Woodson tabs Aldrich as starter vs. C's

BOSTON -- Over his four-year professional career, Cole Aldrich has never started an NBA game.

With Tyson Chandler (out for personal reaasons) and Amar'e Stoudemire (recovery) sidelined, that distinction changes Wednesday night against the Boston Celtics.

Coach Mike Woodson indicated before the game that the seldom-used big man would get the nod at starting center for New York.

Aldrich has appeared in just 31 games for the Knicks this season, averaging a meager 0.9 points and 1.8 rebounds over 4.5 minutes per game.

Those numbers make it a bit of a surprise that Aldrich would earn the start, especially since he has played no more than 15 minutes in a game this season. Woodson said before the game, however, that Aldrich’s physical presence was a deciding factor in giving him the opportunity.

“They start [Kris] Humphries, a little more physical guy,” Woodson explained. “Melo will have a chance to guard [Brandon] Bass starting out, so I just elected to go that way, and then we’ll come in with Jeremy Tyler.”

Celtics still a handful without Rondo: Boston will be without their star point guard Wednesday, as Rajon Rondo will rest after playing a season-high 41 minutes Tuesday night against the Indiana Pacers. Rookie Phil Pressey will start at point guard in place of Rondo, which on the surface would appear to be a break for the shorthanded Knicks.

However, Woodson believes that Boston’s starting backcourt of Pressey and Jerryd Bayless will give the Knicks a good fight.

“Bayless and Pressey, they handle the ball extremely well,” Woodson continued. “They can score the ball. We are going to have to defend off the dribble tonight. They are pretty good penetrating and making plays themselves, and then you have Green and Bass. This is no easy game for us by any means. We have to come out and commit ourselves for 48 minutes and see what happens.”

Playoff push: The Knicks are one game short of a season-high five-game winning streak, as they make a late-season push to get back into the Eastern Conference playoff picture. Currently, New York is trailing the Atlanta Hawks in the eighth seed by 3½ games. The Knicks have a good chance to make up additional ground in the playoff race starting against the Celtics, as six of their next seven games are against non-playoff teams.

Before the game, Woodson reflected on how much of a struggle the season has been to this point, given the plethora of injuries the team has dealt with. Woodson made clear, though, this group would keep fighting until the end.

“We’ve been fighting with injuries,” Woodson said, “Guys being in and out of rotations. We’ve had so many lineup changes. This time last year, we had a set lineup and we had a nicely set rotation. It just hasn’t been that way. In that regard, it’s been frustrating from a coaching standpoint, but I’m not one to complain. I’m going to keep pushing guys to try to get over the hump and see if we can get this eighth spot.”