Ninety minutes before the tipoff of the Knicks' final preseason game, Larry Brown surveyed his unwieldy roster -- overloaded with big men, deficient in playmakers and thin on veterans -- and sighed.
"Hopefully," Brown said Friday, "things will settle down after tonight."
He was referring to the lineup and the rotation, still works in progress with five days left before the season opener, but Brown might also have been referring to a roster that is almost certainly headed for more upheaval.
A lackluster finish to the preseason schedule did not help Brown's outlook. The Knicks turned the ball over 29 times and in Brown's words "looked disorganized" in a 91-86 loss to the Nets at Madison Square Garden.
Far from it
"If today's an indication of whether we're ready for the opening night, I would say we're far from it," Brown said.
The Knicks open the season Wednesday night at Boston and have a rough early schedule. In an extended postgame meeting, Brown lectured his team.
"The message was, just about every single time down the floor, every single possession, we should know what we have to do and just do it," the veteran forward Antonio Davis said. "He said some stuff, other guys said some stuff."
Asked if it was a little early for team meetings, Davis said: "We don't have time. We can coast into the season and wait until January or February to make it seem like it's pressing. But why not press now, to get it right now?"
The Knicks have talked to the Portland Trail Blazers, who are looking to unload three of their higher-priced players -- center-forward Theo Ratliff and small forwards Ruben Patterson and Darius Miles. Patterson, a tenacious defender, would be the best fit for the Knicks, who are without a clear-cut option at small forward, and, at US$6.3 million, he is also the most reasonably priced.
Brown said his ideal rotation would go nine deep, with three guards (two point guards), two small forwards and four big men. At present, the Knicks have one established point guard (Stephon Marbury) and two combination guards with limited point-guard skills (Jamal Crawford and Nate Robinson).
They also have five veteran big men who deserve a role (Eddy Curry, Jerome James, Maurice Taylor, Malik Rose and Davis) and two rookie power forwards who have earned consideration (Channing Frye and David Lee).
Isiah Thomas, the Knicks' president, has not talked about his team in weeks, so his feelings on the roster are not clear. But it appears Brown has spoken with him about the big-man glut, among other issues.
"I've talked to Isiah about this, we've talked a lot about it," Brown said before last night's game.
"When you have Mo Taylor, who's played really well, and Malik, and then the young big kids we have, and then Tony," referring to Davis, "and Jerome and Eddy, it's a nice problem to have right now. Whether it'd be a good situation later on, I don't know. I'm never comfortable with sitting guys that deserve to play."
Brown later added, "It's got to work itself out somehow."
Ideally, the Knicks would trade a power forward -- Rose, Taylor or both -- to acquire a veteran point guard and perhaps another small forward.
The Knicks have two natural small forwards -- Matt Barnes and Trevor Ariza -- but both are inexperienced. The shooting guard Quentin Richardson is another possibility at that spot, but Brown sounded lukewarm to the idea, saying, "I think Quentin in a pinch can play there."