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Knicks getting along fine without Iverson

Maybe Allen Iverson managed to turn the Knicks' season around after all. Since Donnie Walsh's public acknowledgment that the team was ready to give serious consideration to signing Iverson as a free agent, the Knicks' record is 14-13.

The noticeable difference in the team since that wild week of speculation and conjecture in late November isn't lost on Walsh, but the players claim it's merely a coincidence.

"We don't talk about that stuff," said Chris Duhon, who stood to lose the most if Iverson came to New York and became the focal point of the offense. "[Management's] job is to try to make us better with whatever moves they make."

The flirtation, of course, ended with the decision that the two just weren't right for each other. A few weeks later, Iverson was back in the arms of his first true City of Brotherly Love and the fit in Philadelphia was undeniable. Though Iverson has played well, averaging 15.3 points in 12 games, the 76ers, who host the Knicks Wednesday night at the Wachovia Center, are 7-12 since he was signed Dec. 2. They are 5-7 when Iverson, who has missed a few games because of a balky left knee, is in uniform.

Though they are currently riding a two-game losing streak that includes an unsightly blowout loss to Kevin Durant and the Thunder on Monday, the Knicks (15-22) for the most part have come a long way since their 1-9 start.

The franchise-worst start coincided with Iverson's departure from the Memphis Grizzlies and seemed to put the two troubled entities on a collision course of need. But despite several conversations and practically planning a news conference for Nov. 20, Walsh decided his team, despite its poor start, might be better off not dealing with such a drastic shift in philosophy and an obvious surrender of the ball to an aging, and often demanding, superstar.

"I wasn't going to just say no," Walsh said. "But it wouldn't have been good for him or us. That's the way I looked at it."

Walsh still clearly has to look for another point guard, however, before the Feb. 18 trade deadline. Nate Robinson is back in the rotation, but it's obvious from Mike D'Antoni's substitution patterns that he doesn't like to leave Robinson by himself for too long to run the offense. Larry Hughes had been effective in sliding into a playmaker role when Duhon went to the bench, but Robinson is now getting Hughes' minutes. Rookie Toney Douglas has not shown much improvement this season as a passer and playmaker.

Until the Knicks can find another option via trade (Portland's Steve Blake?), it leaves Duhon as the only player on the team that D'Antoni trusts to quarterback the offense.

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