The last day of the regular season began with Rasheed Wallace retiring and ended with guard Pablo Prigioni spraining his ankle as the Knicks defeated the Hawks, 98-92, at the Garden.
The sight of yet another key Knicks player writhing in pain was ominous, given the poor timing. As the Knicks prepare to enter the postseason with championship aspirations for the first time in more than a decade, injuries have turned their roster into a revolving door of players.
With their first-round series against the seventh-seeded Boston Celtics set to begin on Saturday at 3 p.m. at the Garden, the Knicks already are resigned to relying on questionable big men Tyson Chandler and Kenyon Martin, whose playing time down the stretch has been limited because of injuries.
And now Prigioni's sprained right ankle adds another variable to an injury-riddled equation that seems to be changing by the day for coach Mike Woodson.
Chris Copeland, who scored 33 points, also was clutching his left shoulder early in the fourth quarter after getting hit going up for a shot in the paint. He left briefly for a breather, but returned midway through the quarter.
And Iman Shumpert had to leave the game with what the Knicks called a cramp in his right leg late in the fourth quarter. He immediately asked out of the game and did not return.
The top priority for last night's game against the Hawks was to remain healthy, of course, which was partly why regulars such as Carmelo Anthony, Jason Kidd, Raymond Felton and J.R. Smith decided to sit out.
Prigioni wound up rolling his right ankle trying to pull up on a drive to the basket late in the first quarter.
The Knicks said X-rays on the ankle were negative.
Since Prigioni was inserted into the starting lineup last month, the Knicks went 16-2. Woodson said before the game he planned to go with Prigioni in the starting lineup in the postseason opener against the Celtics.
The Knicks will be without Wallace in the playoffs, as he chose to retire because of the lingering discomfort in his left foot that's bothered him most of the season.
Wallace, 38, who came out of retirement to join the Knicks this season, returned to the court Monday for his first game action in more than four months but lasted only 3:50. "Early on this season, boy, he was a big part of what we did and was a big reason we got off to a great start, I think," Woodson said before last night's game. "The players respect him, so it's going to be a loss not having him around."
Shortly after the Knicks announced Wallace's retirement, they signed journeyman center Earl Barron, who played seven games for them during the 2009-10 season. Barron received extended time last night, playing 37 minutes and scoring 11 points with 18 rebounds.
Barron's signing comes one day after the Knicks signed another one of their former players, Quentin Richardson, to fill the roster spot that belonged to Kurt Thomas for most of the season.