Work in Sports
Air of mistrust surrounds Knicks-Heat series
Posted: Wednesday May 03, 2000 02:28 AM
PURCHASE, N.Y. (AP) -- While insisting that their rivalry with Miami isn't as spiteful as it once was, the New York Knicks nonetheless managed to dredge up plenty of mistrust Tuesday at their first practice since sweeping Toronto.
A day after Miami coach Pat Riley said there will be no updates on Tim Hardaway's health situation before the series begins Sunday, the Knicks took it to mean that Hardaway will indeed play.
"Because it's us against them, Miami-New York," Latrell Sprewell said. "I'd play through any kind of pain to be a part of this series."
Hardaway sat out Miami's first-round sweep of Detroit and hasn't played since April 16 because of a sprained left foot. But given the intensity of the rivalry -- Hardaway once said, "I hate them with all the hate you can hate with" -- and the knowledge that Riley doesn't mind keeping opponents guessing, the Knicks were proceeding accordingly.
"I'm not going to sit here and guess what [Hardaway's] health is. We're going to prepare as if he plays, and for both guys," Knicks coach Jeff Van Gundy said, also referring to backup point guard Anthony Carter.
"Whoever they play, we're going to be prepared for."
Hardaway jogged and took some shots during practice Tuesday but watched much of the workout from the sideline, his left foot taped and shoeless.
"I'm trying to come back," he said. "It's just day to day."
Miami won the season series three games to one, the deciding victory coming in early April when Hardaway hit a closely guarded fling from the 3-point line at the buzzer in overtime.
It was a slight bit of redemption for Hardaway, who admitted last summer that he lost his confidence against the Knicks last season when New York beat Miami in the first round.
The teams have played each other in the playoffs in each of the past three seasons, with each series going to a deciding game. Fight-related suspensions kept key players out of the deciding games in 1997 and 1998, and last year's series came down to a last-second shot by Allan Houston that saved Van Gundy's job and helped vault the Knicks into the NBA Finals.
"I was thinking about it yesterday," Houston said. "And the playoffs just wouldn't seem the same to us unless we're playing Miami. It would feel strange if we weren't playing Miami."
Houston, Patrick Ewing, Larry Johnson, Chris Childs and Charlie Ward have been with the Knicks for all three of their playoff meetings with Miami, while Alonzo Mourning, P.J. Brown, Dan Majerle, Hardaway and Voshon Lenard have experienced them all for the Heat.
Johnson and Mourning have made no secret of their dislike for each other, but Ewing and Mourning are friends, Hardaway and Houston are U.S. Olympic teammates, and Van Gundy's brother, Stan, is an assistant coach under Riley.
"Jeff said it best when he said there's more respect and less hatred now," Houston said. "It was very intense. It was our family competing against another family. It used to be pretty personal, and I can't speak for everybody, but I don't think it's as personal now."
Van Gundy toyed with the idea of taking the Knicks to a mini-training camp with all the off time between games, but instead decided to keep the players home and try to keep them sharp in familiar surroundings.
The pre-series hype landed the Knicks-Heat series on the back page of both New York tabloids after Riley issued his gag order on Hardaway updates and told his players to avoid talking about the rivalry and its colorful history.
One headline screamed, "Miami Nice." Another said, "Stupid Pat Tricks."
"I'm not interested in dissecting every possible scenario over the next five days that we're going to be asked about, and I think that's what he was referring to," Van Gundy said. "I think the games will be a big enough story instead of both of us doing what we've done in the past -- not so much last year, but I think in previous years -- run our mouths."