Forget the small-forward talk. Don Chaney sees rookie Maciej Lampe as the Knicks' center of the future.
Despite the Dirk Nowitzki scouting report that Lampe was strictly an outside-shooting threat, the Knicks now view the 18-year-old Pole as a center. The center-starved Knicks tried force-feeding Lampe the position during summer league, which might explain his early struggles.

"I personally like his low-post game better than his outside game," Chaney said on day two of rookie camp. "I think he has a very nice low-post game."

Chaney believes Lampe can play all three frontcourt positions but center is truly where the Knicks can use him most. Lampe is the lone Knick who can post up and get off a jump hook. Making him a center - he played small and power forward at Real Madrid - is the wise maneuver considering the center-deprived East.

Plus, according to European scout Kevin Wilson, Spanish doctors have told Lampe he's still growing. Lampe, who is 275 pounds, measures in at 6-11 - without shoes. Most teams list their players at heights with shoes. Doctors told Lampe he could grow close to 7-1.

"I think one day I will be a low-post player," Lampe said. "That's what I'm trying to be."

Now he's just trying to crack the rotation - hardly a given. At best, Lampe may average five to 10 minutes.

"He's going to look like a stiff at first because he has slow feet," a team executive said. "You have to give him a chance. He could be a good European 5. He'll have to play that because of his slow feet."

Despite Lampe's strong second week of summer league in Utah, Chaney still can't decipher if he's ready for the rotation. Not until the veterans begin practicing with him tomorrow.

"There's a lot to learn," Chaney said. "I wish I can answer that one. I don't know how much he's going to learn from now to the end of preseason. We've all seen the MVP of the summer league get cut in training camp."

After a wretched start in the Boston summer league, Lampe tore it up at Utah's Rocky Mountain Revue, where he was named to the all-tournament team after averaging 17.2 points, 7.0 rebounds on 50.8 percent shooting.

"I was kind of shocked in Boston," said Lampe. "I wasn't aware how it was going to be. In Utah, I knew how it worked and you could see the results. I rebounded a lot better."

Lampe has shown the organization a tremendous amount of maturity and intelligence for his age. He speaks five languages - Swedish, Polish, Spanish, Serbian and English. Culturally, he has adjusted to life in Manhattan, attending the Rucker League event in Harlem after which one witness commented he was "dressed like a rapper."

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