Al Harrington was back home in New Jersey, frustrated by a 5-for-20 performance that had even his own parents holding their noses. Then Mother Harrington spoke up.

"The way you shot the ball," she said to him, "you need to go to the gym."

So she went with her son to the MSG Training Center in Greenburgh around 9 p.m. on Christmas night, about seven hours after Harrington's Knicks dropped a maddening 93-87 loss to the Miami Heat. The team shot just 41 percent from the field and Harrington provided a bulk of the misses, including all seven of his three-point attempts.

Knicks players have 24-hour access to the facility, though Harrington needed to find someone to turn on the lights. Then, for about an hour, he put up shots -- arguably his favorite thing to do (as evidenced by his team-leading 451 field goal attempts, which is 72 more than the next-highest total) -- and worked on his form. He woke up Saturday morning and was back at it again before the Knicks held practice at 11 a.m. This time instead of his mom, it was Allan Houston offering advice and motivation.

Harrington's passion and work ethic can never be questioned, but his game is a total contradition. He is built like a power forward, with barely a little more athleticism than Charles Oakley (without the nose for rebounding), yet he continually tries to play like a small forward. The most alarming issue is from beyond the arc, where Harrington is shooting 29.8 percent and yet is third on the team in attempts from downtown (161).

He got off to a terrible start from beyond the arc and was shooting 17.8 percent 10 games into the season (when the team was 1-9). He was able to raise that to a far more respectable 33.6 percent (39-for-116) at the 23-game mark. But over the last six games, Harrington's shot has escaped him again, with just nine makes out of the last 45 attempts (20 percent), capped by the 0-for-7 against the Heat on Christmas Day.

One would think Mike D'Antoni would eventually ask - no, beg - him to stop shooting them.

* * *

* - Eddy Curry called his sudden streak of benching (four straight DNP-CD's after the Miami game) "ridiculous" as Neil Best reported for us in Saturday's Newsday. He has looked miserable in post-practice workouts with strength coach Greg Brittenham, but continues to put in the extra work to maintain the level of fitness he achieved after a long offseason of work to finally shed so many extra pounds that weighed him down over the last two seasons.

Curry said he doesn't feel a sense of entitlement to play because he is now in shape -- "I was supposed to do that," he said -- but he does feel that he should be given the opportunity to play. If not . . . well, he can't actually SAY it because the NBA will slap him with a $25,000 fine. You see, that's why even though Aaron Goodwin has said Nate Robinson should be traded, you'll never hear Nate Robinson say it.

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Of course Curry's agent, Leon Rose, doesn't need to say anything to the Knicks. They're completely open to trading him to clear the $11.2M off the salary cap in 2010. The issue is they can't find a team that would take Curry in exchange for an expiring contract.