Newest Knicks look to prove they are more than placeholders

NEW YORK -- The newcomers have arrived in New York, and to many Knicks fans the best thing about them is they'll be gone in two years.

But Al Harrington, Cuttino Mobley and Tim Thomas insist they can mean something to the Knicks beyond salary cap space in the future.

"We can't really worry about the future and which direction the organization is trying to go into," Thomas said Saturday before the Knicks hosted Washington. "Right now we have to worry about the present and like (Mobley) said, we have a great group of guys here and we're in a great situation and I think we can definitely cause some damage and try to get into the playoffs and try to be successful now.

"We don't have to worry about what's going to happen in the future because it's not in either one of our hands or Al's hands."

Mobley and Thomas were acquired Friday from the Los Angeles Clippers for Zach Randolph and Mardy Collins. New York landed Harrington earlier in the day by sending Jamal Crawford to Golden State.

All three players have contracts that expire in 2010, clearing coveted salary-cap space for a potentially stellar free agent class that LeBron James could highlight. So it's easy to look at them as players that are just here to fill space until then.

"I disagree with that because when you look at it, OK, they want to get two players in '10, but you still need 12 guys," Harrington said. "And then you have to attract the guys to want to come here. So you're going to have to have good players here and you're going to have to show that they can win, that this team can win. So in order for that to happen we're going to have to be a good team, so we're here to make the playoffs."

D'Antoni insists that's still realistic, which point guard Chris Duhon echoed, but it could be difficult since the Knicks gave up their two top scorers in the trades.

Harrington could be a natural fit because he's familiar with playing small, uptempo ball under Don Nelson in Golden State, and Thomas, a former Knicks forward, played well for D'Antoni in Phoenix. D'Antoni expects Mobley to come in as the starting shooting guard.

"Fortunately Tim Thomas has been in this system before so I'm pretty sure he can pick up real quickly," Duhon said. "Al was kind of in a similar system in Golden State. Cuttino, he's a vet, he's a pro, so I think he's going to pick up pretty quickly as well. I think the main thing is how we adjust playing to them, to their different styles."

None of the three players were available Saturday, so their debut will come Tuesday night at home against Cleveland. Most of the focus that night will be on James, whose picture was already appearing in the local sports pages Saturday following the trades that could make the Knicks a leading contender for him.

But D'Antoni still thinks the Knicks can win now, and win later.

"That was important, but at the same time I don't want anybody to think the players, the fans that next two years aren't going to be exciting and let's just wait until 2010 to tune back in," he said. "We're going to do everything we can do to make the playoffs, to be an exciting team and I'm excited about who we have and the core that stayed and there's no reason why we're not in the playoffs."