LOS ANGELES - The one player the Knicks could ill-afford to lose sat out last night's game against the Clippers, which only added to the despondency of a road trip gone terribly wrong. Chris Duhon today will have an MRI on his left ankle, which, for now, has been labeled as sprained but could be worse.
The timing is somewhat fortunate because this weekend's All-Star break allows Duhon five days of rest and rehabilitation before the team's next game, Tuesday against the San Antonio Spurs at the Garden. For that, Duhon remains cautiously optimistic.
"I want to know what's wrong with it," Duhon said, "but I'm shooting to play on Tuesday."
Nate Robinson started at the point last night against Baron Davis and the Clippers. Behind him, however, D'Antoni's options were thin, which only underscores the backcourt depth issues on a roster that includes two guards who are not with the team, Cuttino Mobley and Stephon Marbury. Mobley was forced to retire in December after he was acquired from the Clippers in the Zach Randolph trade on Nov. 21 and was diagnosed with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy.
Marbury remains in exile with zero progress toward a buyout after initial talks in December. If Duhon is lost for any extended period of time, the Knicks might look harder for point guard help before next Thursday's trade deadline. Or they could consider ordering Marbury back with the team, though that would be a last resort.
At this point, Mike D'Antoni, who called Duhon "our motor," would prefer not to think of such extremes.
"I imagine we would look but this isn't going to extend for a long time," D'Antoni said. "He'll be back Tuesday. That's my story and I'm sticking with it."
But Duhon's durability - he was once among the NBA's leaders in minutes played before his workload was cut back over the past month - will be a concern for the Knicks down the stretch as they try desperately to stay in the playoff hunt despite the recent slide of five straight losses going into last night's game. The team was also without Quentin Richardson, who missed his second straight game with a chest bruise.
Duhon was already playing with lower back stiffness over the past month. Now comes an ankle injury that, even if it permits him to play Tuesday, may be a lingering issue.
The injury occurred in the third quarter of Sunday's 109-108 loss in Portland, but Duhon stayed in the game and played through the pain. "I knew if I came out," he said, "I wouldn't be able to come back in."
Duhon had a noticeable limp after that game and sat out practice on Monday in San Francisco. There was a belief that he might not dress for Tuesday's embarrassing 144-127 loss at Golden State, but he did and, despite 13 points, nine assists and one turnover in 31 minutes, was clearly very limited.
Notes & quotes: Clippers GM/coach Mike Dunleavy last night said the Mobley situation "shocked me" when it was revealed that he had a severe heart condition that forced him to retire. Mobley had played in 11 games for Dunleavy and the Clippers before the trade and averaged 31 minutes a night. The Knicks could have rejected the trade, but waived the physical, which Dunleavy said, "tells you what kind of believer they are in 2010." Donnie Walsh made the trade to move Zach Randolph's $17.3 million off the salary cap in 2010-11 . . . The 144 points the Knicks allowed on Tuesday to the Warriors was the most points against them in a regulation game since Dec. 8, 1979, when they lost, 145-129 to the Kansas City Kings. It also represented the most points in a regulation NBA game this season.
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