We are all anxiously awaiting the return of Baron Davis, and hoping that this 32 year old former all-star with a questionable back and a questionable attitude can turn this offense around.
Paul Silas, was once a Knicks assistant coach, was Baron Davis' first NBA coach, and also played pickup basketball with my dad on a few occasions. Silas was a great player, has been at least a decent coach in the NBA, and I've always thought he says intelligent stuff, both in print and to my dad in person. Here's what Silas has to say about Davis (this is from Newsday):
"He's a very smart guy," Silas said. "You have to come at him straight. You can't come at him with a lot of nonsense -- he's not going to deal with it. If you come at him and have him understand what you want and it's what the team needs, he's all for it."
I think this illustrates why Davis will do well here. If you read this quote closely, you'll see that what Silas is saying is that if what the coach is saying is, in Baron's estimation, what the team needs, Baron will be enthusiastic. D'antoni won't give him a lot of specific instruction, and will let him run the show on the court. That's the way D'antoni likes to do it. That's going to make Davis be very enthusiastic. And also, I think Davis is intellligent enough and experienced enough to know well enough what to do out there. So I think even a diminished Davis will improve this team significantly on the offensive end, especially with their consistency. But every team needs two point guards. You just can't afford to play 8-10 minutes of the game in disarray. No starter is going to play 48 minutes, and Davis certainly won't be able to approach that, especially at first. So who then, takes the bulk of the point guard minutes when Baron's getting his feet wet, and then takes the very important position of backup point guard?I really think that D'antoni wants it to be Toney Douglas. This drives me crazy, because I can tell from watching this guy for 5 minutes that he doesn't have it in him to run the show. But then again, many of us, including me, thought Toney could be a point guard in the NBA. We hoped and rooted and bought T-shirts. It wasn't until Chauncey went down in the playoffs and Toney didn't exactly respond with great point guard play that I finally gave up on the idea. But then after Chauncey was amnestied, I regressed to hoping for Toney, then self-realized again. Some still haven't.
I think D'antoni's in the same boat. Douglas is, I think, the one guy that's been with D'antoni the whole time he's been here. The ONE GUY. And Douglas has been totally loyal, a good soldier, a good attitude, unselfish guy. I imagine that D'antoni feels a lot of loyalty and love for Toney and really really wants him to succeed. So maybe he is experiencing the very human trait of not seeing what he doesn't want to see.
I mean, obviously, he must be at least willing to entertain the idea that Toney can't do it. He was willing to knock Toney to the backup, and insert Shumpert at the point. But now, he can see that Shump, despite being ballsy, is not really getting it done at the 1. But that's easier for D'antoni to see, because his investment in Shump is not so deep. That's progress, except that now, he is putting Toney BACK as the starting 1. That's regression.
This obviously sucks for the Knicks' offense and for D'antoni's progress in getting over his denial. But I think it's understandable, and maybe even adorable. That said, D'antoni is going to have to get over it or he's going to lose his team and lose his job.
The alternatives to Toney are not great, and that contributes to D'antoni not being able to let the Toney the Point Guard idea go. But here they are:
1. Mike Bibby
2. Jeremy Lin
Before you go making a choice between these two, realize that until Baron comes back, there IS no choice. We need both of these guys. Bibby, even in his prime, wasn't really a pure point guard, but the guy has lots of experience. He can probably still shoot if he gets in a groove. But man, he looks slow out there. He's going to be a defensive liability, and though he can run the point, he isn't some kind of wizard out there, nor is he a really dangerous scorer at this point.
So that leaves us Lin. Lin doesn't have a lot of experience but he does have a year under his belt, at least practicing with an NBA team and playing some minutes. The guy is quick, from all reports has a good basketball IQ, and seems to be oriented toward getting others involved and getting assists. He's likely to make mistakes if you throw him in there but he's a pass-first guy, and a pass first guy that throws a bad pass is going to try to throw a better pass next time. That's what you need running the show. A guy used to shooting will make a bad pass and respond by taking a shot himself the next time. That's NOT what you need down the stretch.
I'd start Lin and have Bibby back him up. But in any case, when Baron shows up, one of these guys is going to have to be his backup. So they have to share the point guard rotation now. I think D'antoni is starting to realize this, as he brought Lin in the Houston game in the third quarter. D'antoni needs to have a heart to heart with himself, and then have one with Toney. I think it's going to happen. With Shump out of the point guard rotation, and Bibby not particularly able to play big minutes, and Toney sucking, I think Lin is going to get minutes, and may end up starting the second half against the Pistons. But it's going to be tough. I realized last night that as much as I love Toney Douglas, D'antoni must love him more. It's time to let it go, Mike. Toney Douglas is a good person. But he can't give you what you need. You can do this Mike. We understand, because we've been through it too.