Newsday's Al Iannazzone takes you inside the Knicks.
The search for minutes men
Mike D'Antoni said after today's practice that he has "to be more liberal" with his bench and ensured that at least one rotation player, Shawne Williams, will see more burn in tomorrow's game against the Thunder.
With Raymond Felton and Amar'e Stoudemire both averaging over 40 minutes a game so far in December, D'Antoni knows he has to lighten the load a little, but that doesn't mean he's going to open up his rotation to 10 players.
And though Anthony Randolph had a few bright moments -- combined with a few confusing moments -- in the practice scrimmage, you don't get the sense that he is on the verge of jumping back into the mix. Randolph looks somewhat the same as he did in training camp, when he floated mostly on the perimeter, rarely attacked the glass and preferred to jog up the floor rather than use his speed to beat the opposing big man to get easy baskets.
And as I've said since September, this is a player who really isn't sure what he is at the NBA level. There is what he could be and what he wants to be and right now those appear to be two different things.
They've got to coach this kid up, no question. Randolph's status remains one of the few, but undeniable issues within the organization. But the head coach right now has one goal in mind, which is to win games. So it's easy to point out the obvious here: the Knicks were 3-8 with Randolph in the rotation and they're 13-4 without him. And if you're asking D'Antoni to focus precious game minutes just to develop one player, then you're not being fair to the rest of the team. If Williams, with a 7-2 wingspan and high basketball IQ, is more effective in those minutes, how do you not play Williams?
If the coach trusts someone else in that spot, it's the coach's prerogative to play the guy he trusts. And it's on him if it fails. So far, despite the recent slide, D'Antoni has been right.
And the onus is on Randolph to use practice to change his coach's mind.
"Obviously, somebody I'm comfortable with like Landry Fields, I'm comfortable with," D'Antoni said. "So it's up to everybody to make me comfortable."
From what I know, Randolph is putting in the necessary work. He's obviously annoyed that he's not playing (and shows it when you ask him about it) and it would be far more beneficial for the team if Randolph were playing and, of course contributing positive minutes. He's important to the franchise as an asset, obviously, because you obviously are going to need him if you're ever going to pull off a Carmelo Anthony trade.
Right now the Nuggets see zero value in Randolph. The Knicks can only hope they can move him for a first rounder at this point.
Another big who has quickly receded down the bench is Timofey Mozgov. D'Antoni directly addressed Mozgov's situation at practice when he said, "I thought we might have pushed him too quick, too soon . . . We like him, we're just going a little bit slower with him."
With that in mind -- and the perpetual need for size -- an interesting name went across the waiver wire today: Earl Barron. I can hear all of the Barronites shouting for joy and screaming for Donnie Walsh to claim him. Barron was released by the Suns after playing 12 games (six starts) and averaging 3.3 points and 3 rebounds. He put up 11 points and 11.7 rebounds in seven games with the Knicks at the end of last season, which had many fans (and some media) canonizing him.
Barron would be a cheap and easy pick-up, though with the roster already at 15 players, you'd have to waive someone first.
With all of the trade talk we've discussed over the last two days, one thing fans need to keep in mind is the Knicks won't -- and shouldn't -- make a trade for the sake of making a move. In other words, you acquire someone with the intention that it makes you better. So, for instance, Sebastian Telfair is someone on the radar, but not someone you get until there is an obvious need (like, if Toney Douglas' shoulder sprain gets to the point where he can't play for an extended period of time). Otherwise, you're just adding a player to sit on the bench.
The move you make here is if you can add a significant player (i.e.: Marcus Camby). Then, of course, you do it.