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Knick Rotation Taking Shape?

Mike D'Antoni's system is so fantasy-friendly, any changes in the Knicks' rotation are worth watching. Based on last night's game against the Hornets, it seems New York may be settling on a rotation.

In New York's first three games of the season -- all losses, the Knicks came out flat and fell behind by 20 or more points. But that powerful offense showed signs of life, as the team came back to force overtime in two of three games. The team, it seemed, has the talent to compete, but needed to avoid falling into an early hole. The obvious solution: tinker with the starting lineup.

So for last night's tilt with Chris Paul and the Hornets, D'Antoni rolled with a starting five of Chris Duhon (39 minutes) and Larry Hughes (40 minutes) at guard, Wilson Chandler (23 minutes) and Danilo Gallinari (36 minutes) at forward and David Lee (35 minutes) in the middle, with Al Harrington (29), Jared Jeffries (16) and Darko Milicic (12) as the key subs - rookie Toney Douglas made a brief cameo (6 minutes). Nate Robinson was sidelined with a sprained ankle; he's expected to miss two weeks.

That's a substantial departure from opening night, when Harrington and Jeffries started with Lee in the frontcourt, Chandler was in the backcourt with Duhon and Hughes didn't play at all. It was also a substantial departure from the Knicks' first three games -- it ended with a W.

The biggest change is D'Antoni's use of Hughes. The veteran guard seemed headed for Stephon Marbury-style "just hang out on the bench until your contract expires" limbo. But he played very well off the bench in Saturday night's home opener -- a 141-127 overtime loss to the Sixers -- scoring 18 points on 7-11 shooting with five boards, six assists and four steals. That performance earned him a spot in the starting line up on Monday, and he delivered another strong line: 20 points on 8-of-13 shooting (2-5 from three), six boards, two assists and a steal.

Meanwhile, Harrington seems surprisingly comfortable coming off the bench. Against the Hornets, Harrington scored 24 points in just over 29 minutes, with one made three, eight boards, two assists, one steal and one block. Harrington, Hughes and David Lee (team-high 28 points) helped to pick up the scoring load from Danilo Gallinari, who came back to earth after his career-high 30-point night in the Sixer game. Gallinari was held to nine points on 2-9 shooting (1-6 from three).

The new starting lineup seemed to help New York avoid the first-half lethargy that led to big defecits in their first three games -- the Knicks actually led 31-24 after the first quarter. All five starters finished on the plus side in plus/minus -- Gallinari was +6, and the other four starters were at +10 or more.

Takeaways for Fantasy Owners
  • Gallinari is the real deal, but he's primarily a jump-shooter... He won't be a fantasy superstar until he gets more comfortable scoring off the dribble when that J isn't falling.
  • Assuming he can stay healthy, Hughes can help this team in a lot of ways. His height (6-5) and length gives the Knicks a defensive presence in the backcourt that New York's other guards can't match.
  • Don't make too much of Wilson Chandler's limited minutes -- yet. D'Antoni might have been riding the hot hand, and he might have wanted to keep Hughes on the floor in an attempt to slow Chris Paul (who still finished with a game-high 32 points). But watch his playing time closely... D'Antoni wants to get Gallinari and Harrington minutes, and the team seems to play better with Hughes on the floor -- if that trend continues, Chandler could get squeezed.
  • Knick fans can't like seeing Duhon on the floor for nearly 40 minutes -- New York's point guard seemed to burn out from over-use last season. But it appears D'Antoni will lean on him while Robinson is sidelined by that ankle, which gives Duhon a short-term fantasy boost. He scored 18 points on 4-10 shooting (2-5 from three, 8-9 from the line) in the win and added nine assists, five boards and two steals.
  • Even a the win, the Knicks' interior defense continues to be dreadful. Emeka Okafor went off for 24-and-10 in the loss, and David West chipped in 21 points but just three rebounds.

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