'Antoni's concern is that if you send Rautins back East now with two games left on the trip, it would be tough to bring him back if one of the other guards got sick or injured. The Knicks have not used the D-League before, but because of how important it is for Rautins to get playing time and experience at the point, it may be the right move at this point of the season.