Anyone who thought the Suns are off to a sluggish start this season needed only spend a few minutes in the Knick dressing room Tuesday to see how the other half really lives.
Now 2-4, Knicks were splintered in all directions. Zach Randolph was away from the team attending his grandmother’s funeral. Quentin Richardson was on the shelf with an elbow injury. And Stephon Marbury’s checkered career took another head-shaking twist when he left the team Tuesday — apparently in a dispute with Knicks coach Isiah Thomas over his position as a starter.
Marbury told The New York Post that Thomas had given him permission to leave the team, although Thomas had no interest in discussing the Marbury matter before the game.
“We’ll talk about the Phoenix Suns and the game at hand,” he said. “Whatever matters we have in-house, we’ll try to keep in-house.”
Ironically, the man who Thomas wanted to start in front of Marbury, Mardy Collins, is now out as well. He suffered a sprained right foot midway through the first quarter Tuesday and did not return, though X-rays were negative.
Bell getting closer
Raja Bell’s sprained right ankle has responded well, but not well enough to allow him to play Tuesday. He said he hopes the two games missed will be the only two and he’ll be able to go Thursday against Chicago.
“It was better (at Tuesday’s shoot-around), but not good enough to make a difference,” said Bell, who showed off the swelling and black-and-blue mark still present in the ankle. “It was more the running and the inside cutting on the tender area. I didn’t feel like I was going to be able to keep up.”
Bell said he hopes taking the extra time will pay off when he comes back. “I didn’t want to miss tonight, but we had a talk and it didn’t make a lot of sense to come right back and aggravate it or have it to continue to swell,” he said. “I want to make sure it’s good down the road. This early in the season I have to understand what’s important.”
Q misses Phoenix again
This is the fifth time the Suns and Knicks have met since the 2005 trade that sent Quentin Richardson to New York in the Kurt Thomas deal, and the third time at US Airways Center. And it’s safe to say ‘Q’ hasn’t done much damage against his former team.
Richardson has missed four of the five games including all three in Phoenix — this time due to a hyperextended right elbow suffered in Sunday’s loss to Miami. He’s also missed games against the Suns with back spasms, a knee sprain and a death in the family. And in the one game Richardson did play — last Jan. 24 in Madison Square Garden — he didn’t score a single point in 24 minutes.
The last time the Knicks won in Phoenix, Stephon Marbury was still a Sun — he scored 43 points in a 116-115 losing effort on Feb. 14, 2003.
After shooting 30.5 percent on 3-pointers in the first three games (25-for-82), the Suns have made 54 of 132 (41 percent) in the last five games.
The Suns sent Marbury, Penny Hardaway and Cezary Trybanski to the Knicks in exchange for Antonio McDyess, Howard Eisley, Charlie Ward, Maciej Lampe, the draft rights to Milos Vujanic, two future first-round picks, cash and plenty of cap space on Jan. 5, 2004. Since that deal went down, the Suns have won 200 of their 302 games (.662) while Knicks are 116-183 (.385).
Eric Piatkowski saw his first extended minutes of the season, getting the first-quarter call instead of Marcus Banks and logging 11 minutes, scoring three points (a 3-pointer) and grabbing three rebounds. Banks didn’t get into the game until there were less than five minutes remaining — and the Knicks cut a 20-point lead to 10 with 1:42 left.