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D'Antoni can smile just a bit

GREENBURGH, N.Y. - The news already had reached

Mike D'Antoni before the Knicks reunited for practice after the All-Star break. His former team, the Phoenix Suns, had fired Terry Porter, the guy they brought in to replace him.

Got Vindication?

"Not at all, because I'm a machine, I'm not human," D'Antoni said with a grin.

"Of course," he added. "You watch it, but I don't wish anybody bad or anybody to be in a tough situation. This is a tough situation when you try to win championships. Weird things happen. That's what happened."

D'Antoni's departure from the Suns last spring after a philosophical disagreement with general manager Steve Kerr and hands-on owner Robert Sarver clearly was the beginning of the end for the Suns. Kerr hired Porter to transition the Suns out of D'Antoni's up-tempo system into more of a traditional half-court, defensive-minded approach, and the players - especially Steve Nash, who hasn't hid his misery all season - struggled to adjust to Life after Mike.

Interim coach Alvin Gentry, who was on D'Antoni's staff during the previous four seasons, said he will return the Suns (28-23) to the up-tempo style because "we are who we are." If the Suns are successful, it will only endorse D'Antoni's unrelenting belief in his system and philosophy of the game, which is what led to his ouster in the first place.

"It'll be interesting to see what happens," D'Antoni said.

But he has more important issues to focus on with the Knicks (21-31) facing a 30-game sprint to the end of the season while hoping to make a run at a playoff spot. They enter tonight's game against the Spurs 3 1/2 games out of the eighth spot and looking to end a six-game losing streak.

"These are games we have to win; these are playoff games," D'Antoni said of the remaining schedule. "We've got to make a push ... We've got to make a push right now."

Notes & quotes: Chris Duhon, who missed the last game before the All-Star break with an ankle sprain, practiced yesterday and is expected to play tonight ... Eddy Curry (sore right knee), who before the break said he plans to get back on the court for practice this week, participated in some walk-through but nothing more ... Nate Robinson's marketing value should skyrocket after the ebullient 5-9 dynamo won his second Slam Dunk title Saturday. There already were sales of Robinson's green "KryptoNate" T-shirts at the NBA Store in Manhattan. D'Antoni said he was just happy that neither Robinson nor Wilson Chandler was injured on Robinson's second dunk attempt, which involved Robinson jumping off Chandler's back. "I'm thinking, 'Let's see what else can happen. We can lose two guys on this one play,'" D'Antoni said. "I was wishing he could get someone like [Andre] Iguodala and step on his back. That didn't happen." ... As for possible deals before Thursday's trade deadline by the Knicks - who are owned by Cablevision, which also owns Newsday - Donnie Walsh made it seem as if he is not looking to make a trade for the sake of making a trade. "It's got to mean something," he said. It also cannot impact the 2010-11 plan.

Tonight

Spurs

at Knicks

7:30 p.m.

TV: MSG

Radio: WEPN

(1050)

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