Michael Buffer was hired by the Knicks to introduce their 15 players to the Garden crowd for Saturday's home opener, but Buffer got away with mentioning only 14. Edited out of the pregame ceremonies, which included a walk through the crowd, video on GardenVision and even the Twitter handles for those players who do the Tweet thing, was Eddy Curry, who remained in the team's locker room, dressed in jeans and a hoodie.
Curry, who is expected to be back in practice on Monday, technically was on the inactive list as an injured player on Saturday, with the hamstring strain he suffered on the second day of training camp listed as the cause. But that isn't the reason why he was omitted from the introductions. Not when you saw that fellow injured Knicks, Kelenna Azubuike (knee) and Anthony Randolph (ankle), were part of the ceremonies dressed appropriately in dress shirts and sportcoats and receiving at least polite, welcoming applause.
But Curry knew his presence wouldn't generate anything polite from the Garden faithful. For him, to have his name announced to a chorus of boos was one thing. But to have to trudge down the corner bleachers among the same fans who routinely ridicule him on the bench was not something he wanted to endure.
And the team, which views him as persona non grata at this point of the irreconcilable relationship, had no trouble omitting him from the program.
If only it were so easy for both to rid themselves of the other.
Curry has enough people looking for his money, so he'll need to collect the remaining $5.6 million the team owes him (according to his contract, he was due 50 percent of his $11.2 million salary in July, when his player option year officially locked in). The first paycheck of the season arrives Monday.
From this point forward, the Knicks owe 11 more payments on Curry's contract, though it's unlikely he'll get that far. Right now his greatest value to the team is not for his size on the court, but the size on the payroll. As a large expiring, he would be an integral piece of a potential Carmelo Anthony trade, if one is to be made before the Feb. 24 trade deadline. Once we get beyond the deadline, the team would probably be inclined to waive Curry as they did Stephon Marbury in 2008-09.
In that situation, Marbury was picked up by the Celtics and at least got to experience a few playoff games.
One NBA executive insisted to me in a recent conversation that Curry could wind up with the same fate. He swears the Miami Heat, who are lacking a legitimate big man, would sign Curry the second he clears waivers. Miami could certainly use Curry's size and strength to counter the likes of Kendrick Perkins, Shaq and Dwight Howard to get out of the East come May.
This is why, though the reality here with the Knicks is that he's out of second, third, fourth and twentieth chances, Curry's friends are encouraging him to use practice as a means to stay in shape (though he still looks big, I'm told he has actually lost some weight since he arrived reportedly over 320 pounds) and be prepared for when/if he does get the opportunity to go to another team that will actually want him to play, especially the Heat.
And wouldn't that be something, if Curry's streak of games without a playoff berth (currently 504, which ranks second among active players behind Nets forward Troy Murphy at 549), ended before the Knicks' drought of six years?
Better yet, how about if the Knicks also get in as the seventh or eighth seed and face Curry and the Heat in the first round?
For those hanging on to the misguided notion (followed also by yours truly this summer) that Curry could find a way to contribute to the Knicks this season, that ship hasn't just sailed, it ran into an iceberg and the string quartet is playing on the aft deck. With Russian rookie Timofey Mozgov in the starting lineup and strong play by Ronny Turiaf (how about his shot-blocking presence?) off the bench, the center position is filled up at this point.
Barring injuries (knock on wood...requisite pause), Curry won't crack the rotation. And don't expect him to be forced into games like last season, when the Knicks were trying to showcase him to dump his salary to open up more cap space for last summer. Who knows, perhaps if they were able to shed Curry's $11.2M, the Knicks might have actually been in play to land the LeBron-Wade-Bosh triumverate.
Instead, Curry's greatest contribution to the franchise may still be yet to come if the Knicks can make a Carmelo blockbuster happen. If not for his contract, the Knicks wouldn't have enough to make the salary match.
And if that is the end result, then Eddy won't need to avoid the Garden crowd anymore. Upon his next return, he might even get a rousing ovation.