Circus is in town

RYAN WOLSTAT, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:57 AM ET

Just as New York is the city that never sleeps, the Knicks are the team that is never without controversy.

The Knicks, in town tonight as the Raptors make their home exhibition debut, just went through a typically tumultuous off-season.

Isiah Thomas finally was forced out after years of bungling, but longtime Pacers executive Donnie Walsh came in and gave former Phoenix Suns coach Mike D'Antoni a whopping four-year, $24-million US deal. Never mind that the current roster doesn't suit D'Antoni's run-and-gun style at all.

D'Antoni also must deal with highly paid wildcards Stephon Marbury and Eddy Curry.

Marbury and the club have been engaged in a cold war for months now. At one point it seemed certain that the Knicks would buy out Marbury and eat the remaining $21 million on his contract.

Walsh threw serious cash at former Chicago Bulls starter Chris Duhon, a less talented, but defensively superior player, and D'Antoni also has praised diminutive backup point guard Nate Robinson as a "scary athlete."

Marbury, the only former all-star on the New York roster, said earlier this week that he sees himself as the team's starter at the point and disregarded speculation that Duhon and Robinson had moved ahead of him on the depth chart.

"You can't assess it yet," Marbury said.

"When the 29th comes, when the lights come on, it will be different. It doesn't matter now who is on the court at what position. I know when the game starts, I'll have the ball or I'll be receiving the ball to make plays for others and myself."

However, Marbury backtracked yesterday, going out of his way to tell Marc Berman of the New York Post he is willing to come off the bench if it will make the team better.

"I don't want to go through any more distractions," Marbury said. "I want all of us to concentrate on winning and not if I'm going to start or not. If the Knicks want me to come off the bench, that's what I'm going to do. I just want to win a championship in New York because we as New Yorkers deserve a chip."

Even if that soap opera is now somewhat resolved, the Knicks must also deal with Curry. Curry reported for training camp out of shape and then came down with a bacterial infection.

The 6-foot-11, 285-pounder will not start tonight and might be usurped as the team's starting centre by the sleeker and much more athletic David Lee, a prototypical D'Antoni player.

Curry, who has three years and $31.5 million remaining on his deal, said yesterday that, like Marbury, he would prefer to start, but would deal with whatever decision D'Antoni makes.

The Knicks also have loose canon Zach Randolph on their roster and still are waiting for highly touted No. 6 overall selection Danilo Gallinari to find his health.

The Italian forward missed training camp with a back injury.


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