Amar'e Stoudemire was hit with his 14th technical of the season in the third quarter of Sunday's win over the 76ers at the Garden. Just two more and Stoudemire earns an automatic one-game suspension, but Mike D'Antoni says he doesn't want his star player to change.
"To me, I don't know how you play the game without any emotion whatsoever," D'Antoni said in reaction to the zero tolerance this season on visible displays of emotion after foul calls. "I don't see how you do it. He's gotten penalized for it. The guy never curses and [his reactions are] never overly-done. If he was my son, I think he acts pretty good. So I don't know, I don't get it.
"It's an emotional game," he continued. "I would rather players play with emotion. And if that means he's going to get suspended, then so be it. I'm definitely not going to be critical of him."
Well, D'Antoni did get one thing right: this game needs emotion. Part of what makes it so compelling to watch is that the players are so visible on the court; expression and emotion is part of the game. Too much, obviously, is deplorable. But a player should be allowed to grimace at a bad call or hop up and down when he feels some anxiety.
In this case, Stoudemire was penalized for skipping down the court after he went for a steal but was called for a foul. Stoudemire said his reaction wasn't because of the foul call but because he felt he was close to making the steal.
Amar'e said he spoke with referee Bob Delaney, who called the tech, and Delaney actually admitted he might have been the one who overreacted.
"After talking to him, he really didn't think it was a bad play on my part," Stoudemire said. "He felt more [understanding] that I was going to get that one taken away. I'll call and see how it goes."
Stoudemire had a tech rescinded by the league earlier this season (from Dec. 30 game in Orlando). He will try to get this one removed from his record as well. Stoudemire and Dwight Howard lead the NBA with 14 technical fouls each.
"I hope they look at it, I hope they rescind it," D'Antoni said.
* * *
* - Landy Fields drilled corner three after corner three in this game, and finished with a career-high 25 points and added 10 rebounds. Fields was 5-for-7 from downtown in the game, with three in the fourth quarter serving as daggers each time the 76ers tried to mount a comeback. It was his second 20-10 game and his 10th double-double of the season for the rookie second-round pick, who is always so quick to deflect credit that I asked someone else who can really appreciate what Fields' has accomplished so far.
"Right now, I'm living vicariously through him," fellow rookie Andy Rautins said.
Rautins and Fields have developed a very close friendship and the two work out together every day and do their pregame routines together as well. Rautins, who has made just nine appearances this season (all in garbage time) said he prepares as if he's going to play and pushes himself to be ready for when his opportunity comes. "To see him do it out there," Rautins said, "gives me hope that I can go out there and do the same thing."
Meanwhile, despite the accolades that have come so far, with two Rookie of the Month honors and a spot on the Rookie team in the Rookie Challenge and Youth Jam at All-Star Weekend, Field still joins Rautins and Timofey Mozgov in the rookie duties, such as collecting the dirty towels and delivering laundry.
"He's definitely soaking it up and making the most of his time," Rautins said. "I couldn't be happier for him."
* - The Knicks had their best shooting night of the season, with a 46-for-77 performance from the field (59.7 percent) that included 11-for-27 from three-point range (40.7 percent). Stoudemire's red-hot 17-for-21 effort from the field, which included several mid-range jumpers, and Fields' 10-for-13 played a major role.
* - Danilo Gallinari's free throw streak ended at 37 when he missed the And-one free throw with 11:25 left in the second quarter. It was his first missed free throw since the Jan. 27 win over the Heat, when he went 7-for-10 from the stripe. Gallinari earlier this season also had a free throw streak of 43 straight, which fell one short of tying the franchise record set by Chris Duhon.
* - Raymond Felton had 13 points and 13 assists for his 21st double-double, but it was also his 24th double-digit assist performance of the season. That is the most by a Knicks player since Stephon Marbury had 25 double-digit assist games in 2004-05.
* - D'Antoni re-inserted Mozgov into the starting lineup in a move he admitted was something he'd planned to one day be the end result for this team. "We would like to get to a point where we start a big lineup with Mozgov out there," D'Antoni said. "We probably started it too early and we could have gone to it now if he developed into it, maybe."
Despite his sometimes maddening penchant for sending out small lineups, D'Antoni said if Mozgov can play consistently and effectively enough as the starting center so D'Antoni can go with a big lineup, "that would make me very happy."
The ovation Mozgov got from the Garden crowd, despite only scoring three points, but grabbing eight rebounds and recording three blocked shots and using up all six fouls, showed how much Knicks fans know what the 7-1 Russian means to the team. Having him on the court to bang with the burly Elton Brand, which freed up Stoudemire from the pounding, is invaluable.
* - Twice on Sunday did D'Antoni make reference to his team aiming for a 40-plus win total rather than aiming for a particular position in the Eastern Conference playoff standings. "I think our focus has to be on trying to get into 40 wins," he said. "That should get us in the playoffs. Obviously if we can get the sixth spot or the fifth spot or the seven spot, you try to do the best you can do. Our goal all year is to get to the playoffs."
With 26 wins and 32 games left, the Knicks need to go at least 14-18 just to hit the 40-win mark, which they haven't done since the 2000-01 season (48-34). If the Knicks merely go .500 (16-16) to finish out the schedule, they'd have a 42-40 finish. It should be noted that 19 of these final 32 games are against teams with losing records.