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For All the Winning the Knicks Are Doing, There Sure Is a Lot of Carping

Obviously we are the biggest honks for the Knicks on the planet, and we make little apology for it: We believe this city desperately needs the Knicks to be relevant, to electrify us, to get Spike Lee out of his seat, and to give everyone a reason to crowd around the televisions in packed bars all across the city. They're making progress: There is a possibility of a brief, but vital, playoff series against Cleveland this April. (It's looking like a 54 percent possibility, actually.) If you squint, you can almost see a free agent or two wanting to come here next year. Things are better than they have been in quite a while. And then there is Larry Hughes.

With Nate Robinson back in the rotation — welcome back, Nate! — there's less room for some of the other guards who want to run and dribble a bit. Specifically, Larry Hughes, the only person who didn't play in the blowout win over Indiana. He's not happy about the sudden evaporation of his playing time.

Larry Hughes said he preferred not to play during Sunday's extensive garbage time, but said he doesn't understand why he's fallen out of the rotation after missing three games with a strained groin. "Nah, but I'm over it," he said of whether he agreed with losing his spot. "Nothing was explained to me." Hughes, 3-for-22 in the five games he played after returning, said it's an unwritten NBA rule that players don't lose their spots because of injuries and disagrees with all the ins and outs of Mike D'Antoni's rotation.

Before you start with the "come on, it's Larry Hughes, who cares what Larry Hughes thinks?" — a logical thought, of course — here comes Marc Berman in the Post, pointing out an emerging Mike D'Antoni meme: He's improving the team, but he's driving the players crazy.

Eddy Curry, yanked abruptly nine games ago by D'Antoni, had a similar complaint last week. D'Antoni never talked to him about the move to Jonathan Bender, whom the coach considers a better fit. D'Antoni never informed Curry about the change, and the Knicks center went to team president Donnie Walsh for clarification.

Ticking off Curry and his agent, Leon Rose, also is not the best strategy when it can be avoided. Rose is the agent for King James. Curry also is close to Wes Wesley, considered one of James' confidants. It's one thing to bury Darko Milicic without notification but not two guys with King James' connections.

D'Antoni is just trying to find a combination that works with an undermanned team, and sometimes that involves yanking guys in and out of the rotation. After the Nate Robinson move last Friday, it's difficult to argue that he hasn't been right to do it. If Larry Hughes and Eddy Curry were helping the team, they'd be on the court. (As D'Antoni put it, he'd play Satan himself if it'd help his team win.) But part of the D'Antoni deal is that players are supposed to love being on his team and playing in his system. But we know that right now there are at least two who definitely don't.

Photo: Getty Images