NEW ORLEANS - Ronny Turiaf's sprained knee might result in a bigger issue for Mike D'Antoni than just the fact that the Knicks have had to play without him. It also creates a need for size and, potentially, a need to play the biggest player on the team, Eddy Curry.
When Turiaf missed Friday night's game against the Hornets, his third straight and sixth overall because of the knee, D'Antoni opted to stick with the small lineup of 6-10 Amar'e Stoudemire at center and 6-8 Wilson Chandler at power forward.
Curry, meanwhile, was on the inactive list for the 20th straight game. With an expiring contract of $11.2 million, he hasn't even put on a uniform this season.
"I just don't think he's ready yet to go up and down continuously," D'Antoni said of Curry before Friday's game. "He has to go up and down continuously. He shows spurts of looking good in practice."
But Curry contends that he is ready to play and "absolutely" could have played Friday against the Hornets.
"I feel good, I feel like I'm ready," Curry said. "It's ultimately not my decision, but I feel I'm ready."
He was careful not to call out D'Antoni for not playing him, but he did volley the onus back on his coach.
"That's his decision, he's the coach," Curry said. "I can't question that. All I can do is be ready."
Curry has been in disfavor with D'Antoni almost from the beginning, but before this season, the coach said he would play Curry if he was ready and could contribute. But on the third day of training camp, Curry suffered a hamstring strain - the third straight year he hasn't made it through camp - and D'Antoni has since eliminated him as an option.
D'Antoni is more interested in using the minutes to develop 7-1 rookie Timofey Mozgov.
"It's tough. It's the old NBA thing: 'How can I be ready if I don't play?' " D'Antoni said. "You've got to be ready, but 'how do I get ready if I don't play?' So it's just tough because there aren't a lot of practices and there's not a lot of time."
But Curry has been practicing for the last four weeks and said he believes he can keep the pace.
"It's been a while since I've played, but I haven't been sitting around," Curry said. "I've been doing stuff, I've been practicing, doing a lot of extra work to make sure I can get up and down with the team."
But D'Antoni still remembers last December, when he tried to force Curry back into the rotation. The team had won four straight, but Curry's presence noticeably disrupted the offense.
The game that stands out most is a loss at Chicago in which the Knicks were leading by 17 points in the second quarter when Curry entered the game. When he left, the lead was down to six.
"I'm not going to give up a couple of games just to work guys back in that I don't know," D'Antoni said. "If it was Raymond [Felton] or Amar'e, sure you do. But you just don't know . . . We can't experiment right now."
Curry, who appeared in only 10 games because of injury and conditioning issues in D'Antoni's first two seasons as coach, admitted he is getting antsy.
"But at the same time, we're winning, and I'm not trying to disrupt that," he said. "I'm not trying to disrupt anything around here. I'm just trying to be ready if I'm called."