source: Larry Fine | Reuters
NEW YORK - New York Knicks head coach Mike D'Antoni is looking forward to some rare downtime following this weekend's All-Star game that will give him a chance to fit all the moving pieces of his team together for the second half of the season.
The Knicks, who were energized this month by the emergence of Jeremy Lin at point guard, are now faced with the task of blending in All-Star Carmelo Anthony and guard Baron Davis, both returning from injury, and newly signed swingman J.R. Smith.
But after Sunday's National Basketball Association (NBA) All-Star Game, the Knicks will play just two games in a seven-day span, giving D'Antoni loads of time to make adjustments for the second half of the lockout-shortened 66-game season.
"We get lucky right now," D'Antoni told reporters before Wednesday's game against the Atlanta Hawks. "Right when All-Star (game) is over, we'll have two practices, one game, and three practices.
"Now we got five practices and one game to kind of figure everything out and try to make a run toward the end and start really looking like a good team."
Before the Knicks (16-17) get to that post All-Star game stretch that allows for practice time, they meet the Hawks (19-13) then hit the road for a Thursday game against LeBron James and the red-hot Miami Heat (26-7).
"These are gut-check moments," D'Antoni said about facing the Heat. "What we ask now is just a lot of intensity and knowing that not everything is going to flow."
D'Antoni said there was no reason the Knicks could not get back on a roll similar to the seven-game winning streak led by Lin this month.
"The attitudes, the willingness to try and be a great team is there," he said. "We have very good players and they're getting better, and they're young. The future looks good."
The coach said Lin deserved all the attention he received since coming off the bench to spark a team that was forced to play without its top players.
"It's an unbelievable story, it's fun," he said. "People are excited. We'll see where it goes. Will it be a story book ending? I hope so."
(Editing by Frank Pingue; To query or comment on this story email email@example.com)