October 9, 2003 -- Don Chaney, believing he may have hurt the feelings of Charlie Ward and Howard Eisley, apologized to the team before yesterday's practice for saying the club needs an upgrade at point guard. Instead of just seeking out Eisley and Ward individually, Chaney apologized to them before the entire team - that's how strongly the coach feels he misspoke Tuesday night.
"Any time you make a statement like that, it's hard for it not [to be viewed] as a knock on them," Chaney said. "Even if I'm thinking that way, I should keep it to myself. I don't believe in saying those things or doing anything to hurt them."

Ward, who's been hotly pursued for months because of his cost-friendly contract that has a $2 million buyout, accepted the apology while Eisley avoided the issue altogether.

"He talked to us about it and apologized," said Ward, the longest-tenured Knick entering his 10th season. "Whatever he said, he didn't mean to say it. And even if it's true, that's beside the point. I know my role, I'm not a superstar and I'll tell you that from the jump. Never been a superstar, but the Lord has blessed me to be here for 10 years without being a superstar, playing my role."

Before Tuesday's exhibition loss in Washington, Chaney, while discussing the potential acquisition of Dikembe Mutombo to fill the center void, broke into a spiel about the point guards.

"We still don't have a point guard yet," Chaney said. "We've been looking for a great point guard for a long time and we're still looking. We've had a lot of opportunities."

Knick GM Scott Layden has long had interest in point-guard spark plug Nick Van Exel, tried to get him from Denver and Dallas. The Knicks have now had conversations with Golden State about Van Exel, but the Warriors are denying a Ward/Kurt Thomas package will take place.

"I love my point guards," Chaney said yesterday. "I think we can win with what we have. If nothing happens and we don't get a superstar, I could win with those guys."

Asked what Ward means to the club, Chaney said, "He's our religious leader" before adding he's their "toughest player pound for pound."

Ward's contract expires at season's end. Asked if he's considering retirement at season's end, Ward, who turns 33 in three days, said, "I just have to live my life day by day. When that time comes, we'll make a decision."

Asked if he still wants to remain a Knick, Ward said, "Why would I want to leave? I've been here for 10 years and that's heaven, a dream for a lot of people. Why would somebody want to leave somewhere they've been for a very long time. My focus is to be here.

"I've been here the longest, so I've been through all of it - the Finals, the conference championships, the fights, the tough practices, the injuries. I've done it all here."

Chaney said he will start Ward a handful of preseason games - possibly tonight against the Nets in Wilkes-Barre, Pa. - but seems to like the platoon that has Eisley starting and Ward engineering the second unit.

"Charlie comes in with high energy, plays well with Shandon [Anderson]," Chaney said. "Howard is better starting than coming off the bench."

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