There is no point in trying to stretch some pun out of his last name because Mike Bibby can’t be squeezed into a Linsanity-esque narrative. But there is plenty that is intriguing about the veteran Knick point guard starting in Game 5 against his former team, the Miami Heat.
Back on March 16, I couldn’t understand why Bibby was smiling because he looked like the butt of a joke.
The Knicks were thumping the Pacers and revelry had broken out all over MSG, including the bench from which backup center Jared Jeffries was orchestrating a fan chorus calling for coach Mike Woodson to put in Bibby. “We want Bibby!” they shouted with six minutes left in the lopsided game.
Relegated mainly to bench-duty since the dawn of Linsanity, Bibby went from February 15 to March 14 without seeing any floor time, but he continued to cheer heartily on the sidelines.
There was a period in Bibby’s career when a home crowd would have been calling his name late in a game only if he was getting subbed with a victory in hand. He was a stellar point guard for the Grizzlies, Kings and Hawks.
His brief foray with the Heat last year was not very successful, especially during a woeful shooting slump in the playoffs.
What, though, does a 33-year-old in the twilight of his career do when he hears chants for him to play in garbage time, as if he were some no-name rookie?
Well, if you are Mike Bibby, you take it all with good humor.
As the fans cried for Bibby in that blowout of the Pacers, cameras panned in his direction. Bibby lifted his warmup jersey in embarrassment and covered his smile. Then when Woodson called for him to enter the game, instead of protesting the indignity of being beckoned on the floor for scrub duty, Bibby gave the same steady, deliberate effort he would have for a close game.
Bibby has a huge cross tattooed on his arm, but he has the equanimity of a Buddhist.
Indeed, he seems to take everything in stride, even when shoeless. When Bibby was momentarily separated from his sneaker in Game 2 against the Heat, ex-teammate Dwayne Wade swiftly swept it up and tossed it aside, leaving Bibby to amble over to the sidelines for a recovery that looked as athletic as a Brian Scalabrine finger-roll.
Bibby’s unflappable nature is going to be needed for a good 30 minutes or so of action for the Knicks to have any chance against the Heat in Game 5 (and even so, the chances will be slender).
Bibby is not going to slash through the lane like Lin, but he can protect the ball well and find open players with safe and consistent passes. If the Game 4 Knick victory in MSG was any indication, Bibby will get a chance to redeem himself from last year’s missed shots and knock down some open threes.
It is hard not to cheer for a guy who has shown such class and joy while handling the inevitable decline of skill that comes with injuries and age.
Knick fans, remember how you cheered, “We want Bibby”? Well, you got him. And this game and Bibby’s storied point guard career are no joke.
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