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Rotation remains short, but minutes go longer

Toney Douglas

Toney Douglas Credit: Dave Saffran/MSG Photos

Mike D'Antoni still used primarily an eight-man rotation through Wednesday's 112-98 win over the Thunder until he unloaded the bench in garbage time. But the biggest difference between this game and those against the Nuggets, Celtics and Heat were that the reserves saw considerable burn, which not only took some of the workload off the starters, but also help the subs get into the game, as well.

"Today, coach rode with us a little bit longer," said Ronny Turiaf, who had an energetic 21:56 off the bench and produced 11 points, two rebounds and a blocked shot. "Then you are able to get into the flow of the game."

Toney Douglas played 21:44, which is right around his usual time, and had nine points, five rebounds and three assists. He also let out a loud F-bomb when he tried to put on his vest while we chatted after the game. That left shoulder is hurting so much he can't bring his arm back to slide it through the hole in his vest.

So he got some assistance from the Fix while he explained the injury: it goes back to a hard hit he took against Shaquille O'Neal in the second game of the regular season at Boston on Oct. 30. It progressively got worse from the usual wear-and-tear of physical defense and then it really started to scream after the game against the Heat. But he'll play through it and though his shot has been wildly inconsistent (and his shot selection has been questionable), Douglas' confidence hasn't waned. I asked him if he was worried about losing his job, as it is no secret the Knicks have been shopping around for a backup point guard.

"Not me, I know what I can do as a player," he said. "I feel you're going to have bad nights."

D'Antoni said he wanted to give Shawne Williams more minutes and he kept to his word, as Williams played 18:02 and produced 7 points, 3 rebounds, 3 blocks and a steal. The Anthony Randolph protesters need to understand that Williams is taking Randolph's potential minutes here because he is doing exactly what the team needs -- a little bit of everything -- and he can also knock down shots. Randolph is just not at the point where he can provide the things that Williams can provide.

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* - There were more Carmelo Anthony-related reports swirling on Wednesday, but the most important piece of news that was factual involved the death of his sister, Michelle, who had been battling an illness. Carmelo will miss at least one game as he returns home to Baltimore to be with his family there. This is an extremely personal and emotional situation and, quite frankly, it wouldn't surprise me if he missed the Nuggets' Christmas Day game at Oklahoma City to instead remain with his family through the holiday.

Meanwhile, from what I'm told by informed people, the Nuggets are almost certain to hold on to Carmelo until we're a lot closer to the Feb. 24 trade deadline. The Nets may be furiously putting together packages and plans and the Nuggets may be enamored with the idea of collecting a plethora of first round picks, but they also aren't in any hurry to make even that trade.

Why? Let us explain: First of all, the Nets' own first round pick, which would HAVE to come unprotected, might be the most valuable one that Jersey can offer. And the longer Carmelo remains off that roster, the better the chances that pick will be in the lottery. Secondly, as I've told you here before, the Nuggets want to keep as many Pepsi Center seats filled as possible over the next six weeks to get the collection baskets filled while people are still attending church. Also, with Kenyon Martin and Birdman poised to return, the Nuggets have the chance to go on a little run and it could get them in playoff position by late February so when the franchise does decide to move their superstar, the team may be able to at least hold on for a playoff berth, which is good for at least two home dates, which means another few million in revenue. All of this is important.

There is also the continued hope that, if the Nuggets, finally back at full health, can get on a positive roll and have some success, that maybe Carmelo would re-consider signing that extension to stay in Denver. It's a longshot, but, again, the Nuggets have no reason to rush this situation.

So sit tight, Fixers. This ordeal is likely to take a while.

Oh and as for Dallas being a real potential suitor in a mercenary trade for Carmelo (sans extension)? Denver would have little to no interest in helping the Mavericks win a championship, especially with Dallas having nothing of real interest to offer the Nuggets.

* - So Paul Silas takes over as interim coach for Larry Brown in Charlotte and there are reports that Charles Oakley, one of Bobcats owner Michael Jordan's closest friends, could emerge as a member of Silas' coaching staff. You think playtime is over down there? Jordan reportedly considered another good friend, Patrick Ewing, for the head job, but decided not to put Ewing in the tough position of coming in as an interim coach with a team that had already quit on Brown. Perhaps Ewing will at least finally get an interview -- his first in six years as an NBA assistant -- in the offseason when the Bobcats open a search for their next head coach.

* - Amar'e Stoudemire is getting pretty good at his own version of the LeBron James trademark "chase-down" block, only Stoudemire is showing the quickness to do it starting from the foul line. In the fourth quarter against the Thunder, Stoudemire was at the right elbow when Russell Westbrook made an explosive move for the basket. Just as Westbrook reached the rim, Stoudemire swatted the shot away. It was similar to his play on another quick guard, rookie John Wall, who drove the lane against the Knicks in the fourth quarter of the Dec. 10 win at Washington only to be rejected by Stoudemire, who again followed Wall down the lane and rejected the shot at the rim.

This is exactly the kind of play that should have Randolph watching and taking notes. He has the length and athleticism to make these types of plays. It's a matter of being mentally aggressive at all times on defense.

* - Wilson Chandler had 21 points and shot 9 for 15 from the field, including 3 of 4 from downtown. He's hit at least two three-pointers in each of the last 10 games and is shooting 27-for-61 (44.2 percent) from beyond the arc over that span.

* - Danilo Gallinari may not be putting up the prolific numbers the Knicks had hoped he'd produce in growing into the No. 2 scorer's role, but Gallo has been taking on some difficult defensive assignments on a nightly basis which has kept him busy. Over the last 10 days he's guarded Carmelo Anthony (31 points), Paul Pierce (32 points) and LeBron James (32 points) and the streak of superstars dropping 30-plus on him stopped at Kevin Durant, who had 26. Gallinari, by the way, hasn't made it entirely easy for these stars to guard him. He had 16 against Carmelo, 20 against Pierce and 25 against LeBron. Against Durant he had 13 points and five assists.

* - D'Antoni usually doesn't insert veterans into garbage time, but he did put Roger Mason Jr. into the game with 2:45 to go and the Knicks well on their way to the win. It was Mason's first appearance since the Nov. 28 double-overtime win at Detroit and only his eighth of the season. It seems a foregone conclusion that if the Knicks needed to clear a roster spot to add another player, Mason's $1.4M vets minimum is the easiest to waive. Shawne Williams ($854,389) won't be fully guaranteed until January, but he's too valuable at this point to waive. Andy Rautins makes just $600,000, but you would think the franchise would want to keep him around to continue to develop him.

* - I'm trying to get a copy of the "Go NY Go NY Go" song updated for the 2010-11 season with members of the current team singing it, which is often seen on GardenVision during games, but those of you who haven't been able to make it to a game -- or don't live in the area -- haven't gotten to see. There is another cool video they play on GardenVision that is similar to those "Defense and Determination" monotone song commercials made by the NBA last season.

* - As reporters, we're supposed to be unbiased and unaffected, but I have to admit I'm thoroughly enjoying covering games at the Garden this season. It's not as much about the Knicks winning games -- though it's nice to see people happy around that place after years of misery -- as it is the charged atmosphere and the way the giddy crowds sound in various situations. For instance, I couldn't help but notice the roar that emerged from high up in the cheap seats when the Knicks executed two dazzling fast breaks in that 10-0 run in the second quarter against OKC. On both occasions, the fast break was set up by long bounce passes, which each time drew an immediate and loud responses from the Garden faithful before the hoops were made to finish the breaks.

"These are fans that know the game of basketball, man," Felton said. "They definitely know the game of basketball, no question."
 

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