Mike D'Antoni has appeared to have reached a compromise with Nate Robinson. It's a pretty simple agreement: play your game on offense and play the team's game on defense.
Robinson's quickness and speed were all the Knicks had to contend with Rockets guard Aaron Brooks in Saturday's loss. Against these types of guards, the Knicks need Robinson on the floor because Chris Duhon doesn't have the agility to keep pace on defense.
The catch is, however, that for stretches of that game, as Robinson was checking Brooks he was also running the offense, which is always an adventure. Robinson had four turnovers in the game after having seven in the win over Charlotte. In both games, at critical moments, Robinson attempted ill-advised jump passes -- a fundamental no-no -- that were intercepted.
Against the Bobcats, the errant pass led to a basket that led to a three-pointer by Flip Murray with 13.9 seconds left to close the Knick lead to a precarious 95-93. In Houston, it led to Chase Budinger's steal and fast-break layup that made it 82-80, a lead the Rockets would never relinquish.
D'Antoni wasn't that upset with Robinson on the latter play, however, because, as Nate pleaded going into the timeout huddle, he needed teammates to cut to the basket to give him options as he drives the ball. And D'Antoni appears to be giving Robinson a little more slack than in the past, mainly because he knows Robinson sat for a month between games.
"I hoping it's that he hasn't played for a month and so I'm thinking he's pressing a little bit," D'Antoni said. "We'll try to cut those down. I think we can."
D'Antoni will live with the offensive miscues as long as he gets a concerted effort from Robinson on defense. While Nate's scoring off the bench can be such a valuable weapon, D'Antoni thinks his defense can make an even greater impact.
"He could be one of our better defenders, he has that ability," D'Antoni said. "Hopefully we can get there. I thought last night was a good step toward there."
The message is simple: "On offense, he needs to be Nate," D'Antoni said. "On defense, he needs to be Knicks."
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* - Al Harrington didn't practice with the team here in Oklahoma City, but it is still expected he will be available tomorrow night against the Thunder. He has missed the last two games with a left calf strain.
* - On rare occasion, when the team practices at an arena on the road, the beat writers are left in the empty gym with a rack of basketballs sitting on the court. Naturally, the temptation is there and, generally, what follows is unspeakable acts of unathleticism.
But what happened today on the Ford Center hardwood can not go unpublished. A wager of sorts was made among four writers -- myself, Jonathan Abrams (New York Times), Frank Isola (Daily News) and Marc Berman (Post) -- that earned a free lunch for whomever was first to hit a halfcourt shot.
Wouldn't you know it was Berman. And it was a YouTube moment if there ever was one. Unfortunately, it will only be replayed in the minds of threemen who probably would have preferred not to see, not to mention hear (yes... hear) the clinching shot.
The ball banked in with a bass-drum thud, which was drowned out by a noise that could only be properly described as a groan, likea painful howl of exertion that might be familiar to a man if he had ever hunted wild boar.
Berman, an avid tennis player, called it his service grunt.