ORLANDO, Fla. - Many players are nearing the end of their Knicks careers, but Derek Fisher is dropping more than hints about which players he wants back. Two of them are Langston Galloway and Lance Thomas.
Fisher took his praise for them to a new level during the past couple of days. He said Galloway, an undrafted rookie, and Thomas, on his third team in four years, have "changed the culture."
It was a surprising remark, especially given that the Knicks are 16-64 after their 80-79 win over the Magic Saturday night. Now it would be surprising if Galloway and Thomas aren't holdovers from the worst team in Knicks history.
"To come in and do what they've done -- they've changed our team," Fisher said. "They've changed our culture because they're great young men. They come to work with the same attitude every day and the same mind-set and despite our record this season, we're better off for having had them."
Between them, Galloway and Thomas shot 5-for-22 and scored 11 points. But there were plenty of misses and bad basketball to go around.
The teams missed a combined 105 shots and set a record for the lowest-scoring quarter in NBA history when the Knicks outscored the Magic 8-7 in the second. But Tim Hardaway Jr. drilled a three-pointer with 12.6 seconds left to untie the score and give the Knicks an 80-77 lead.
Cole Aldrich's 19 points and 14 rebounds led the Knicks. Entering Saturday night's Minnesota-Golden State game, the Knicks were a half-game ahead of the Timberwolves in the battle for the NBA's worst record with two to play. The biggest loser has a 25-percent chance of winning the NBA Draft lottery and being guaranteed a top-four pick.
Victor Oladipo had 21 points and Dix Hills product Tobias Harris added 15 for Orlando (25-55).
The Knicks will make major changes this offseason, but team president Phil Jackson said he doesn't want to add eight new guys. The Knicks have four players with fully guaranteed contracts,so several from this team could be back.
Galloway, called up from the D-League in January, has impressed the Knicks with his work ethic, decision-making and willingness to do what is asked of him. He has a partial guarantee for next season.
Thomas, signed to a 10-day deal in January, is a good defender and, by all accounts, a great locker-room guy. He'll be a free agent in July.
It's rare for players of their stature to be credited with changing a culture; usually a coach or a superstar does that.
"Special people are special people," Fisher said.
Fisher mentioned a couple of other Knicks free agents he believes are "culture" and "glue" guys, citing Lou Amundson and Aldrich. Fisher also said injured guard Alexey Shved hasn't "hurt his chances" of returning.
Galloway, who began Saturday night averaging 11.7 points and 3.2 assists, appreciates Fisher's comments, but he said it doesn't make him feel secure for next season.
"Not at all," Galloway said. "Whatever happens this summer, it's all up in the air. They could blow up the whole team, for all we know. All I can control is what I do now. If I don't go out and play hard, I guess you could say my next year's contract is in jeopardy."
Fisher added, "We can tell the difference in our team the way we approach practice, the way we approach shootaround, the way we approach the games. We're more serious about what we're doing. It's just a matter of time before we put that together with the right pieces and right combination of talent that's going to put us over the hump."