GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- Who would've thought Rasheed Wallace would be the first big man off the bench and play 18 minutes in the Knicks' fourth game of the season?
That's what happened Friday night against the Mavericks, surprising many about how fast Wallace has shot up the rotation after a two-year hiatus.
With Wallace replacing Tyson Chandler in the first quarter and Marcus Camby making his season debut, Kurt Thomas dropped down the depth chart. Once Camby is fully healthy, he should be the backup center, as predicted. As for Wallace, it makes sense that Mike Woodson is turning to him more and more -- the 38-year-old's minutes have increased in every game -- because of his 3-point shooting to complement the team's dominant pick-and-roll offense.
It's likely that Wallace will continue to get the nod, but Woodson said Thomas is accepting of whatever is asked of him.
"The beauty of fielding all of these veteran guys is they have to be understandable and coachable, and they are," the coach said after Saturday's practice. "It's no biggie to Kurt. His whole deal is I'll be ready when you call me. That's how it has to be with everybody. It's not about getting minutes. It's about what you do with the minutes you get. He didn't get them last night. But who knows, he can get them the next game. I don't owe anybody minutes. I'm trying to win games."
At this point in the season, Thomas could get some chances to play because Amar'e Stoudemire is sidelined until likely December, and Camby and Wallace are still working their way into game shape.
"When you look at Camby and Rasheed, those guys are just getting back out on the floor," Woodson said. "In those eight to 10 minutes, their bodies are aching a little bit. Until we get them where we want them condition-wise to play the minutes, and grow their minutes, we have to be open-minded about it."
SIZZLING START: The Knicks are third-best in points per game (104.5), first in points allowed per game (87.5), and they're off to their best start (4-0) since the 1993-94 season. Steve Novak talked about why every win right now is crucial.
"We still know that if we were 0-4, it would be a totally different story," he said. "We understand that 4-0 is early, but it's still important. We know we need to win these games early because we want to win our division and have a good spot at the end of the season."
COMFORT LEVEL: One of the reasons why the Knicks have been playing consistently well is because of the second unit, and Novak said the bench guys are loose and know how to maintain the flow of the game. J.R. Smith has been the biggest catalyst for that.
"I'm loving it right now," he said. "I'm just playing my game and playing with confidence, and I'm getting a chance to make plays for my teammates. Coach is giving me a lot of opportunities, so I love it."
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