Bill Walker and Tracy McGrady made up the Knicks starting backcourt for Wednesday's 128-104 win over the Pistons. About a year and a half ago, McGrady welcomed Walker into the NBA with a little message for the exhuberant rookie who was playing playoff-like defense in a preseason game between the Rockets and Celtics in Manchester, N.H.

Have a look at what went down from there:


"Tracy's just a very mean guy," Walker said when asked about the incident. "I wasn't expecting that. He's just a dirty player."

Then he laughed.

"In the preseason last year, he was this happy kid, just excited to be out on the basketball court," McGrady said as he recalled the moment. "There were a couple of plays where he would cut down the lane and be all physical and I was guarding him. I just got fed up . . . I said, 'OK, I got something for him.'

advertisement | advertise on newsday

"So the next time he came down the lane, I shot him an elbow and knocked him on his ---."

Walker shook his head with a smile.

"I figured he was looking at me like, 'Man, this rookie . . .'," he said. "He would cut hard and bump me and I'd bump him back. He gave me a nice shove. I didn't realize how strong he was. I was like, 'OK, different game. Different game'."

Walker has spent most of his pro career in the D-League. Last season in Utah and this season in Maine. So their paths didn't cross again until they were at the MSG Training Center on Feb. 21 as teammates.

"We told that story the first day I seen him," said McGrady, who, as you can see in the video, also had heated words with another new teammate, Eddie House.

"I asked for an apology," Walker said. "He quickly refused it . . . But we had a truce. I won't foul him in practice."

Walker may not have the opportunity to guard McGrady in practice because the two could be the starting backcourt for the rest of the season. Walker, who followed up a career-high 21-point performance against Cleveland on Monday with 22 points Wednesday against the Pistons, had eyebrows raised all around the Garden about this apparent throw-in piece in the Nate Robinson trade. Walker competes defensively (as McGrady noted in that preseason game), is a decent shooter and a terrific finisher. At 6-5, he throws down some powerful dunks, which had the Garden crowd roaring like it used to for Nate. He had six dunks in the game (out of his nine made field goals) and several were spectacular.

Walker, a second-round pick in 2008, has an $850,000 team option next season that the Knicks could use to keep him around for a very cheap price.

McGrady was quite happy to play the point -- Sergio Rodriguez seemed to prove he's better suited as a backup -- and says it fits him well. "Why? I have the skills to play that position," McGrady said. "Coach put the ball in my hand and I'm able to handle the ball, see over my defenders, make plays with my teammates. It creates problems for the other teams. I like the lineup."

It was his best overall performance to date -- 21 points, 8 assists, 7 rebounds and 3 steals in 34 minutes -- and more importantly, McGrady said he felt better than any other time so far this season.

advertisement | advertise on newsday

"Tonight was one of those nights I felt like my old self," McGrady said. "Hopefully, I don't have any setbacks."

* * *

* - D'Antoni played a seven-man rotation for most of the night until the game turned into a blowout and rookie Toney Douglas got some burn in the end. Wilson Chandler (away for personal reasons) and Eddy Curry are expected to be available for Friday's game in Toronto, which means D'Antoni is going to have to figure out how he's going to spread the minutes over nine to 10 players.

* - Useless statistic, but worth repeating: the Knicks won the season series (3-1) over the Pistons for the first time since 2000-01.

* - Patrick Ewing Jr. was at the game and afterward told me he will play this summer for the Jamaican National Team (he has dual citizenship through his father) along with former Georgetown teammate Roy Hibbert. They will compete against other Caribbean countries toward a bid for the 2012 Olympics in London.

advertisement | advertise on newsday

Ewing Jr., who injured his knee late last season in the D-League, has not played this season because of the injury. He only started getting back on the court in the last two weeks and will be ready this summer and is hoping to hook up with a team next season.

He was a favorite of the coaching staff as a rookie in training camp last season and was the last player cut before the regular season. It is possible Ewing Jr. could find himself back in Knicks training camp in the fall, unless he finds a better opportunity elsewhere.