Joba Chamberlain has his pitch count. Tracy McGrady is on a minutes count. When he hit 25 in Friday's wild overtime win over the Wizards, T-Mac turned into a pumpkin and Mike D'Antoni left him on the bench for the final 18 minutes of the game.
"I was pretty [ticked] that I didn't go in," McGrady said afterward. "You know, me and Mike just aren't hitting it off right now."
He then broke into laughter. Somewhere Larry Hughes was thoroughly disappointed.
"Nah," McGrady said and explained how he could have come back into the game down the stretch in regulation, but "I sat out too long and stiffened up and he [D'Antoni] realized that."
D'Antoni said before the game that he and McGrady have discussed how to handle his minutes as the former all-star eases his way back into the NBA game. McGrady would prefer to keep his minutes around 25 a night and no more than 30. D'Antoni joked that he didn't care what T-Mac said, if the game was tight in the fourth quarter, he planned to call No. 3 into the game.
D'Antoni had a chance during a timeout with 6:13 left in regulation and the Knicks ahead, 101-96, and again when there was a whistle with 5:03 left in regulation with the Knicks leading 103-98. The last time was with 3:48 left, when D'Antoni called a timeout with the Knincks ahead 105-102, but by then McGrady had a towel around his shoulders and seemed content with being a cheerleader.
Clearly this was his call. D'Antoni had pushed the minutes on McGrady in his debut (32:02) and in his second game he logged 29:54 and looked spent at the end. On Tuesday in Boston, he played 26:43 and the number went down again (25:33) for Friday's game against the Wizards.
He'll have the second game of a back-to-back Saturday against Memphis and then a meeting with LeBron James and the Cavaliers Monday for another three-games-in-four-nights stint.
McGrady seemed quite pleased with what seemed like an effortless 23 points (8 of 17 shooting and 7-for-9 from the stripe) against the Wizards. He looked like a player testing out different gears and moves and never once did he look like he had the pedal to the metal.
"I felt like I could come out tonight and be a little more assertive on the offensive end," McGrady said after a two-day rest. "I felt good in the first half and I wanted to get us off to a good start offensively. I wanted to mix my game up tonight and see how I feel driving to the basket and getting to the post and taking shots from the perimeter. I was just trying to do a little of everything tonight and I felt pretty good for the most part."
That's the plan at this point. Though D'Antoni would love to just hand the ball to McGrady and let him work for 40-plus minutes a night, that's not going to happen. At least not until McGrady deems himself ready for it.
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* - David Lee took it strong at JaVale McGee for the game-winning basket with 1.6 seconds left in overtime. McGee had five blocked shots to that point, including a game-saving block on Wilson Chandler's drive at the end of regulation. But Lee, as Newsday editor/basketball guru Greg Gutes noted, used his body to ward off McGee's long arms on his way to the basket. "As he drove," Gutes said, "I could see he was going to score."
* - Danilo Gallinari may have again had only a few touches (4-for-5 from the field for 9 points), but you can't help but notice he is putting a great deal of emphasis into driving the ball to the basket lately as opposed to standing on the perimeter just firing up three-pointers. And while he may be getting lost in the offense, Gallo is starting to stand out as a very smart defender. D'Antoni moved him to power forward to help make up for the size issues the Knicks have these days and the 6-10 Italian recorded four blocked shots in the game.
* - Al Harrington visited the White House and met President Barack Obama in the afternoon, but says his 37-point performance wasn't done intentionally to show off for the President. "I think if he told me he was going to watch the game, I might have been a little hyped," Harrington said. "But he didn't give me that type of commitment."