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6. New York Knicks
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Randolph (above) and Curry will dominate down low.
Manny Millan/SI
Fast Fact
David Lee averaged 10.1 rebounds in games in which he came off the bench last season. He's the first player to average double-digit boards as a reserve (minimum: 25 games) since Dennis Rodman did it in 199394.
Telling Numbers
Record: 33-49 (12th in East)
Points scored: 97.5 (16th in NBA)
Points allowed: 100.3 (20th)
Coach: Isiah Thomas (second season with Knicks)
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Yet another big talent is added, but this one will get the club back to the playoffs

The Knicks' off-season had a circuslike atmosphere, what with coach Isiah Thomas spending more time in a courtroom than on the court and point guard Stephon Marbury, having eaten one too many cannoli, declaring his intention to leave his hometown team and play in Italy after his contract expires in two years. The sideshows were unfortunate because they drew attention away from a move that should put New York in the playoffs for the first time since 2003-04: the trade for rugged power forward Zach Randolph.

One of only five players to average at least 20 points and 10 rebounds last season, Randolph was acquired from the Trail Blazers in a draft-day deal for Steve Francis and Channing Frye. Though he comically declared himself in "O.K. shape" in camp, Randolph doesn't play above the rim, so his primary goal will not be conditioning. It will be to avoid making headlines off the court.

Randolph was no stranger to the Portland police blotter and was suspended by the Blazers for violations ranging from making an obscene gesture toward fans to punching out a teammate in practice. "I'll be no trouble," Randolph says of playing in New York. "I bought a place out in the suburbs. I'm staying out of the city."

If Randolph keeps his promise, he and center Eddy Curry will form arguably the top frontcourt tandem in the Eastern Conference. Congestion around the rim shouldn't be a problem as Curry lives in the paint and prefers to catch the ball on the right block; Randolph is an effective perimeter shooter who likes to set up on the left block. "Playing with Zach gives us a lot of options," says Curry. "He can play inside-out and score from anywhere. With him on board, I'm really excited about this season."

That's one emotion that has not been associated with the Knicks for a long time. -- Chris Mannix

Issue date: October 29, 2007

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