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Knicks-Warriors: and then there was one

SAN FRANCISCO -- Timofey Mozgov (sore left calf) was upgraded from questionable to probable for tonight's game, which could mean Anthony Randolph spends another night on the bench as Mike D'Antoni tightens up his rotation and gets firmer with his message that right now it can't be about individual agendas. It has to be about what is best for the team.

But the fact that Golden State is a fast-break team, I can see Randolph getting minutes tonight against his former team. The goal for AR is to keep it simple and just run, run, run.

If Randolph doesn't play, however, it would mean that just one player -- the invaluable Ronny Turiaf -- from that four-player deal that sent David Lee here in a sign-and-trade will be in the game tonight. Lee is out with the elbow infection and Kelenna Azubuike is still on the comeback trail.

This could be the swing game of this trip, which started off with a loss in Denver to extend the losing streak to six then saw a win in Sacramento. The Knicks have the Warriors (without D-Lee) and then the 1-12 Clippers on Saturday night in Los Angeles. Things would look a whole lot different if the Knicks could somehow come out of this trip with three wins and a 6-8 record heading East for a home-and-home with the Bobcats.

* * *

A few notes from the shoot-around:

* - The only fall-out from the scrimmage skirmish after Thursday's practice here apparently was that Bill Walker was annoyed it was reported in the Post and here in the Fix. On his Twitter account, Walker said:

"Why do reporters try to make a situation out of nothing? Then wonder why players don't want to talk to them!!! It's a dirty game"

One player told me that Walker and Shawne Williams, who went at Walker for a hard foul, are actually very close. "Those guys are friends," the player said. "It was like two brothers fighting, you know how it is when you fight with your brother."

I get that, just like I acknowledge (from the experience of eight-plus years as a very mediocre player at the high school and college levels) that scuffles happen all the time on a basketball court. I actually felt like it was a good sign to see such high levels of intensity around this team and, thus, thought even if it was a small matter, it worthwhile to report. Competition keeps everyone sharp. You need guys deep in the rotation pushing the guys ahead of them and vice versa.

I had a teammate in high school named John Dormer who was a year older and used to pick on me relentlessly. I mean relentlessly. I could do nothing right in his eyes. I was annoying, stupid and weak. And those were the nice things he said about me.

John was a big, strong dude and I wasn't, so needless to say, he took my lunch and ate it on a regular basis. I was never afraid of him, to be honest. It just frustrated me that I couldn't do anything to beat him. He was just better than me and that is a maddening realization for any competitor to accept.

But as I got older, I challenged him more and on the occasion that I got the better of him and let him know it, he made sure to put me back in my place quickly. One time he drilled me in the back of the head with what he claimed was an errant outlet pass. You know the saying "He saw stars"? I saw 'em that day.

There were days I literally hated him, but in the heat of battle, when I would lose my confidence or start to feel fear, he'd be one of the first to look me in the eye and encourage me. And when I played important minutes off the bench in a big playoff win to help us advance to the CHSAA finals in 1988, John was one of the first guys to slap my hand.

I never understood how to value that kind of teammate until later in life, when I played on a college team loaded with selfish individuals who cared more about partying than winning and cared more about just getting through practice than making each other better. You really don't understand a winning environment until you move into a losing one.

So, yeah, that moment yesterday in practice was noteworthy.

"Everybody knows, if you're around long enough, you're going to have a little spat," Mike D'Antoni said. "You're playing basketball. I mean how many times you're on a playground and you get ticked off and you shove people. It happens. We've got great guys. I'm sure it's already passed and it's not a big deal."



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