Steph Infection

Marbury's back like a bad rash, but that's the way Isiah wanted it

Marbury will likely buckle down and start soon. Even at only 80 to 85 percent of his former outrageous athleticism—his body's been beaten down a bit—he is still capable of unearthly offensive outbursts at times. Plus, he has no backup: Thomas decided not to draft UConn's brilliant pure passer Marcus Williams (available, ironically, only because of extralegal off-court shenanigans) primarily in order not to tick off Marbury.

Williams is now learning under the brilliant winner Kidd in New Jersey, while the Knicks, for better or worse, remain Marbury's team: one talented enough at this point to score its way into the playoffs—if Marbury gets it together. With Mardy Collins at the point, there's no way, since Collins can't shoot a lick from the outside. "Good as that kid is on defense," says Hammond, "you can't afford to play four-on-five in the NBA these days."

Still, "the Knicks are one of 10 teams that could logically make it to the eight playoff spots in the East," Hammond adds. "If they stay healthy, they have enough scoring to do it." And with Miami, Washington, and Chicago so injury- and/or chemistry-wracked early, anything is possible.

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