Good Afternoon
Good Afternoon

As Knicks' losses mount, Andrea Bargnani is turning in good performances

Andrea Bargnani of the New York Knicks passes

Andrea Bargnani of the New York Knicks passes the ball between C.J. Watson and Luis Scola of the Indiana Pacers at Madison Square Garden on Saturday, March 7, 2015. Credit: Jim McIsaac

Everything concerning the Knicks right now is about the future, which is understandable, considering their current state of affairs.

Knicks executives and scouts are watching college prospects, and a source confirmed that they have attended several Kentucky games and recent practices to get a front-row look at big men Karl-Anthony Towns and Willie Cauley-Stein. They're possible targets for the Knicks, who should have a top-five pick in June's NBA draft.

Team president Phil Jackson has made two in-season trades, potentially clearing roughly $6.7 million off their salary cap and giving the Knicks more than $30 million for free agency this summer.

The Knicks (12-49), who open a five-game western trip in Denver on Monday night, also are evaluating which players on the roster could be keepers for the future.

Andrea Bargnani likely won't be on that list because of his injury history and overall disappointing play since he was taken first overall in the 2006 draft. But the Italian 7-footer, who twice this season has stressed in an annoyed tone his desire to stay in the NBA when his contract is up in July, has put together a solid stretch of games recently. He can only help his chances of getting another job with a strong finish to the season.

"Really right now, it's just about the Knicks," Bargnani said. "It's about the system. It's about my teammates. It's about playing hard every single game to try to finish the season as good as we can as a team. It's all about the team right now.

"I don't think this is the place or the time to talk about the future. There is all the summer in front. Right now I'm very focused about finishing the season, about finishing the season with the Knicks and with my teammates. I don't know what's going to happen."

The last part was in response to a question about whether he would like to be a part of the Knicks' future. The truth is, it's somewhat surprising that Bargnani, who has played 52 of a possible 143 games with the Knicks, is still with the team.

The Knicks gave up a lot to get him in 2013, including a 2016 first-round pick and two second-rounders. His inability to stay healthy killed the Knicks' chances of getting much on their investment.

They tried to deal Bargnani before last month's trade deadline, but Jackson said there wasn't interest in him. There were rumblings that the Knicks would buy him out, but Jackson said they needed scoring after Carmelo Anthony's season-ending knee surgery.

Bargnani has started the last five games and scored at least 19 points in four of them. He had a strong all-around game in a six-point loss to the Pacers on Saturday night, limiting Roy Hibbert to three points and scoring 21 himself, shooting 10-for-14. But he fouled out with 3:22 to go, and the Knicks made only one field goal after that.

"I just think he's continuing to get more comfortable playing basketball again," Derek Fisher said. "A big guy with Andrea's size to be basically out of basketball from January of 2014 to January, almost February of 2015, that's a long time of not playing games night in and night out.

"So I just think as this goes along, he'll have a bump in the road from time to time because it's a grind out there. But he's not doing anything that he's not capable of doing."

Notes & quotes: Lou Amundson and Tim Hardaway Jr. are questionable for Monday night's game with lower-back spasms.

The Dolan family owns

controlling interests in the

Knicks, Madison Square

Garden and Cablevision.

Cablevision owns Newsday.

New York Sports