GREENBURGH, N.Y. - GREENBURGH, N.Y. - The morning after a 31-point loss to the Cavaliers, the Knicks went through a hard practice. That wasn't much of a surprise.
The surprise was the big man huffing and puffing in the middle of it all. Eddy Curry, out since Jan. 18 after left knee surgery, made his return to practice and could dress for tonight's game at the Garden against the Pistons.
Coach Mike D'Antoni said he was not expecting to see the 7-foot center on the court Tuesday. D'Antoni didn't seem to have much use for Curry when he was healthy, but the Knicks' deadline-day dealing has left them with a small lineup and in need of some size on the floor.
"If he keeps making progress from this point, it should be pretty shortly he should be on the court," D'Antoni said. "We do need a big body. We need him to be productive. I'm sure he needs it too. We all have mutual interests. That will be our goal, to try to do that in the next 20 games or so."
Curry, who did not speak to the media Tuesday, talked to reporters on Monday.
"I think I'm close, I think I'm close," he said. "I'm on the court now shooting, doing a little bit of light running, so I don't think it'll be too much longer . . . I'll come back as soon as I can. As soon as I can play without hurting the team, I'll come back."
Curry has appeared in seven games (62 minutes) this season. He has one more year on his contract at $11 million. Asked on Monday if he believed he had a future with the Knicks, he said: "I don't know. I hope so, but I don't know. It's kind of early to tell. So we'll see."
D'Antoni said yesterday's "spirited" practice was not punishment for the team's poor showing in Cleveland.
"We'd still be here if I was punishing them," he said. "They understood that we gave up a little bit. We just felt like it was too big of a monumental task and didn't compete hard enough. Tomorrow night we're going to have to show we have a lot of fight left in us."
If not, it could be unpleasant at the Garden. Knicks fans have been patient with the long-term plan, but could the focus turn to the job D'Antoni is doing?
"I haven't had a good year, that's for sure," he said. "What's fair is fair."