For years, the Knicks have been searching for a pass-first point guard. The general consensus is that if a point guard can effectively distribute the ball, he will in effect make his teammates better, and the wins will follow.
That theory was stressed even further when Mike D’Antoni became head coach. D'Antoni helped Steve Nash win two MVPs during a successful run with the Suns.
When D’Antoni handpicked Chris Duhon to be his point guard pupil, there was an immense amount of hope.
Here was a player, who was a team captain and productive in limited minutes with the Bulls. In four seasons, Duhon averaged 6.9 points and 4.5 assists in nearly 26 minutes.
Duhon was expected to build upon those numbers as a starter with the Knicks, which he did, nearly doubling his averages.
Although last season was another losing effort for the Knicks, Duhon was a rare bright spot and proof that a point guard can easily elevate his play under D’Antoni.
Well, that was last season.
The Knicks are off to their worst start in franchise history at 1-9. Not to say much else was to be expected, as the Knicks are anxiously awaiting the summer of 2010.
That being said, this team lacks heart. The level of effort is dismal, and very few of the Knicks actually have passion to play.
The Knicks’ fans and organization, including the players, are all already just waiting for this season to be over with.
Duhon has been quick to criticize his teammates for their lack of effort on numerous occasions, when in reality, he should begin by looking in the mirror. He is shooting under 25 percent for the season and is certainly not the point guard he was last season.
Duhon and David Lee have both been less effective because of the lack of pick and roll that was so efficient last season.
D’Antoni claims that Duhon is “in a funk,” but is he? Besides his shooting percentages, he is putting up numbers close to his career averages.
During this desperate time, are the Knicks are expecting too much out of Duhon?
Duhon had never posted numbers close to what he had last season in his career, so you really cannot suddenly expect him to be that type of player year in and year out yet.
This season was to be the one where people looked at Duhon and asked, “what kind of point guard is he?”
While it is still early, I think it is safe to say that we have gotten our answer. Like many of the Knicks on this current roster, perhaps Duhon is not considered a starting player throughout the league.
I am just here to ask, is there anything wrong with that?
The answer is no.
Duhon overachieved last season, but nobody can really blame him for that. After signing a full mid-level exception contract, he was out to prove himself. However, the more the team relied upon him, the more exhausted he became as the season wore on.
"You just have to play through it," Duhon said. "I know how important I am to this team. I know when I play well how good we can play. It's disappointing. You kind of feel like you're letting your guys down, your coach down, and letting the fans down."
It is proven that when Duhon plays well, the Knicks have a better chance of winning. Granted, he does not have the best supporting cast.
Players like Al Harrington and Larry Hughes, whom Donnie Walsh traded for in cap-clearing moves for 2010, have established themselves as certified ball hogs throughout each of their careers.
The key to last season’s limited success was getting Lee involved in the offense, but this season that seems to be phasing out. This season’s offense has, for the majority, centered on getting Danilo Gallinari his shots.
With the struggles of Duhon, rookie point guard Toney Douglas has been making the most of his newfound opportunity to play.
He has shown flashes of smart play, able to drive to the basket at will. He is a decent defender, but has a very limited jump shot and does not often pass the ball. If Douglas is in the game, the offense is centered on him.
If put in the right situation with the right players, Duhon could play very well, be it as a starter or a backup.
Other teams have Paul Pierce, Kobe Bryant, or I dare I once again mention, LeBron James. The Knicks do not yet have a player like that.
Instead, they have David Lee, Danilo Gallinari, and Toney Douglas. If D’Antoni were able to involve all three players in the offense at once, Duhon could assist him in establishing a very balanced attack.
Would it be a playoff-worthy attack? Not quite…but anything is worth a try when the team is 1-9.
The players on this Knicks team, however, are certainly not the ones to help him prove that. The countdown to 2010 continues….for everyone.