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Bargnani out; PF rotation up in the air

GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- Andrea Bargnani will miss his third straight game due to a hamstring ailment, Knicks coach Derek Fisher said Sunday.

“He hasn't been able to practice the last few days so it wouldn't be smart to jeopardize him by putting him into game action tomorrow,” Fisher said.

The coach was hoping to have a better handle on lineups and rotations entering Monday’s game against Milwaukee. But Bargnani's absence has made it difficult for Fisher to make a true evaluation.

Fisher had started Quincy Acy at power forward in the last three games, which coincided with Bargnani’s absence. It's unclear at this point who will start at power forward on Monday.

Starting 5 in flux: Fisher will huddle with his coaches on Sunday night to determine the starting five for Monday’s game.

“We're kind of looking at some things,” the coach said after practice on Sunday. “We'll talk about the last four days as coaches, kind of what we observed during a lot of our scrimmages this week and a lot of our five-man activities. We've mixed the groups up a lot and we have some different guys in the frontcourt at times, different guys in the backcourt so we'll kind of reassess who has been effective this week and try to put a good lineup together.”

The biggest lineup uncertainties are at power forward and shooting guard.

Iman Shumpert has started for the past three games at shooting guard. Based on playing time and lineups, it would appear that Shumpert has an edge in the competition for the starting position. Tim Hardaway Jr. and J.R. Smith are also candidates to start.

At power forward, Jason Smith has impressed the coaching staff in the past two games.

Last Tuesday in Syracuse, Smith had 14 points and five rebounds in 24 minutes in the Knicks' win over Philly.

“It wasn’t just me, it was my teammates hitting me on good passes, working the ball around throughout the offense, going through good pace,” Smith said. “It wasn’t just one-on-one basketball. It was definitely moving the ball, pick-and-pop stuff, which that’s generally my game. It’s a credit to our team, really learning the offense, getting with the triangle offense, and running it smoothly.”

Smith said he isn’t overly concerned with starting or coming off of the bench. His shooting and willingness to battle with opposing big men in the paint and around the rim make him valuable.

“Anytime you have a big guy who can shoot mid-range, or really help and space the defense out, it’s gonna be great, especially with this offense. It’s just gonna help our team that much more,” Smith said.

Smith, Bargnani, Amar’e Stoudemire and Acy are battling for minutes at power forward. Bargnani, who missed 42 games last season with an elbow injury, is expected back sometime later this week.

Stoudemire, another player with a history of injuries, has remained healthy throughout camp.

Fisher said the minutes restrictions placed on Stoudemire by the team’s medical staff will not factor into whether he is a starter or comes off the bench.

“We’re excited that we can go into the season with an open mind in that regard and it's worked well so far,” Fisher said.

Question: If you were Derek Fisher, how would you handle the minutes at power forward between Jason Smith, Stoudemire, Acy and Bargnani?

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