GREENBURGH, N.Y. - As Derek Fisher experiments with different lineup configurations in advance of next week's regular-season opener, the lingering absence of Andrea Bargnani has added an untimely wrinkle into the plans of the Knicks coach.
Bargnani missed another practice Tuesday because of his hamstring injury and hasn't played a game since the Oct. 8 preseason opener. Whether he'll be ready for the start of the regular season a week from Wednesday night is the question and Fisher admittedly doesn't have the answer.
"I can't say at this point whether or not that's in jeopardy," Fisher said after practice Tuesday. "But obviously, getting some practice time in and being at the level of conditioning you need to be in a game, it would be important for Andrea to get in there."
Each day that passes without Bargnani on the practice court increases the chance he won't be ready for the Oct. 29 season opener. In the meantime, Fisher has had no choice but to work on his lineups and rotations in practices and games without the 7-footer.
Fisher said after practice he's still searching for a first and second unit that has "balance" between offensive-minded and defensive-minded players. That's a bit of a challenge because the Knicks have a roster filled with guys who are proficient on one side of the ball, and not the other.
What's certain at this point is that Carmelo Anthony and Jose Calderon will be among the starting five, and Iman Shumpert seems close to a lock, as well, because he's started every preseason game in which he's played.
But the other two spots -- power forward and center -- seem up for grabs.
Fisher started offensive-minded Amar'e Stoudemire at center on Monday night against the Milwaukee Bucks alongside defensive-minded power forward Quincy Acy, who started his fourth straight preseason game.
"At the beginning, it was solid, it worked well," Fisher said, but the rookie coach wasn't ready to call it a complete success. That's because the Bucks played a smaller lineup in the second half, forcing the Knicks to abandon their original plan of sticking with Stoudemire (24 minutes) and Acy (14).
The result was a bit of a defensive nightmare -- the Bucks shot nearly 60 percent en route to a 120-107 win. Regardless of who the five guys are on the court, the coach said that lack of cohesive defense -- especially in transition -- can't happen. "We can't allow teams to score 120," Fisher said.
Two preseason games remain before the regular-season opener against the Bulls at the Garden. Fisher is hoping his lineup and rotation becomes clearer in these games, if only so everyone can get a little more acclimated to their roles.
But as far as who's starting Wednesday night, Fisher said he hasn't decided.
Notes & quotes: Calderon said his calf injury that limited him to just four minutes Monday night against the Bucks is "nothing big, nothing important, nothing to worry about." Calderon didn't practice but hopes to play Wednesday night . . . J.R. Smith did not practice because of back spasms and Fisher wasn't sure if he will play Wednesday night . . . Stoudemire also did not practice, using it as a recovery day.