It is safe to say the Knicks do not seem to be making news for the team’s play this season.
At least Monday night, however, there was no talk of Lebron, Wade, or Bosh. The Knicks focused on the present, dusting the cob-webs off Larry Hughes as he led them to their first win of the season, a 117-111 victory over the Hornets.
Hughes, left of out the rotation following training camp, started the game in place of Jared Jeffries and soared, scoring 20 points on 8 for 13 from the field to go with 6 rebounds.
Coach Mike D’Antoni finally found a winning formula for the Knicks, starting Chris Duhon, Hughes, Danilo Gallinari, Wilson Chandler, and David Lee.
It was a gratifying win for Hughes, who received the first DNP-CD’s (Did Not Play-Coach’s Decision) of his career through the Knicks’ first two losses.
Hughes did, however, receive playing time in the Knicks’ 141-127 overtime loss to the 76ers, turning heads as he scored 18 points on 7 for 11 from the field off the bench, keeping the Knicks in the game until the end.
D’Antoni admitted, "This year coming out of the gate, I almost didn't get him started and I should've. But thank goodness that I went to him two nights ago and he continues to perform well."
It is nice to see that Hughes will not become the second former 20-point scorer sent off into exile by D’Antoni and the Knicks, who experienced a bitter breakup from Stephon Marbury last season (although under entirely different circumstances).
If Hughes, just a 41 percent shooter in his career, can keep up his hot streak, he is going to staple his way into the lineup. He shot over 60 percent in his first two appearances. The Knicks have various players who can score, but few who do it at such an efficient rate.
Although Gallinari is currently on track to break the single season three-point goal record; Harrington, Duhon, and Chandler have all had struggled with their shooting thus far.
Not much recognition has been given to this current Knicks squad, which has been criticized for lacking a star. During a season in which the Knicks’ roster is filled with role-players and vagabonds alike, it looks like Hughes is as close as the team is going to get to star quality. Arguably the best defender on the defense-starved Knicks, Hughes can also be a very effective slasher on the offensive end. He is used to being a starring attraction; last shining with the Wizards in 2004-05, when he was named to the NBA’s first All-Defensive Team and averaged 22 points.
This season is one of opportunity for the 30-year-old Hughes, who is in the contract year of the biggest payday of his career. He has said that his goal was to stay with a team for an entire season, but who’s to say the Knicks wouldn’t reward him with a decent payday next season, should the team lose out on some of the cream of the crop 2010 free agents.
If he keeps performing at this rate, it may even be smart for the Knicks to make a little investment in Hughes. He was recruited by Lebron James in 2005, (after that breakout year) to play for the Cavaliers. The two have remained close, and Hughes could prove to be a good recruiting tool for the Knicks, should he be around to return the favor.
With few guarantees present in 2009, Hughes can still rest assured he will continue to have an opportunity to prove himself. D’Antoni made it clear on Tuesday that Hughes will be staying in the rotation. All signs also point to Hughes remaining a starter. Jared Jeffries was elbowed in the eye against the Hornets and had to receive three stitches. Although he is going to be able to stagger through the injury, he has been demoted to the bench. Furthermore, with Nate Robinson out for two to three weeks, Al Harrington will be coming off the bench to provide the Knicks with an offensive spark.
Starting Hughes next to defense-impaired Danilo Gallinari could prove to be the right compensating mix for the Knicks.
The two will look to carry the Knicks to victory tonight against the Pacers.