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News » Knicks out to prove they're not just killing time

Knicks out to prove they're not just killing time

Knicks out to prove they're not just killing timeNEW YORK (AP) - Finally, the Knicks are set up to be winners again when the weather gets warm.

For the first time in years, they can be relevant long after tax day, the team that dominates NBA headlines in the summer.

No, the Knicks won't be in the NBA finals, and even the playoffs might be a long shot. But they are ready to re-enter free agency, just in time for what might be the best class in history.

New Yorkers are dreaming of LeBron James, or Dwyane Wade, or Chris Bosh, or Amare Stoudemire - or maybe even two of them. Come July 1, the Knicks will enter spending season armed with as much or more cash than any other team, more than $20 million they hope can entice a superstar to come make basketball matter again at Madison Square Garden.

In the meantime, the players suiting up for the Knicks will have to prove this isn't just an 82-game countdown to July, that the franchise isn't killing time until it can start contacting free agents.

"This is our job. A lot of us are on our last contracts, and we want to win," point guard Chris Duhon said. "We want to make the city proud of the Knicks again."

Preferring to save their money for next summer, the Knicks did little to upgrade a roster that went 32-50 last season. That was their eighth straight losing season, tying the worst stretch in franchise history, and they haven't won a playoff game since 2001.

There's little reason to think those streaks will end this season. If the Knicks start poorly with a tough early schedule that gives them title contenders Cleveland, Boston, the Lakers, Denver and Orlando before the end of November, fans might decide there's no reason to pay attention until July.

"Probably if we don't win early but really go on a streak where we win 20 in a row, they'd come back. So there's all kinds of scenarios you could draw out there," Knicks coach Mike D'Antoni said.

"If it's a disaster, I'm sure they'll quit watching, and I don't blame them. But I think we can be competitive. I think we can make a run for the playoffs. And I think we can be enjoyable, and I think fans will like it. That's the plan, and hopefully we'll stick with it."

D'Antoni wants to win and thinks he can, and he might need to. It'll be hard for the Knicks to persuade James to leave a powerful team in Cleveland to come to a rebuilding one, unless they make strides this season.

"I think we have to be competitive and be close," D'Antoni said.

It's hard to imagine them being much better than that. There are no All-Stars on the roster, and the offense, the specialty of D'Antoni's teams in Phoenix, looks far from ready.

The Knicks shot only 39.5 percent and averaged 97.6 points in the preseason. They went 5-2, but three of the wins were against the New Jersey Nets and another was against Euroleague team Maccabi Tel Aviv.

Danilo Gallinari, the Knicks' second-year forward whom D'Antoni called the best shooter he'd ever seen, made only 31 percent of his shots in exhibition play.

New York does have some nice pieces, with David Lee leading the league in double-doubles last season, and Nate Robinson turning into a high-scoring sixth man. D'Antoni should bring the offense around, and the Knicks will be dangerous when they hit enough of the many 3-pointers they attempt.

It all worked during an exhibition victory over the Celtics, the kind of effort Lee said the Knicks will need every night.

"Is Boston a better team than us at this point? Yeah, they probably are on a neutral floor, but coming into the Garden, I think they know they're going to have to play their best ball to win," Lee said. "And that's the way we want it to be this year.

"If we can defend our home court like that, and go out and steal some on the road when we shoot the ball well, I think we've got a shot to be a pretty good team and be at or above .500."

New York hasn't made the playoffs since 2004, tied with Minnesota for the longest absence in the league. It's been even longer since the Knicks were under the salary cap and in position to score in free agency.

At least one of those droughts is about to end.

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Author: Fox Sports
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Added: October 27, 2009


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