Commentary

Would lineup change do Knicks good?

Moving Turiaf into starting five could be good; losing Gallo to injury wouldn't

Updated: January 3, 2011, 2:38 AM ET
By Chris Sheridan | ESPN.com

NEW YORK -- The moment Brandon Rush landed on the side of Danilo Gallinari's leg, buckling his knee, Gallinari knew something was wrong.

Exactly how wrong? That remains to be seen.

Gallinari left the game with a sprained left knee midway through the fourth quarter of the New York Knicks' 98-92 victory Sunday over the Indiana Pacers, and he will go for a precautionary MRI on Monday. X-rays at the arena came back negative.

"I felt it stretch, I felt pain and I felt a little click. That's what I felt," Gallinari said. "I feel discomfort, but I can walk."

[+] EnlargeDanilo Gallinari
AP Photo/Kathy KmonicekRaymond Felton, Wilson Chandler and Amare Stoudemire were there to check on Danilo Gallinari after his fourth-quarter knee injury.

Gallinari's injury was one of the few downers on a Sunday afternoon when the Knicks snapped a two-game losing streak they had brought back from their post-Christmas trip to Florida. Amare Stoudemire scored 26 points, eclipsing the 20-poiint mark for the 18th consecutive game, and the Knicks got big boosts off the bench from Ronny Turiaf and Toney Douglas to knock off one of the teams pursuing them in the Eastern Conference standings.

Gallinari said it was not out of the question that he'll be available for Tuesday night's home game against the San Antonio Spurs, holders of the NBA's best record (29-4).

"I think I will play. We were not talking about that after the game, because right now I still have the adrenaline going, and a lot of pain goes down when you have the adrenaline going," Gallinari said. "It was not feeling the feelings you feel when you break something."

Gallinari contributed 19 points to a team effort that received a huge boost from Douglas (12 points, 7 assists, 2 steals) and Turiaf (10 rebounds, 6 blocks), who each played 28 minutes. Douglas was a plus-22, meaning the Knicks outscored Indiana by 22 points when he was on the floor, and Turiaf was a plus-16.

It was somewhat ironic that a backup point guard and a backup center provided so much extra firepower, because the Knicks are looking around the league to see if they can find an upgrade for those two positions. (They also remain in steady contact with the Denver Nuggets, as they have all season, regarding Carmelo Anthony trade possibilities.)

The schedule is about to get tougher, too, with the Spurs game followed by a four-game trip West to face the Suns, Lakers, Trail Blazers and Jazz. If the Knicks go 0-5 over that stretch, they're back to being a .500 team.

"I'm active," Knicks president Donnie Walsh told ESPN.com. "I'm talking to people to kind of find out what's out there. It's not like we're shopping or anything; we just want to see what's available. In my mind the team is getting more defined, so it's not like you're out there not quite sure of what you want. It's a little more defined as to what we need.

"[It's] not just bigs. We're looking at a couple positions to see if we can make ourselves better. But also, whoever we're looking at has to be good enough to play now. This isn't a future thing."

Although the Knicks have gone 5-1 with Turiaf as a starter, which allows Stoudemire to play his natural position of power forward, coach Mike D'Antoni has chosen to stick with a small starting lineup, using Wilson Chandler at the 4, Stoudemire at the 5 and Landry Fields at shooting guard.

Chandler made only two shots in 38 minutes (one of which was a half-court heave that beat the third-quarter buzzer). Fields was limited to 13 minutes of playing time, which was by far a season low for the rookie from Stanford.

So while the Knicks might appear to be fairly set in their rotations after having used the same starting lineup for the past 16 games, what transpired Sunday with Douglas and especially Turiaf playing so effectively could get D'Antoni to start thinking about switching back to a more conventional starting five. That could, among other things, help alleviate the rebounding and size discrepancy that was so apparent both on the Florida trip and in this game against a Pacers team that had 21 offensive boards and 20 second-chance points.

And if Gallinari's sprained knee requires an extra day or two of rest, that rotation could change sooner rather than later. But as Walsh made clear, there is no permanence to this roster after the Knicks proved over the past two to three weeks that while they may be a good team, they are far from a great one.

And as D'Antoni said at practice a day earlier, this Knicks team still has higher aspirations.

Chris Sheridan covers the NBA for ESPN.com and ESPNNewYork.com.


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