Dog days in the Big Apple

DEAN McNULTY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:08 AM ET

Jerome Williams has been preparing his whole basketball life to play at Madison Square Garden for the New York Knicks.

His Junk Yard Dog persona, born in Detroit and honed during his days with the Raptors, appeared destined to play under the bright lights in the Big Apple.

"The Dog is built for New York," Williams said recently in a TV interview. "Boos, cheers, the whole thing."

On Monday this week, in the second of two losses to the Chicago Bulls, it was mostly boos.

The Knicks hold down first place in the dreadful Atlantic division, but Williams knows that a few more missteps like the back-to-back Chicago losses, and New York fans will be clamouring for changes.

Coach Lenny Wilkens has already been tabbed as the first to go if the losing skid gets worse.

"In New York it's survival of the fittest," Williams said. "You have got to do your job or you will hear about it."

He agreed that in spite of being in first place the Knicks have not been world beaters of late.

"It's been a struggle but we're still in first place," Williams said. "Everybody's not playing the way they would like. But you have got to continue to play hard as a team."

Williams, who has averaged 6.6 points and 6.5 rebounds as a starter, was dropped from the first five at the Air Canada Centre last night -- replaced by Tim Thomas -- but he was upbeat.

"I have said it time and time again I just want to get in there and help my team," he said of his new role.

Williams said he realizes that not starting doesn't mean he's failed as a player.

"That is what it is all about, not accepting the fact that just because you are not good enough to start does not mean that you are not a good player," he said. Williams scored 11 points and had seven rebounds last night.

Wilkens said he had no doubt that Williams would give a first rate effort in his reserve status.

"Jerome still brings a lot of energy off the bench," Wilkens said. "That is really where I felt he was most effective for us."


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