But Tracy McGrady didn't fight his way through a hellish recovery process to hang his head in shame at season's end. Nor did the former NBA star work hard to become relevant again just to see his new team stumble toward the finish line.
So for now, pride is about all the Knicks have left to fight for. They've done relatively well of late, having won two of three, four of six and five of nine. Since an eight-game losing streak dropped them to 19-37, they have gone 7-8.
"Around this time, teams that are not making the playoffs tend to start counting down the days," McGrady said after practice Thursday. "We're not doing that. We're still competing. A lot of these guys are still playing for something. I'm playing for something, so I'm not going to allow guys to come in here and throw away the season. We still have 10, 11 games left and we have to finish out strong."
That challenge begins Friday night when the Knicks begin a five-game road trip in Phoenix. It's the second five-game road trip in 17 days for the team, which is 26-45 after defeating Denver, 109-104, Tuesday night at the Garden.
Don't think D'Antoni has any reservations about facing his former club, the Suns. "It's just a great town," he said of Phoenix. "There's only three or four guys there when I was there.
" . . . It's 85 degrees and sunny. It's nice," he added with a smile.
Guard Eddie House returns to action Friday night after missing four games with a sore Achilles. "Since the day I had to put on a suit, and not suit up, I've been anxious to get back,'' House said, "so I'm just glad to be back on the court and do what I do. I feel great."
But the Knicks still will be shorthanded without Wilson Chandler (groin), Eddy Curry (calf) and Jonathan Bender, who is out for the season with a broken ring finger. D'Antoni said he won't push Chandler's return and will take a wait-and- see approach with Curry.