NEW YORK — Isiah Thomas still isn't quite ready to turn the page on this season, nor his Knicks tenure.

NEW YORK — Isiah Thomas still isn't quite ready to turn the page on this season, nor his Knicks tenure.

But yesterday, before his team laid a 113-89 licking on the Bobcats, he all but turned the page on Stephon Marbury and took a step back from the "franchise player" tag he hung on Eddy Curry a year ago.

In discussing the roles of current starting guards Jamal Crawford and Nate Robinson going forward, the Knicks' president-coach said, "Going into next season, we're still going to need another guard."

When asked after that if he meant Marbury (who's still due $21.9 million next season in the final year of his contract) was "out of the picture," Thomas said, "Let's talk about the Bobcats."

Eventually, he did say that if Marbury (whom he's all but declared out for the season following ankle surgery) were "healthy and not had such an emotional year (losing his father Dec. 2) and would've had the same type of year he had last year, I think it's safe to say we probably would've won five to six more games and be right in the thick of (the playoff race)."

Yet when asked again directly if he wants a player with whom several sources said he exchanged punches on a Nov. 12 flight to Phoenix, precipitating Marbury's one-game walkout, Thomas said, "Let's discuss next year when this year is over.

"In the summer ... there'll be plenty of time to talk about it. I'll be around. You can ask and (I'll) answer all those questions about next year. But right now, this year isn't over for us by a long shot."

That Thomas will "be around" certainly is a minority opinion. But yesterday, he kept talking as if he would be, not only when speaking about Marbury, but Curry, whom he's frequently benched this season.

"I think he can get there," Thomas said of the "franchise" tag he hung on his struggling center.

He just doesn't plan to let Curry "play through" some of his difficulties with the season all but done and Curry saying, "I want to find a rhythm before it's over. I want to find my rhythm and go into the summer having something to build on."

"You can let him play through it, but you don't want to kill David (Lee's) development, either," Thomas said. "David's developing and he's playing well and the minutes he gets out on the floor, he's playing well with those minutes. It's not just about one person."