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Sweetney Shows N.Y. How to Play Nice With Others

"The fans show me respect," Sweetney said. "That's pretty hard, to keep them happy. That's a big thing for me. . . . They say that New Yorkers can tell when a person is a dedicated winner. That's the way I'm going to keep them happy."

Part of Sweetney's popularity comes from his willingness to labor in under-serviced areas for the Knicks. With Marbury, Tim Thomas and Jamal Crawford, they have a glut of scorers and perimeter shooters. So Sweetney focuses on rebounds, defense and occasionally scoring -- but from near the basket. That's where he is most comfortable.

Former Hoya Michael Sweetney has flourished since being named Knicks' starting forward. (Carlos Osorio -- AP)

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Sweetney's body stands out from most other NBA big men. During practice last week, he appeared much broader than his teammates. Most NBA players stand on antelope-like legs. Sweetney's calves look almost as thick as his thighs. He has the body of an offensive lineman and he shares a football player's mentality when he's on the court.

"When I get into the post, I believe I can take guys, and I do," Sweetney said. "Nowadays, a lot of the big guys are a lot slimmer and like playing out in the wing. I like being inside. . . . I love physical contact."

What makes him a real force in the paint is his quickness. He moves his 270 pounds like a much smaller man, says Knicks Coach Herb Williams, the third head coach Sweetney has answered to since being drafted by the Knicks in 2003.

"He may be the quickest guy on the team," Williams said.

Sweetney's combination of size and speed poses a challenge for opposing coaches. He darts past bigger players and bulls over smaller ones.

"He's one of the only guys I've seen who, when he was only playing 10 minutes, would still get double teamed," said Crawford. "I've never seen anything like that."

Of the fire Sweetney supposedly lacks, Crawford says: "He has it. It's in him. He's quiet but when he's out there he plays as tough as anybody."

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