GREENBURGH, N.Y. - Larry Hughes didn't officially become a Knick until noon yesterday, which was about midway through his new team's practice at the MSG Training Center.
Physicals must be passed and trades must be recognized by the league before a player can practice with his new team. So Hughes, 30, acquired from the Bulls on Thursday for Tim Thomas, Jerome James and Anthony Roberson, mostly worked on his shot while the Knicks ran a couple of plays to show Hughes and fellow newcomer Chris Wilcox a bit of what they do.
In short, it was a lot like what Hughes has been doing since mid-January, when the Bulls decided to pull him from the rotation to go younger. Hughes last played Jan. 12, but he may get his chance this afternoon in Toronto. "Me saying it right now, yeah," Mike D'Antoni said, referring to whether Hughes and Wilcox will face the Raptors. "Playing at noon , we have to have a little patience."
Even though the two draft-deadline trades that brought Hughes and Wilcox were part of the larger plan, with Hughes' contract up after next season and Wilcox's up after this one, D'Antoni has two more live bodies who can play and score in this system. Which means less time for some of the other Knicks regulars, given that of the four players dealt, only Thomas played more than sparingly.
"I think a lot of guys' minutes are going to come down a little bit," D'Antoni said. "In some cases, that's good. Everybody has to be ready to take it down a notch, in this case for the good of the team."
That may not sit well with, say, Quentin Richardson, who may cede some of his minutes to Hughes, or Danilo Gallinari, who might be the odd man out in a new rotation. "I would like to think, in a perfect world, that you do what's expected of you if you have a role, whether it's little or large," D'Antoni said. "But in reality, some players have different expectations and you have to talk to them, hope they understand and do what's best for the Knicks and go forward. Not everybody's going to be happy."
Both new guys are eager to participate.
"It's not hard to go out there and have fun," said Wilcox, acquired from the Thunder for Malik Rose after having been dealt to the Hornets earlier in the week in the Tyson Chandler deal, which was nullified when Chandler failed a physical.
Hughes, a one-time NBA all-defensive player, hasn't had much fun at all since he was a key component of the Cavaliers' run to the NBA Finals in 2007. He was sent to the Bulls in the Ben Wallace deal a year ago today and wasn't a big contributor for Chicago, which is 11/2 games ahead of the Knicks in the battle for the eighth playoff spot in the East. The Bucks currently own the eighth spot, two games ahead of the Knicks.