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Embattled D'Antoni hits century mark

Mike D'Antoni yells toward the court while playing

Mike D'Antoni yells toward the court while playing the Orlando Magic. (March 23, 2011) Photo Credit: Newsday / J. Conrad Williams Jr.

Tuesday's win over the Raptors was a milestone of sorts for Mike D'Antoni because it was his 100th win as Knicks coach.

"I've been here 10 years, right?" the embattled coach said with a laugh. "I tell you what, those 100 wins were tough."

D'Antoni became the sixth head coach in Knicks history to reach the 100-win plateau, which -- considering he's had two losing seasons and at this point in this season is only one game over .500 - says a lot more about the franchise's struggles and the longevity of the top three (Red Holzman, Joe Lapchick and Jeff Van Gundy) than it does anything D'Antoni (100-141) has achieved in his three seasons in New York.

For his career, which includes four-plus seasons in Phoenix, D'Antoni's record is 367-313.

Holzman, the two-time championship coach of the golden age of the franchise, leads the way with 613 wins, which is immortalized on a banner that hangs from the Garden rafters. Lapchick, who coached the franchise's first successful era, with three straight trips to the NBA Finals, has 326 and Van Gundy has 248. Fourth on the list is Pat Riley with 223, followed by Hubie Brown at 142.

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* - As the Knicks finish out the season -- with motivation to clinch a winning record (need three more wins in the last five games) and possibly move up to the sixth seed (can do that with a win in Phlly tonight) -- D'Antoni said he will be holding auditions for available spots in his playoff rotation, which is expected to be very limited. D'Antoni is likely to play only about seven to eight, at best, and you already know the starting five (I have Shelden Williams as the starting center) and Toney Douglas is the top six. The candidates for the final one or two spots include Jared Jeffries, Shawne Williams and Anthony Carter. Ronny Turiaf and Bill Walker could be in the mix. 

"The guys on the bench, I told them, they're more or less auditioning for a spot in the playoffs," D'Antoni said. "I'm not going to play 10 guys, it may be nine, may be eight, may even be seven. So it should be a good competition."

D'Antoni did say he liked the energy he saw in Derrick Brown, who played the final 9:55 of Tuesday's win and had seven points (2-for-2 with an electrifying fast break dunk and 3-for-5 from the line) and a steal. "Derrick Brown looked good," D'Antoni said. "He's got a live body. We've got five games and I want to see a little bit more of him."

* - Think Carmelo is enjoying the freedoms of this system? After nailing five of seven from downtown against Toronto, he has made 39 three-pointers in 23 games as a Knick. In 50 games with Denver this season, he made 42.

* - The Knicks' magic number to ensure no worse than a seventh place finish is down to one. A win over the 76ers would obviously move them into sixth place, but even if the Knicks lose and the Wizards beat the Pacers, the Knicks are assured at least seventh, which would be their highest finish in the Eastern Conference standings since 2000-01. But the goal has to be to at least get to .500, if not over it, by season's end. The East is bad enough, but to have two teams with losing records qualify for the playoffs would definitely give reason to strongly consider a 16-team field for the playoffs.

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