Mike D'Antoni Band-Aids New York Knicks' Center Problem by Starting Ronny Turiaf

Paul KasabianSenior ContributorNovember 22, 2010

OAKLAND, CA - NOVEMBER 19: Ronny Turiaf #14 of the New York Knicks reacts after the Knicks scored a basket against the Golden State Warriors at Oracle Arena on November 19, 2010 in Oakland, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Allow me to invoke my inner Rick Pitino here to convey the Knicks' tenuous center dilemma at the moment.

Willis Reed is not walking through that door. Patrick Ewing is not walking through that door. Marcus Camby is not walking through that door.

Amar'e Stoudemire walked through that door and proudly declared the Knicks back, but to call him a combo power forward/center is silly because I'm not sure how many centers like to face-up their defender 15 feet from the basket and drive to the hole. I'm also not sure how many centers are as allergic to defense as Amar'e, but that's a different story.

The Knicks' saving grace down low, and perhaps overall, is 6'10" Ronny Turiaf, who serves as the perfect complement to Stoudemire. Turiaf patrols the starting center spot these days, and this partnership is proving to work wonders as they each fill each other's gaps.

Turiaf is top-20 in the Eastern Conference with a plus-minus of 56 on a list filled with All-Stars. He is the ultimate team player, masking his deficiencies on the offensive end by playing aggressive and timely defense, while making all the little plays playoff contending teams need to make.

The Knicks are a 6-5 team with Turiaf in the lineup, but the injury-prone big man was hurt for three games, all Knickerbocker losses. With Turiaf out and Stoudemire battling foul trouble in one of those losses against Minnesota, Kevin Love torched the Knicks for 31 points and 31 rebounds in a maestro performance that hadn't been emulated since Moses Malone sprung for 32 and 38 in 1982. 

When Turiaf returned from injury, he immediately began making all the little plays again, helping the Knicks to a three-game winning streak on the West Coast. He sprung for seven points, eight assists and three blocks in a 125-119 win at Golden State in 35 minutes of play. His court time was peculiar because he had played for over 30 minutes only once prior to this night.

Herein lies a problem, however. The Knicks' saving grace has never played a full season or averaged more than 22 minutes per game through an entire season. So how do the Knicks rectify this situation and find a Plan B when Turiaf is not on the court?

Unfortunately, options are quite bleak, so the short answer is to just grin and bear it.

Timofey Mozgov is coach Mike D'Antoni's pet project. This dunk tells you how this experiment is going. Mozgov looked like he was shielding himself in a nuclear bomb drill.

As for 6'11", 21-year-old Anthony Randolph, he currently is becoming best friends with Eddy Curry. He also apparently has a habit of looking at coaches after making mistakes, according to the New York Daily News' Mitch Lawrence, which can't inspire D'Antoni's confidence in him.

Like Mozgov, Randolph has looked lost on the basketball court and needs time to inevitably get himself out of the D'Antoni doghouse and pull himself together, but he definitely has the potential to be a cog in the Knicks rotation.

Eddy Curry has eaten more donuts in one day than games played in the last two years (10). He'll need a GPS to find a way off the bench.

Therefore, expect to see much of Wilson Chandler at the four, with Stoudemire patrolling the five. Chandler can play the four, but he is much more suited for the wing. He can make a timely block and plays well on defense, although he can be easily posted-up by some of the bigger power forwards in the league. A Chandler-Stoudemire-Gallinari frontcourt is a scary defensive proposition.

Ultimately, the Knicks need to hope Turiaf stays healthy. If he gives the Knicks 25 minutes a night consistently until April, they will return to the playoffs for the first time in seven years. If not, with the way things are going in the dregs of the East, the Knicks could still sneak in with 35 wins.

After all, the 6-8 Knicks are currently sixth—in the Eastern Conference. I wonder how the 8-4 Dallas Mavericks, currently sixth in the West, feel about that?