Amar'e Stoudemire was quick to run to a fallen Landry Fields and shove a preening Delonte West away. Carmelo Anthony also stepped in as heated words ensued.
"He stood over the top of him and I'm not going to allow that," Carmelo said. "You're not going to stand over my teammate when you block a shot."
But as the season came to an end with the Game 4 loss to the Celtics today at the Garden, with a hailstorm of criticism coming down on Mike D'Antoni, and uncertainty involving the future of Donnie Walsh, both Stoudemire and Anthony hesitated to step in and voice an opinion.
"It's a long summer, man," Carmelo said. "As far as the player go on the team or coach situation, I'm pretty sure the front office will handle it . . . They have one of the greatest front offices in the NBA right now. They will do their job. I'll let them handle that."
Stoudemire said Walsh's status is "kind of out of my hands, to be honest with you" and added that "What happens in the front office is totally out of my hands."
When asked specifically whether he felt D'Antoni should be back next season, Stoudemire remained coy.
"Obviously, you know, Mike D'Antoni has been great my whole career," he said. "I played with him in Phoenix and I played with him in New York. He's definitely a good friend of mine. But again, our goal is to come back better as players and I'm pretty sure Coach D'antoni would love the fact of us continuing to get better in the offseason. And that's what we're going to do."
Even D'Antoni didn't rally behind his own cause when asked how he should be judged off the series.
"That's not a question for me," he said. "You'd have to ask Donnie that."
Doc Rivers was the only one who came to D'Antoni's defense after the game. Rivers, while talking about the bright future for the Knicks, said, "I think Mike's one of the best coaches in this game."
* * *
* - If the Knicks want to save money next season, they have five days from now to waive Chauncey Billups and pay only $3.7 million of guaranteed salary in 2011-12. After the five day period, his entire $14.2 million salary locks in for the final year of his contract. Odds are Billups will at least be back for one more season and he could be a valuable expiring contract next season.
* - D'Antoni completely abandoned ineffective youngsters such as rookie Landry Fields and second-year guard Toney Douglas in the second half of Game 4 and instead went with veterans. Anthony Carter, 35, ran the point and Roger Mason Jr., 30, played shooting guard. It was just one last roll of the dice for D'Antoni, who seemed to be scrambling with his rotation all series.
"We just didn’t get quite enough from a lot of people," D'Antoni said, "and we were just picking things out."
* - Speaking of Carter, he told me before the series that he wasn't sure what was next for his career after this season. Rod Boone asked him if he would want to come back to the Knicks. Carter did show a lot of toughness and savvy and could be a valuable veteran to have down the bench.
"Oh yeah big time," he said. "Where else would you want to play? In New York, the best crowd and the atmosphere is just grea as long as you come out there and play with energy and effer, the fans love you here."
The Knicks clearly need to find a reliable backup point guard, however.
We'll get to all of that -- a report card on the season, assessing the needs going forward and, of course the Draft -- this week here at the Fix. The Knicks season may be over, but we still have a lot to discuss around here, so stay connected.