Knicks playoff preview: Dealing with age, injuries

Carmelo Anthony leads a team with high expectations into the playoffs. Credit: Getty Images Carmelo Anthony leads a team with high expectations into the playoffs.
Credit: Getty Images

The Knicks may have to do some lineup reshuffling for Game 1 of the opening round of the Eastern Conference playoffs due to their rash of injuries.

The walking wounded around their facilities is nothing new, but when the bodies again started adding up during the final regular season game Wednesday night, and the Celtics are looming in what should be a physical first-round series, that’s cause for concern.

New York officially listed point guard Pablo Prigioni as questionable after the 35-year-old rookie rolled his right ankle in the first quarter against the Hawks. Immediately following the game, head coach Mike Woodson didn’t seem too concerned, deeming Prigioni ready to go for Saturday. But by Thursday’s practice, Woodson was singing a different tune, as he didn’t sound nearly as optimistic about Prigioni’s availability.

Prigioni, who was seen moving around on crutches after the Hawks game and again during Thursday’s session, tweeted an update on Thursday morning saying he would “return soon,” with no mention of Woodson’s previous claim that the guard would be day-to-day.

If Prigioni can’t go, look for Woodson to shuffle the rotation and perhaps start Jason Kidd at shooting guard, alongside point guard Raymond Felton. He’d then likely also start Chris Copeland at small forward, Iman Shumpert at his more natural shooting guard position and Carmelo Anthony at power forward. All-Star center Tyson Chandler (bulging disc in his neck) said he “feels about as good as I’ve felt all season” and is “definitely” playing on Saturday.

Copeland, who’s been yearning for more playing time all season, said he’s ready for whatever role Woodson has for him. The 29-year-old rookie added he’s not nervous at all about the playoffs, rather he’s “anxious to see what it’s all about.”

“The playoffs is a whole ‘nother scenario,” Copeland said. “I like our chances, though, because we have a deep team. I’m excited to get this thing rolling.”

The only rolling that concerns the Knicks right now is Prigioni’s ankle, because there’s no telling his availability. Woodson allowed that ideally he’d want to keep Kidd, J.R. Smith, Steve Novak and Kenyon Martin as his primary backups. Martin (sprained right ankle) has missed the last five games but also said he’ll be ready to go.

Woodson said whatever happens in the playoffs, he’s confident his veteran-laden team can roll with the punches.

“The playoffs are a different ball game. It is what it is. We can’t be complaining to the officials, we just have to play. We can only worry about who’s dressed. And come Saturday, we’ll need to dictate and control the game,” Woodson said. “That’s what [the playoffs] is all about. We have to leave everything out there. We have to play like it’s our last game, because we don’t want to go home. We want to extend this thing all the way through.”

Knicks notes …

» The league announced the first-round schedule on Thursday. The Knicks will host the Celtics in Game 1 on Saturday (3 p.m.) and Game 2 on Tuesday (8 p.m.). Game 3 (Friday) and Game 4 (next Sunday) will be in Boston, played at 8 p.m. and 1 p.m., respectively. If necessary, Game 5 is back at the Garden, next Wednesday, Game 6 will be in Boston the following Friday and Game 7 would be at the Garden the Sunday after that.

» Woodson does not feel that Amar’e Stoudemire will be available for the first round.

» Felton was in high spirits when talking about the excitement of the postseason. Following Thursday’s practice, he backed up what he bellowed to his teammates following the Hawks’ game: “We know what time it is. It’s our time. We just need to go get it. It’s all about that Knicks Tape.”

» Earl Barron doesn’t figure to be a prominent figure in the playoffs unless injuries really decimate the Knicks, but Woodson said he’s happy to have the journeyman big man on his roster: “He’s been in enough systems that he knows how to play. He can play pick-and-roll and pick-and-pop, so if I’m ever in a crunch I can put him in there and he’ll be ready to play.”

Follow Knicks beat writer Tony Williams on Twitter @TBone8 throughout the playoffs.

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