Kelenna Azubuike has tried to be patient with the arduous recovery process involving his torn left patella. Now he faces the frustration of having to wait even longer.

Azubuike, 26, has been practicing with the Knicks since mid-November, but the knee has not responded well. It is likely he'll be re-examined to determine the next step in his rehabilitation.

"He's not ready physically,'' Mike D'Antoni said last night. "He's not there yet.''
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The concern is about whether he will ever get there. Patella injuries are extremely difficult to come back from, as proven by Kenyon Martin's slow return to the Nuggets.

But it's very different for a guard such as Azubuike, who relies so much on quickness and explosion. His greatest assets are his strength and ability to defend at shooting guard, which is something, even with the impressive play by rookie Landry Fields, the Knicks could use. But it's only useful when he's at full strength.

"If you watch him scrimmage, he doesn't have the pop, and it's going to be a while before he gets it back,'' D'Antoni said. "He can scrimmage, but he's not strong enough or able to go sideways or able to have an NBA physical talent level.''

When the Knicks acquired Azubuike from Golden State with Anthony Randolph and Ronny Turiaf in the David Lee sign-and-trade, there wasn't a lot of confidence that he would even play this season. D'Antoni used Christmas as a target date, but now that appears unlikely.

Though the outlook is bleak now for Azubuike, D'Antoni won't write him off. "He'll get there sooner or later,'' he said, "but there's no timetable.''