For the Knicks, the point guard position was one clouded by controversy last season, as Stephon Marbury and his ego were shunned from the team until he accepted a buyout in late February.
Free agent acquisition Chris Duhon was the heir to Marbury’s throne. He thrived under coach Mike D’Antoni’s system, averaging career highs in just about every category, including points (11.1), rebounds (3.1), and, more importantly, assists (7.2). Clearly the team’s catalyst throughout the season, Duhon is the most efficient pass-first guard the Knicks have seen since Mark Jackson.
Carrying the team did, however, take its toll, as Duhon suffered a breakdown toward the end of the season. His numbers dropped considerably from the high averages he maintained early on.
Duhon was simply overused. After never playing more than 30 minutes per game in a season, including just 38 starts, he struggled to keep up with the pace. In 51 starts before the All-Star break, Duhon was playing nearly 39 minutes per game, pushing out averages of 12 points and eight assists.
However, as he began to feel the wear and tear of the season, Duhon’s minutes were decreased as he averaged only 8.6 points and 5.6 assists in 28 contests after the break.
After Duhon’s exhaustion instilled doubts into the minds of Knicks brass, during the offseason the team welcomed Jason Kidd to New York for a visit and also attempted a contract with Ramon Sessions. Jason Williams and Jamaal Tinsley were brought in for workouts.
These ventures were unsuccessful, however, and Duhon is left standing as the Knicks’ starting point guard. How long that will last is up for debate. Duhon has struggled mightily this preseason, entering a contract year. Could he be set to continue the downward spiral, or will he come through as a catalyst once again?
One player who had significant weight lifted off his shoulders this summer was Nate Robinson, after watching the Knicks draft point guard Toney Douglas. The team has been after Robinson to be more of a “true” point guard. Now that the coaching staff has shifted its focus on to Douglas, “Nate the Great” can concentrate on doing what he does best: score.
Douglas has so far dealt with the pressure, even showing promise. The rookie participated in the Vegas Summer League, averaging seven assists in four contests. Will he finally answer the echoing prayers and put an end to the Knicks’ backup point guard woes?
Duhon, when paced properly, has potential to be a great point guard. He proved it through the first half of the season. A great fit in the Knicks’ offensive system, Duhon’s only worry will be that Douglas will do enough to perform in Duhon’s minutes off the court.
A re-energized Duhon, paired with some proficient play from Douglas, could finally provide the Knicks with the very healthy point guard combination they have been searching for all along.