Before the arrival of Raymond Felton, Toney Douglas was penciled in as the Knicks’ starting point guard for the 2010-11 season. However, since being relegated to the bench, Douglas is beginning to prove he may be the team’s ultimate spark plug off the pine.
After a handful of high scoring performances as a starter last season, Douglas has picked up right where he left off, except this time, he’s doing it as a sixth man.
As the Knicks search for the appropriate “No. 2” compliment next to Amare Stoudemire, Douglas has logged impressive back to back 20-plus point performances.
Coach Mike D’Antoni has been hoping that Wilson Chandler and Danilo Gallinari can develop into more elite scorers. However, expecting so much out of Chandler (although he has had an impressive preseason) may be unreasonable. For Gallinari, it may simply be too soon to expect so much, especially when his thoughts may or may not be clouded with Carmelo Anthony trade rumors.
Instead, D’Antoni benched Chandler (there is, however no need to worry about Chandler; he’ been as consistent as they come) in favor of Douglas for much of the Knicks’ 117-111 victory over the Nets Tuesday night. The move paid off.
While Chandler and Gallinari may be feeling the pressure to impress, there is little to no pressure on Douglas with the presence of Felton. Felton is being heralded as the team’s next big point guard, and Douglas knows he will likely be the team’s “backup point guard” on opening night.
However, Felton and Douglas’ playing styles are quite different (aside from the fact that both are fast-paced players), and they are proving quite well that they can coexist on the court.
In fact, giving Felton another scorer to feed (in addition to Stoudemire, who erupted for 39 points vs. the Nets), resulted in an 11-assist outing, Felton’s best this preseason.
Douglas, on the other hand, was on the attack at both ends of the floor vs. the Nets. More of a scoring point guard, Douglas (who made 7-of-8 free throws) charged at the hoop nearly every position, going in for lay-up after lay-up as he challenged the Nets’ defense.
Much of Douglas’ production came from his flaring defensive instincts; his six steals led to many offense opportunities. He finished with 24 points, a great follow-up to a 23-point performance against the Wizards over the weekend.
While many assertions regarding how a player will perform during the season (based on preseason games) are often premature, the way Douglas finished off last season (in addition to how he has picked up) is suggesting he could be the Knicks’ version of Jason Terry, another smaller, not so traditional, point guard who likes to score in bunches.
Aside from playing a similar role to what Douglas hopes to play for the Knicks this season, Terry has also been crucial to each of the Mavericks’ playoff runs during his three seasons primarily off the bench.
D’Antoni conveyed that he liked playing Felton and Douglas together after the win vs. the Nets, so that tandem will undoubtedly be seen again.
While his role on the Knicks has seemed to flip-flop a bit as the Knicks search for their identity as a team, if he continues up this level of play, Douglas will emerge as an easy “Sixth Man of the Year” candidate, while potentially helping the team to the playoffs in the process.
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