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Pablo Prigioni proves sharpest point for Knicks

Head coach Mike Woodson talks with Pablo Prigioni

Head coach Mike Woodson talks with Pablo Prigioni during a game against the Chicago Bulls at Madison Square Garden. (Dec. 11, 2013) Credit: Jim McIsaac

As the Knicks continue to see if they can acquire Kyle Lowry, at least they know they're in good hands with Pablo Prigioni running the point.

The Knicks would like to have both of them. In a perfect world, they would prefer Rajon Rondo, of course. But right now Prigioni is proving he's the best point guard on the roster.

With Raymond Felton sidelined two to three weeks with a hamstring injury, Prigioni has been starting and playing extended minutes. The Knicks (7-16) are 2-1 since he became the starter.

They easily could have won all three if the Knicks had knocked down some shots Friday night in Boston or if J.R. Smith hadn't staged some kind of protest and had only one field-goal attempt in 26 minutes. In the three games, Prigioni totaled 22 points, 16 assists and one turnover.

"I feel like I'm more in Europe because it's the same job that I did there," Prigioni said after Saturday night's 111-106 win over Atlanta. "I feel comfortable. And with more minutes, I get more rhythm. I feel more comfortable with the ball in my hands and, I don't know, confidence."

Prigioni, 36, is smart and clearly knows how to run a team. He owns three gold, two silver and two bronze medals in international competition with Argentina.

Last season, the Knicks were 16-2 in games Prigioni started. This season, they are 4-2 when he starts and 3-1 when he plays at least 30 minutes. The pass-first Prigioni is averaging 7.3 points and 5.3 assists in those four games. "He knows how to change the pace of the game," Carmelo Anthony said. "He knows when to push it. He knows when to hold back. I think that's just his demeanor."

Felton has been a disappointment, averaging 10.3 points and 5.2 assists. He also has been a liability defensively. The Knicks want an upgrade, which is why they've pursued Lowry, with Felton being a key piece going to Toronto.

The Raptors want young players, short contracts and a draft pick. It's likely a deal already would have been struck if the Knicks had included Tim Hardaway Jr. or Iman Shumpert or a first-round pick.

They have been reluctant to part with their 2018 first-round pick. They see Hardaway as part of the future and they hope to use Shumpert in a bigger deal for more of an impact player. Metta World Peace reportedly could be involved in the Lowry talks, and Sunday was the first day players signed in the offseason could be dealt.

The Nets also are in pursuit of Lowry, but they don't want to give up a first-round pick either.

Lowry, who is in a contract year, wants to go someplace he can start, so the Knicks are his first choice. But someone probably will have to blink for a deal to get done.

In the meantime, the Knicks and Mike Woodson have to hope Prigioni can stay healthy and effective with an increased workload, or they likely will have to give in to Toronto's demands.

Woodson also has to find ways to get more from Shumpert and Smith. Shumpert has totaled eight points in his last five games. Smith has been off all season.

Woodson reportedly had some strong words for Smith about his shot selection last week before his one-shot night in Boston. Smith had two points on eight shots Saturday before Woodson benched him for the last 14:40 of the game.

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