Thursday, July 8, 2010
Duhon craves stability with Magic
ORLANDO, Fla. -- It was only fitting Chris Duhon officially joined the Orlando Magic on Thursday, the same day his former team has spent two-plus seasons preparing to sign a free agent.
Just not him.
Duhon partly blames his struggles with the New York Knicks on the constant roster shuffling and uncertainty as they cleared salary-cap space in hopes of luring LeBron James. The crown jewel of this summer's mega-free-agent class, James was set to make his decision Thursday night on national television.
Duhon, meanwhile, couldn't be happier to have a fresh start somewhere else.
"It was kind of tough," Duhon said of his time with the Knicks. "Going into it, their main focus was [Thursday night]. There was times we had good chemistry going with a couple guys, and all of a sudden there are trades. They were focusing on this free agency period."
Duhon's two seasons as the starting point guard in New York never really lived up to expectations, and the opportunity to be on a contending team was too much to pass up this time.
Even if it means being a backup.
Orlando agreed to sign Duhon to a $15 million, four-year deal to play behind Jameer Nelson. The move puts Duhon in a reserve role, however, he said he has no second thoughts about playing second fiddle.
Especially after a rocky ride in the Big Apple.
"I want an opportunity to win. I know Orlando is knocking on the door to win a championship," Duhon said. "That's been a goal of mine since coming to the NBA. I think they have all the pieces for winning."
Duhon's signing is all the more important in a thin year for free agent point guards.
The Magic went to the NBA finals in 2009 and the Eastern Conference finals this year. Their reserve point guards last season, Jason Williams and Anthony Johnson, are free agents.
Nelson also has had repeated injuries -- a tear in his right shoulder sidelined him for most of the 2009 season, and torn cartilage in his left knee sent him to the bench for about two months last year -- that puts added pressure to have a reliable backup.
Duhon believes his experience starting with the Knicks should help him transition easier to Orlando.
"I had the opportunity to be a starting guy. I had the opportunity to try to turn a franchise around. I don't regret the decision [going there]," Duhon said. "I think it helped me grow as a person and as a basketball player, and I think I'm better for it."
Duhon averaged 7.4 points and 5.6 assists per game last season as the Knicks missed the playoffs again. He fell out of favor with coach Mike D'Antoni, and it was clear the Knicks wanted to move in a different direction.
Duhon's first four seasons came with the Chicago Bulls, who drafted him in 2004. Orlando tried to sign Duhon in 2008 before he went to New York.
Magic general manager Otis Smith said the Knicks' offer back then -- a two-year deal worth more than $11 million -- was more than he was willing to spend. Even though he had little success with the Knicks, Smith said playing with All-Star center Dwight Howard should open up Duhon's game.
"It's been a long time coming," Smith said. "I think we've been recruiting him for two years now. I think we have him a little more mature now."