The New York Knicks have been searching for an identity and desperately hoping for consistency all season. Unfortunately for them, the campaign is coming to a close, and the search continues.
When coach Mike D’Antoni joined the team, there was much uncertainty as to whether the players already on the roster could succeed under him, and apparently, President Donnie Walsh sided with the naysayers.
He has since unloaded nearly the entire roster, with players like Stephon Marbury, Zach Randolph, and Jamal Crawford being among the notables jettisoned. In addition, Eddy Curry has been isolated from the team this season, much like Marbury was before he reached a buyout agreement.
However, despite all the unanswered questions, one player stood tall with promise prior to this season, as he'd already proved himself in D’Antoni’s system: Quentin Richardson.
If only D’Antoni would use him. The statistics show he and the Knicks would be rewarded for it.
Richardson started his career with the Los Angeles Clippers, a team with whom he spent four seasons. After averaging a career-high 17.2 points per game in a contract year, he took advantage and signed a hefty contract in 2004 with the D’Antoni-led Suns. It was there that Richardson would truly have his breakthrough season.
He set a Suns record for three-point field goals with 226, eclipsing Dan Majerle’s previous mark of 199. And in that same year, he led the league with 631 three-point attempts, and his 226 three point goals were tied for the league lead with Kyle Korver. He was further recognized in the 2005 NBA All-Star Three-Point Shootout, which he went on to win.
His positive contributions attributed to the Suns’ best record in 13 seasons. The team finishing 62-20, a 33-win improvement from the previous season’s 29-53. Richardson averaged 14.9 PPG.
But surprsingly enough, Richardson was traded that summer to the Knicks along with the 21st pick of the 2005 draft (who turned out to be Nate Robinson) for Kurt Thomas and the rights to Dijon Thompson.
Despite Richardson’s strong 2004-05, the deal was met with criticism from many Knicks fans, as Kurt Thomas had developed into a double-double machine that gained All-Star consideration in a conference whose premier big man was Ben Wallace. The choice also left fans scratching their heads in regards to Quentin's height; he appeared to be like any other shooting guard. But team management nonetheless still had high hopes.
Yet since then, Richardson has not been able to live up to the hype he generated for himself in Phoenix. He has battled through nearly four injury-plagued seasons in New York, never playing in more than 65 games in a single season.
His shooting performance has also been lacking. His best percentages (41.8 percent from the field and 37.6 percent from behind the arc) came in 2006-07, the season in which he played his lowest amount of games as a Knick, 49.
However, as fate would have it, he has thus far survived Donnie Walsh’s overhaul. Ironically enough, he is tied for the longest tenure among Knicks, joining Eddy Curry, David Lee, and Nate Robinson as those who have played in the Apple since 2005-06. It seems that, given his history with D’Antoni, Walsh has kept the faith in Richardson.
"Q" rewarded Walsh with a stellar start to this season, nearly matching his best Knick percentages with 41 percent from the field and 37.5 on three-point attempts. He worked his way to 12.1 points, 6.1 rebounds, and 31.9 minutes per game in November.
But after that, his numbers slowly but steadily declined. With each passing month, his points per game dropped a point until February, when Richardson saw his biggest decline yet. In the second month of 2009, Quentin put up a measly 4.4 points per game on 25.5 percent from the field overall.
Although he has rebounded to average a modest 8.7 points per game on 37.8 percent from the field on the year, I for one am still wondering:
Why is Q M.I.A.?
It is not really a coincidence that along with all of his other statistical declines have come two more, those being in minutes per game and games played. After participating in a season-high 16 games in January, Richardson played a monthly low 19.4 MPG in only nine games in February. It ended up as his worst statistical month to date.
It has seemed that the more rest Richardson has received this season, the worse he has played. He puts up his best numbers when he is playing on zero days rest, as on those occasions he averages 14.1 points on a clip of 43.4 from the field (40.4 from three) to go with 5.7 rebounds, 1.1 steals, and 30.3 minutes per game.
Just as they do month-by-month, his numbers slowly but steadily decline as the numbers of days rest he has increase, all the way up to three-plus days of rest. With that much time off, he posts 6.2 points per game on 35.7 percent from the field (and a dismal 23.5 percent from long distance).
And it's no surprise that he only plays 21.6 minutes per game in those games.
If Richardson is smart enough to realize something as simple as what is shown through the statistics, he will play it safe. The team is almost certain to decline their team option on him for next season, and when they do, Richardson should go to whatever team can give him what he needs: playing time.
He needs to garner interest from teams that will give him consistent burn, unlike the Knicks, as the only way he can revive his career is through performing. Perhaps he can find a job that provides decent minutes for a winning team as their sixth man.
It seems more likely, though, that Richardson is probably going to have to settle for a bad team with minutes to give in need of good shooting. But if he signs a short enough contract, he can take a season or two to show that has not a lost a step (but has only rusted a bit with a lack of use).
If he can wipe off his New York Knick dust in good fashion, he can certainly pick up his career where he left off in Phoenix and still have a few years ahead of him.
For a team longing so much for consistency, the Knicks are doing a bad job of finding it. During the month of March, Richardson really slapped them in the face with it, as he was on the receiving end of playing time in the wake of injuries to Chris Duhon and Larry Hughes and subsequently put up 13.4 points per game on 43.4 shooting from the field in just 24.6 minutes per game.
He has proved all season long that all he really needs is consistent action in order to get in his groove. As he showed in 2004-2005, his individual success could be vital to a team turning things around.
And once that happens, Knicks fans, likely still suffering, will ask:
Why was Q M.I.A.?