The New York Knicks ended the 2006-07 season with some optimism for a better future. Then came an ugly offseason that most would like to forget.

Seeking their first playoff berth in four seasons, the Knicks look to get off to a quick start and put a humiliating summer behind them when they open the season Friday at the Cleveland Cavaliers.

In his first season as New York's head coach, Isiah Thomas led the Knicks to a 33-49 record in 2006-07 - a 10-win improvement from the previous season - and kept the team in the playoff race until the final few weeks.

New York pulled off a promising trade on draft night, picking up power forward Zach Randolph and swingman Fred Jones from Portland, but things then took a turn for the worst.

In early October, a jury ruled that Thomas had sexually harassed former team executive Anucha Browne Sanders. Thomas was accused during the trial of using profanity around women and making derogatory statements about white season ticket holders.

"Right now, what we can all agree on is that the best thing for the Knicks is to get on the court and win some basketball games," Madison Square Garden chairman James L. Dolan said in a statement.

New York, which hasn't won a postseason game since 2001, is trying to get back to the playoffs for the first time since being swept by New Jersey in 2004.

"I think it's definitely important,'' said guard Jamal Crawford, who averaged 17.6 points last season. "Our fans have been really, really patient and everybody in the organization's been patient, but it's time to really step up.''

In the frontcourt, the Knicks will be led by Randolph and Eddy Curry.

Randolph averaged a career-high 23.6 points and 10.1 rebounds last season with Portland.

Curry, meanwhile, achieved career highs of 19.5 points and 7 rebounds per game in his first year with New York.

New York was tied with Charlotte for the fourth-worst record in the Eastern Conference last season, but playing in the weaker of the two conferences, the Knicks are capable of making a leap up the standings.

"We're the underdogs right now,'' Randolph said. "We've got to work our way up, keep on getting better and don't worry about all those other teams. We've got to worry about ourselves.''

The Cavaliers (0-1) are the defending conference champions, but they hardly looked like it in Wednesday's season-opening 92-74 loss to Dallas at Quicken Loans Arena. It was their most lopsided home defeat since April 5, 2005.

"It's the first game, hopefully we can put it behind us,'' said Cleveland star LeBron James, who was held scoreless in the first half for the first time in his career. "We didn't play well - at all. It's kind of how we have been playing in the preseason. We didn't do anything right. We didn't play hard. We didn't execute.''

James, who carried the Cavs to the NBA finals before they were swept by San Antonio, finished with 10 points and made only 2 of 11 field-goal attempts in the opener.

"It's a marathon in this league,'' James said. "It's not the best impression you want to make, but it's not the last.''

The Knicks and Cavs split four meetings last season. New York guard Stephon Marbury was inconsistent, scoring 29 points while shooting 11-for-25 in the Knicks' wins, but managing only six points and shooting 2-for-13 in the losses.


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