The goal for the remainder of the Knicks' season has become abundantly clear: Development. Coach D'Antoni is taking every opportunity he can to get a good look and develop some of the Knicks' younger prospects. Toney Douglas has been on the receiving end of increased playing time in March, and will certainly have a learning experience as Chauncey Billups and the Nuggets come to town Tuesday night.
Billups is an All-Star and former NBA Finals MVP whose ultimate goal is to make his teammates better, something D'Antoni and the Knicks have been desperately searching for in a point guard.
The only hopes of competitive Knicks basketball lie in the hands of Donnie Walsh, as he tries to reform the team for the better this summer via free agency. However, some of the big names available that the Knicks are figured to take a look at are not true point guards; LeBron James, Joe Johnson, Chris Bosh, etc.
Players like LeBron and Johnson can certainly run the floor, but it is also obvious that a player like LeBron James is best at a forward position where he is also free to muscle his way into the paint for rebounds.
Even if the Knicks are able to sign two coveted marquee free agents, there will still be a tremendous need for a point guard. That leads me to believe one thing; Douglas' increased playing time is really his audition to be the team's starting point guard next season.
After recent developments, one would not expect for Chris Duhon to be back next season. Sergio Rodriguez was also given a opportunity to start last month, but he is now back on the bench. His contract also expires at the end of the season.
Douglas, playing under his rookie contract, is the only one out of those three guaranteed a roster spot next season, and at a cheap rate at that.
So far in the month of March, Douglas has been the talk on the town, leading the way to a 5-5 record. For those keeping track, a .500 record all season long at this point would have netted the Knicks the seventh seed in the East, good enough to make the playoffs. Douglas has been impressive, averaging 13.8 points, 3.6 assists, and 1.3 steals, while shooting 52 percent from the field.
In Douglas's last game, a tightly contested 116-112 loss to the Rockets, Douglas tied a Knicks rookie record with six three-pointers.
Douglas has been meeting the expectation of making his teammates better, as shown by the team's monthly record. All this production has been with the current Knicks squad, so it is that much more intriguing to wonder what Douglas could do with much better players if he were to maintain this level of play.
D'Antoni and Walsh have got to like what they have seen thus far. Douglas has of course made some rookie mistakes along the way, but maturity will help him in preventing those mistakes from occurring again.
Furthermore, better players would take the spotlight off Douglas. Better offensive players would also mean more coverted baskets, resulting in increased assists for Douglas as well.
This summer still holds many questions for the Knicks, but one thing's for sure; if a true quality point guard cannot be had, at least they have one waiting in the wings in Toney Douglas.
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