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D'Antoni says Robinson's benching is nothing personal

CHICAGO - Mike D'Antoni scoffed at the notion that his decision to drop Nate Robinson from his rotation had anything to do with a clash of egos or the suggestion that the coach simply doesn't like the player.

In fact, D'Antoni, who seems to have a fresh one-liner at the ready for the daily inquiries about Robinson's status, said he'd never bench any player simply based on personal conflict.

"I'd play Satan himself if I could win," D'Antoni said with a chuckle. "I don't care, I've got no morals or scruples. I don't think a coach does, because we're only judged if we win or lose. There is nothing else."

Multiple sources said that D'Antoni actually stuck with Robinson a lot longer than others in the organization wanted him to this season. The Knicks - who are owned by Cablevision, which also owns Newsday - are not actively shopping Robinson, but they would be open to trade offers for the 5-9 guard. So far, just like during the summer, they have not been approached.

By rule, Robinson, because he signed a one-year deal, has to approve any deals.

Even with Larry Hughes out of the lineup with a groin strain, Robinson was not in the pregame plan to play last night against the Bulls. D'Antoni said rookie Toney Douglas would get the leftover minutes in the rotation. With this in mind, Robinson used his pregame workout to run the steps in the entire lower bowl of the United Center.

Knicks fix

Newly signed Jonathan Bender dressed for the first time as a Knick against the Bulls, with Darko Milicic placed on the inactive list . . . Will the Knicks eventually decide to send seldom-used lottery pick Jordan Hill to the D-League? D'Antoni said keeping Hill and fellow rookies Douglas and Marcus Landry with the team is the plan for now because "they do get . . . great individual instruction." . . . Golden State's Anthony Randolph, who is frustrated in his second season under Don Nelson, could be a trade target of the Knicks, but according to a person with knowledge of the situation, the Warriors asking price is extremely high (read: Danilo Gallinari).

New York Sports