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Knicks Look for Inside Punch

By Greg Sandoval
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, March 8, 2005; 1:20 PM

In an attempt to salvage the season, the New York Knicks have abandoned their strategy of firing up jump shots at will, which had led the team to a 21-33 record.

Two weeks ago the Knicks traded for forwards Malik Rose (San Antonio) and Maurice Taylor (Houston Rockets) and made promising second-year forward Michael Sweetney a starter. Coach Herb Williams also moved Kurt Thomas to center.

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The moves were designed to forge a strong inside game. Since then the club is scoring more from the paint and helped the team win four out of the last five games.

No longer are the Knicks, who face the Washington Wizards tonight, a two-dimensional pick-and-roll and jump-shooting team.

The change is most dramatic in the play of Knicks shooting-guard Jamal Crawford, who for years has been pegged as an undisciplined shooter.

Crawford has not taken more than 15 shots in any of the five games since the trade. He has shot 10 times or more only twice in that span.

In the five games prior to the trade, Crawford shot less than 15 times only once.

"We just go with what's working," Crawford said last week, adding that he is trying to focus on shooting for a higher percentage. "Everybody knows I can score, but I want to be a great all-around player and provide whatever is needed of me. It may not always be points. If other guys are going, I'll just take it back and try to get assists and rebounds."

Hill Out 2 Games

All star-forward Grant Hill will miss the next two games with a bruised left shin, the Orlando Sentinel reported today.

Hill, who has missed most of the last four seasons with ankle injuries, was kicked in the shin six days ago in a game against Sacramento, the paper reported.

"With anyone else, you would just tape it up a little tighter and go," Magic Coach Johnny Davis told the Sentinel. "With Grant, we're just being cautious. You don't want him favoring it, which could throw him out of balance and potentially cause a problem. It's not serious."

Hill's injury puts more pressure on the Magic as they likely lost swingman Doug Christie for the year as he plans to undergo surgery to remove bone spurs.

The Sentinel said that Davis would decide whether to start Stacey Augmon or Hedo Turkoglu in Hill's place against the Cavaliers tonight.

Webber Trying to Fit In

Chris Webber's integration into the Philadelphia's 76ers' system has been less than smooth, and yesterday the former all star met with 76ers coach Jim O'Brien to discuss how it can be improved, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.

"I reminded him that this is a new relationship, and neither one of us are ever going to be able to read the other person's mind," the coach told the Inquirer before last night's game against the Miami Heat. "So, if there's ever an issue that comes up, whether it's during the game or otherwise, let's discuss it."

Webber was miffed when he was benched for much of the second half of Philadelphia's 98-97 victory over Atlanta on Saturday.

"I'm a professional. I feel I'm one of the best in the game, and I wasn't happy," Webber said.

O'Brien stuck with a lineup that included Marc Jackson and Rodney Rogers instead of Webber and Samuel Dalembert, because Rogers and Jackson helped the club climb back from a seven-point deficit, according to the Inquirer.

Curry, Skiles Have a Chat

In another coach-player meeting, Chicago Bulls forward-center Eddie Curry spoke with coach Scott Skiles about his reduced playing time yesterday, the Chicago Tribune reported.

Curry has made a marked turnaround this season from his previous three in his willingness to play defense and share the ball. He and fellow prep-to-pro teammate Tyson Chandler are big reasons why the Bulls (30-27) are in the playoff hunt.

"I just tried to impress upon him that he wasn't playing very well," Skiles told the Tribune. "We base our playing time on performance. We wanted him to understand that. [Cleveland's Zydrunas] Ilgauskas, [San Antonio's Rasho] Nesterovic, [Washington's] Brendan Haywood, they've all kind of had their way with us. We need more from Eddy.

"There's been a long history here of a bunch of players pretty much blaming everybody but themselves. We want Eddy to be a special player, not one of those guys. That's what we told him. I'm not down on him in any way."

Perhaps the chat helped.

Curry finished with 16 points and seven rebounds in the Bulls' 90-85 victory over Milwaukee last night.

A Family Matter

Los Angeles Clipper coach Mike Dunleavy has reversed his previous stance on coaching his son, Mike Dunleavy Jr., if given the chance.

His son is a starting guard on the Golden State Warriors but is a restricted free agent at the end of the season. The Clippers may pursue him, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Dunleavy Sr. bowed out of coaching the Warriors 2002 when it became apparent that the club would choose his son with the third pick in the draft that year.

"[When he was] coming into the league, I would not coach him. Now, I have no qualms about it," the elder Dunleavy told the Times. I don't know that he would. I don't think he would, but you never know."

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