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Walsh enforces a new standard

Eddy Curry and Nate Robinson on the bench

Eddy Curry and Nate Robinson on the bench during the Knicks' loss to San Antonio on Sunday. (December 28, 2009) Photo Credit: AP

Donnie Walsh said he sees Eddy Curry and Nate Robinson playing again "down the road . . . it's not like I think they're going to sit there all year," yet also said this about the outspoken dissidents at a time when the team is actually playing well: "We've had a changed team since I've been here, a lot of different players. So it's not the same situation that it was for the players that were here. That's the nature of transition."

Translated: That sense of entitlement by players that carried over from the previous regime -- when the inmates mostly ran the asylum -- isn't going to be tolerated anymore. Curry made his statements about how his benching was "ridiculous" but then hardly dominated the scrimmage in practice the next day to back up his words.

But aside from what has been said to the media, neither Curry nor Robinson have made a great issue of their castaway status within the locker room.

"They haven't caused any problems within the team as far as chemistry or unity or anything like that," Duhon said.

Al Harrington noted that Robinson is always the first one off the bench, cheering for the team. "As long as it never affects that," he said, "I think it should be OK."

As for Curry's complaint that Mike D'Antoni didn't communicate the decision to disclude him from the rotation, Harrington said, "My whole thing is, if you have a coach that doesn't communicate, sometimes you've got to extend the arm."

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* - David Lee is emerging as the best player the franchise has. He has elevated his game from that of a rebounder with a good eye for anticipating the carom off the rim to a very reliable scorer around the basket. And now we're seeing a new element added to his game -- the perimeter jumper.

As teams begin to pack it in to stop Lee in the pick-and-roll play from the top of the key, Lee is countering by popping rather than rolling sometimes and, as we saw against Tim Duncan and the Spurs, Lee can now knock down that mid-range jumper with confidence and, most importantly, consistency.

Lee said the perimeter game was "not by design, I just got a couple of looks tonight." But you know that it had to feel good for a guy who only a season ago would take those same shots with great trepidation.

* - Jonathan Bender admitted there are moments lately where he feels "like there's no rhythm at all" for him on the court. Against the Spurs, Bender was practically invisible in 10:56 of playing time that Eddy Curry clearly covets. Bender only attempted one shot, which happened to be a drive in which he ran his defender right into Al Harrington and Harrington's defender for a very awkward and ill-fated attempt.

Bender has missed six of his last seven field goal attempts after getting off to a hot start in his first two games. He also has five turnovers in the last three games.

"It just takes a while to get the rust off," Bender told me. "It's going to take a minute, you know?"

It's actually taking over 11 minutes per game. But Mike D'Antoni seems to think this is an investment for later in the season. It's a matter of seeing if Bender can push through this anticipated lull -- remember, it has been over four years since he last played in the NBA -- and play a consistent role in the rotation.

* - Chris Duhon's missed free throws and subsequent brick off the open corner three with 3:04 left and the Knicks trailing 86-84 was the killer possession in the game. Duhon also failed to score on a drive a few minutes prior to that with the score 81-80 and then later in the game at 93-88.

He otherwise had a very strong game with a season-high 13 assists and not a single turnover along with two steals in 36:43, but the inability to explode to the rim and finish is a critical deficiency in his game as a point guard.

* - Speaking of a lack of finish, Jared Jeffries may be providing some great defensive presence on the floor, but he missed four layup attempts and was blocked on two others in the game.

* - Is this a Mike D'Antoni-coached team or is it Jeff Van Gundy? It was the 10th straight game the Knicks have held an opponent under 100 points. Now some of the defensive statistics aren't all that impressive -- the Knicks had eight steals and four blocked shots, but forced just 13 turnovers and allowed 50.6 percent shooting --but while the Knick offense sputtered along, they did manage to stay in it because of their defense.

Offense wasn't supposed to be D'Antoni's problem, but as the team has focused more on defense and limiting possessions, the offense has escaped them. They have gone three straight games and five of the last seven without reaching 90 points.

New York Sports