With Eddy Curry turning into a November disappointment on both ends of the court, Knicks coach Isiah Thomas is - believe it or not - eyeing center Jerome James' return with anticipation. Though James is at least one month away from returning, The Post has learned he had a heart-to-heart talk with Thomas after James' foot surgery to remove a cyst-like growth.
Thomas told James he is still in Thomas' plans, and that the coach hopes to go get James into the rotation.
The pep talk even surprised James, who has felt like a spare part the past two seasons. During the talk, Thomas told James he still envisions playing him alongside the slumping starting center.
With Curry regressing (a combined 19 points in his last three games before last night's 21-point output) and the defense slacking, there is a possibility James could start again like he did for 10 straight games last season. This time, though, he might start alongside Zach Randolph, with the Knicks bringing Curry off the bench.
One Knick said he feels the club's greatest need right now is having a shot-blocking presence like James' in the middle to deter penetration.
Thomas lavished James with a five-year, $30 million contract in the summer of 2005 to be the Knicks starting center, not realizing he would be getting Curry in a trade soon.
Thomas had to laugh when he was asked if owner James Dolan's absence from the Garden last night meant anything about his future.
After attending the season's first five home games, Dolan missed his fourth straight home game.
The Garden says Dolan has attended about 50 percent of Knick home games in recent years, and he's on pace.
The Garden indicated the recent no-shows were a scheduling thing, but that he was advised to stay away Friday, the day after "The Boston Massacre."
"I think you guys pay more attention to that than I do," Thomas said.