Knicks' D'Antoni prepared for success despite unchanged roster
NEW YORK -- Stephon Marbury is still here and perhaps will be for a while longer.
Zach Randolph is still here and apparently was never close to going anywhere.
The New York Knicks will open training camp next week with mostly the same roster that was an embarrassment on and off the court while going 23-59 last season. President Donnie Walsh has made only one notable move since replacing Isiah Thomas in April, and it's the reason he believes next season could be better even if the personnel suggests otherwise.
"Mike D'Antoni. I think he's a great coach. I hope people give him a chance," Walsh said Friday. "He'll make them better, I think, than anybody else would."
D'Antoni was a big winner in Phoenix, but it won't be easy in New York. The Knicks' roster doesn't seem suitable to the uptempo style he plays, but D'Antoni remains confident he will make it work, even though he believed there would be changes.
"Sometimes the best trades you make are the ones you didn't make, so I'm going with that one," D'Antoni said. "This is who we have. I'm not worried about what if. And again, I would not be excited if I thought there's no way we can do this. I really think that the talent surprised me, there's a lot of young guys that are very good and we can do well with what we have."
That includes Marbury and Randolph, two players who many around New York thought would be gone by the time camp opened next Tuesday in Saratoga Springs.
Marbury angered the organization and his teammates with his behavior last season, and speculation was the Knicks would prefer to get rid of him rather than bring him back for the final year of his contract. But both Walsh and D'Antoni said the point guard is in great shape after having season-ending ankle surgery last January, and neither ruled out him making the team.
"I expect he'll play well in camp," Walsh said of Marbury, according to the New York Post. "I'm not going to pick the team today. We want to see this when you get out on the court, start working together. You have to have a team who comes together, plays together, plays hard. I think he's going to do that. That decision will be made down the road. There's no reason to believe he won't do well."
Marbury clashed with both Larry Brown and Thomas, and his walkout after a feud with the latter sent the season spiraling downward last November. But he's still the most talented point guard the Knicks have, so D'Antoni, who briefly coached him with the Suns, plans to give him a shot.
"I had Steph, I like Steph. We got along well in Phoenix," D'Antoni said. "I've got no problems with him and he's coming in shape, he wants to play. Why shouldn't I like him? In 30 days if he's in that group and he's rolling, we roll."
Marbury has heard the speculation about his status with the Knicks, but he made clear on Wednedsay that he would not agree to any settlement if the team were to try to negotiate a buyout on the last year of his contract, worth $21.9 million. "If they want to waive me and give me all my money, fine. If not, I'll try to help this organization win the championship," Marbury told the Post.
On Friday, Marbury reiterated those thoughts after he took a physical in preparation for training camp, this time also telling the Post that "I'm not coming off the bench here in New York."
"If I'm a distraction and I'm all these different things, why would you want to keep somebody like that?" Marbury added. "It can't be about the money. If you feel you're better without me, just let me go. If not, let's get down to the business of playing basketball.
"I know what I can do on the basketball court. They know as well. There are newspaper writers and other people saying I can't play anymore. I want to prove to my fans ...what I can do."
Walsh intends to give Marbury just that opportunity, because he's also not inclined to simply let Marbury walk away with $21.9 million and end up playing for a conference rival.
"I've been doing this a long time," Walsh said in the Post. "I can't remember buying out a contract. I'd try to trade him. That isn't good management if you have to do it."
Randolph was one of the Knicks' most productive players last season, but was reportedly close to being dealt to both the Los Angeles Clippers and Memphis Grizzlies over the summer. Moving his salary would be key for Walsh in his goal of clearing salary cap space for the summer of 2010, when LeBron James could highlight an outstanding class of free agents.
But Walsh said neither deal got close, and he's not in a rush to make any move without seeing who can handle what D'Antoni wants to do.
"I didn't want to make any kind of quick judgments on players and just make a quick trade just for the sake of making a trade," Walsh said. "I'd rather see the players play, then have an idea where they fit, if we have a place for them or if they should be somewhere else."
The offseason moves were minor: Walsh signed guards Chris Duhon and Anthony Roberson, traded for Patrick Ewing Jr., and agreed to give Allan Houston another chance to come back after knee pain forced him to retire early.
First-round pick Danilo Gallinari from Italy has been sidelined since the summer league opener with a back injury and D'Antoni said he won't be ready to go -- at least at D'Antoni's pace -- when camp opens. Neither Walsh nor D'Antoni sounded confident that center Eddy Curry was in shape enough to handle the new style right away.
Still, D'Antoni expects to find guys among the 18 who will be in camp who can play for him, and he refuses to believe it's best to play younger players who will be part of the team's future.
"That's screwy, that's not my job," he said. "That's management's job and everybody else. My job is to try to win every night and I'm going to play the guys that will give me the best shot to win every night, will give New York the best shot of winning every night."
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.
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