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Da New York Post

April 12, 2006 -- Larry Brown said as recently as Monday night the Knicks still need a pure point guard next season. And there's a famous one right in the Knicks' backyard.

Jay Williams, the former Duke star mounting a vigorous comeback attempt following a June 2003 motorcycle accident, is on the Knicks' radar, according to an industry source.

Williams, 24, the second overall pick of the 2002 draft, has been practicing at Basketball City at Chelsea Piers and also in Houston, along with ex-Knick Penny Hardaway.

Williams is looking to get invited to a summer-league team this July with plans of playing in the NBA next season, three years after tearing three ligaments in his left knee and severing a nerve in his leg.

The Knicks - who next play tomorrow night, at Cleveland - will play in the summer league in Las Vegas.

The 6-foot-2 PG out of Plainfield, N.J., is friends with Garden prez Steve Mills back from their Team USA days. Williams has attended a couple of Knick games in the past month, sitting in lower-level seats by the tunnel, where president Isiah Thomas hangs.

The Knicks have yet to work out Williams but could do so after the season ends in one week. Brown is looking for a character guy, a charismatic leader who can be an extension of himself on the court and an ally in the locker room.

The disgraceful scene in the locker room Monday night after getting blown out by Indiana - players laughing, joking and being loud - showed the desperate need to bring in guys with pride, who take winning and losing seriously.

Williams had a rep as one of the brightest guys entering the league in 2002. He showed promise as a rookie, averaging 9.5 points and 4.7 assists. Then the horrifying motorcycle accident postponed his career.

Williams is able to dunk again - a good sign his athleticism has returned. The Knicks have five talented guards, none of whom is the prototypical PG Brown seeks.

When free agency begins July 1, the Knicks are expected to go after Hornet point guard Speedy Claxton with their $5 million mid-level. Claxton may look to leave the Hornets because he will forever be backup to Rookie of the Year shoo-in Chris Paul.

Claxton, though, is being cited as a Sixth Man of the Year candidate, and the Knicks might have a lot of competition since the PG market is weak. On the Knicks' side is that Claxton is a former Hofstra guard and a Hempstead native who played for Brown with the Sixers for two seasons.

Claxton and Williams have the same agent, Bill Duffy, who did not return phone calls.

Steve Francis' comments Monday night in Indiana, blaming his awful start as a Knick on fluctuating minutes while taking no responsibility, could hurt his standing with Brown again.

"Stevie Franchise" has turned into "Stevie Fusspot." He has been sloppy with the ball, his unorthodox outside shot has been an eyesore and his defense has been mediocre. So he's fit in well with Team Titanic (22-55).

Francis, Stephon Marbury, Nate Robinson, Jamal Crawford can play the point but not in the traditional way Brown likes. Neither Francis nor Marbury will have much trade value this summer, though Minnesota's yen for Marbury might be enough to make a deal.

Marbury may have played his last game as a Knick. He appears unwilling to play through pain for Brown, repeatedly saying he'll only return when his sore knee "feels better." Marbury played through knee pain all last season for Lenny Wilkens and Herb Williams as he constructed a 280 games-played streak.

Today might be the season's last practice, and if Marbury does not participate, it seems highly unlikely he'll be back for any of the final five games.

Marc Berman

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