Friday, December 9, 2011
D'Antoni, Melo and STAT support Douglas
By Jared Zwerling
NEW YORK -- While Chauncey Billups was back home in Denver, Mike D'Antoni, Carmelo Anthony and Amare Stoudemire were at the Knicks' training facility on Friday already gearing up Toney Douglas to take over the starting point guard position.
With all signs pointing to the Knicks amnestying Billups and acquiring Tyson Chandler, the team will be left with a big question mark at the starting one. But D'Antoni, who was the first to address the media after the Knicks' first day of training camp, says he's comfortable with Douglas taking on the major responsibility. Not only that, he envisions the team operating like the 1980s Celtics, with Anthony becoming a consistent point-forward like Larry Bird.
"I think the team will look more like an old Celtics team, in the sense of going through Bird a lot, and they had two rangy shooters in the backcourt, [Danny] Ainge and Dennis Johnson," D'Antoni said. "It's just going to change in the sense that I had [Steve] Nash or somebody like that having the ball all the time. Now, Melo will be doing the pick-and-rolls more, and that's a good thing. Melo's one of the best passers we have, and he'll be involved in a lot more running the team. I'm not taking anything away from Toney or Landry [Fields] or [Iman] Shumpert, or whoever's back there. Those guys I have a lot of confidence in and I do know they can make shots and defend, and that's a good place to start."
Anthony, who never imagined Billups being amnestied and considers it a "sad situation" for him personally, is prepared to do whatever it takes to win games -- even if it means handling the rock more. He also has coach's back for his decision to make Douglas the floor general starting on Christmas Day against the Celtics. During Friday's practice, which also included Bill Walker, Andy Rautins and Renaldo Balkman, Melo made sure to let Douglas know that.
"I told Toney today, 'Believe it or not, there's a lot of pressure on you, son.' But we're here with him," Anthony said. "We laughed about that too with him having a lot of pressure on him, but there's a lot of pressure on all of us. I wouldn't say pressure, but a lot of expectations, especially now with Tyson. I just told Toney to just be ready, just be ready when the ball goes up and do what you've got to do. The ball is in his hands."
The transition won't come easy for Douglas. His numbers from last season proved he's more of an undersized shooting guard like the Mavericks' Jason Terry. Case in point: After the 2011 All-Star break, Douglas led the league in 3-pointers made (68). When he took over for the injured Billups in the first round of the playoffs against the Celtics, his distributing flaws showed, and the Knicks' offense struggled to generate offense. When he brought the ball up the court in Game 3 for a total of 37 possessions, that led to seven turnovers, and the Knicks averaged just 0.65 points per play.
But Anthony feels that Douglas learned a lot from playing under Billups, and he took away confidence from Friday just hearing him speak about taking on the challenge of running the team. Stoudemire emitted that same confidence -- even speaking about Shumpert -- and he believes with Douglas at the starting one, the team can still push for a championship. He's also excited about Melo becoming more of a point-forward, which he occasionally was toward the end of last season.
"He's a solid passer," Stoudemire said of Anthony. "I'm pretty sure the more we practice together, the more we build our chemistry, he'll figure out those pocket passes -- those areas where he can drop it off to me. There are areas where he can definitely improve in and become a much, much better all-around player. We're two of the top-five scorers in the league, so we have ways to score the ball with ease. We're phenomenal scorers. Tyson is a great defensive player, so we're going to have a pretty well-balanced team."
But even with all said and done, D'Antoni hinted the Knicks may not be done making moves quite yet.
"I think we'll be fine, I really do," he said. "I think that Glen [Grunwald] will try to better the team in every turn that he can, and if something presents itself, we'll jump all over it. I'm not sitting in here worried about it. I think we improved our team. I think Toney, Shumpert, with the ball going through Melo, we will find ways to be creative and try to make that work."
That creativity could come in the next few days from the front office. Could they lock up Baron Davis if the Cavaliers amnestied him? Would they be able to make a compelling offer to Mike Bibby or J.J. Barea? Chandler hasn't even signed yet, so maybe they could create some wiggle (cap) room. Also remember, Ronny Turiaf is likely gone.
To many, the Knicks starting point guard situation is still not really set.