NEW YORK - JANUARY 24: Head coach Mike D'Antoni of the New York Knicks looks on against the Dallas Mavericks at Madison Square Garden January 24, 2010 in New York City. The Knicks lost the game 78-128. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)
Before the Knicks played the Rockets, Mike D'Antoni allowed himself to get dragged into a war of words with the former Knick Jordan Hill. Hill said that D'Antoni wasn't a fan of playing rookies, which is why he couldn't get any playing time in New York before he got shipped to Houston. The Knicks coach was pretty incredulous when told about Hill's claims.
"Where does that come from?" D'Antoni said. "Seriously. It's something that cracks me up. I don't play rookies? I don't like to play bad rookies."
Pretty harsh rebuke, at least it was until Hill helped lead the Rockets to a huge second quarter that erased a big Knicks lead. D'Antoni's words could have even slid by if Hill wasn't on the court in the fourth quarter when Houston iced a win in the Garden. The rookie scored 13 points and grabbed five rebounds in an energetic effort that made D'Antoni sound like quite a fool for intimating that he couldn't play the game.
Every time Hill put back a Rockets miss or hit a layup, there was a groan from the Garden crowd. You could hear the unsaid words that made up those groans, the collective "This had better work" being sent to Donnie Walsh as a warning for sending Hill to Houston for the sore-kneed, easily fatigued Tracy McGrady. No one's delusional enough to think Hill is the superstar who shall save us all, but he couldn't have gotten a few of the minutes that went to Jonathan Bender or Al Harrington earlier this season?
Just look at Toney Douglas. He dropped 26 points on Sunday, yet another fine game from a player who was buried behind the loathsome Chris Duhon all season. Do the Knicks grab a few more victories if Douglas gets a look a little bit earlier in the season? Do they catch some kind of lightning in a bottle? We'll never know, because D'Antoni stuck with Duhon until the only thing left was the degradation of another season thrown in the dumpster. At least he doesn't have any problem playing rookies.
Right, bad rookies. Or arrogant coaches. You say tomato, I say potato and thankfully we're damned close to calling the whole thing off.