Friday, March 24, 2006
BY DAVID WALDSTEIN
A big shakeup in the Knicks lineup could be coming soon.
Having already benched high-priced veterans Steve Francis and Jalen Rose for the final three quarters of Wednesday's loss to the Magic, a disgusted Larry Brown said he might just turn to the younger players on the team now.
"Thinking about it," he said after the game. "It's tough now with Channing (Frye) being out. (And) some of our young guys weren't up to par. There weren't a lot of pluses out there. But yeah, that's a strong possibility. Might as well do that."
Brown was as angry as he has been in a long time at the Knicks' lack of effort Wednesday, and said he was concerned the players might pack it in and quit over the final 15 games of the season.
"Never thought I would be," he said. "But there have been a lot of surprises for me this year."
All of them bad.
On Wednesday Brown grew irritated and defensive when he was repeatedly asked after the loss about why he didn't put Francis and Rose back in the game after the first quarter. He said reporters should get used to unusual substitution patterns from now on. He also dismissed queries about why Francis and Rose didn't play by wondering why no one ever asks why Nate Robinson or Jamal Crawford or Qyntel Woods, for instance, might not play on a given night.
"You're going to ask me why I don't play Nate, or why I don't play Jamal, or why I don't play Qyntel?" he said. "Every game I'm going to get the same thing from you guys. So, get used to it. We've got a lot of people. There's going to be a lot of times where you say, why didn't I play him? and I'm going to give the same response."
With Brown this season, there is no telling who might play and who might not. He has used 39 different starting lineups, two shy of the record set by the 1970-71 Warriors. Whether because of injuries, inconsistent performances, auditions or foul trouble, Brown has changed his substitution patterns all year. Sometimes a player will be on the floor for 38 minutes, and the next night he might play six minutes.
Francis and Rose said they were not going to complain about the situation, although Francis has already said if he's not starting and being given a prominent role next year, it would be "good to go in another direction."
Rose was clearly upset after Wednesday's loss. But while speaking in low, measured tones, he vowed to be a professional and not cause problems.
"Everybody wants to play," he said. "Everybody wants to contribute. If you've been around the block as many years as I have, whether fortunately or unfortunately, you kind of expect anything and have to be ready to deal with it. That's how I'm going to handle this."
Rose made sure to point out the Knicks were awful before he got there, and he knew what he was getting into when he was traded to the Knicks early last month.
"Obviously, we're in a situation where we were struggling when I got here," he said, "and I just made up my mind, regardless of what happened, I was going to do what I can when I got the opportunity to play. I would be a good influence to the guys, be a good teammate and try to finish up the season strong."
Francis said playing time is out of his control.
"I can't do anything about it," he said. "I'm not in a position to demand minutes because I didn't go though training camp with this team, so our practices aren't beginning-of-the-season practices where you get a lot done. So I really can't be too mad about it, except that we lost the game."