Saturday, March 12, 2011
Updated: March 13, 4:10 AM ET
Chauncey Billups eyes Sunday return
By Chris Sheridan
GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- Chauncey Billups scrimmaged with the New York Knicks Saturday and was highly optimistic that he'll be able to return Sunday against the Indiana Pacers following a six-game absence due to a deep thigh bruise.
"It felt good, now I'm just hoping I don't have any setbacks between now and tomorrow. If not, I look forward to playing tomorrow," Billups said after the Knicks' 90-minute session. "I went as good as I could. It's amazing how being out a week you can get winded so fast, but I went pretty hard and it felt pretty good."
The Knicks went 4-2 while Billups was sidelined, and they hope to have him for the final 18 games of the regular season as they jostle for playoff positioning.
Billups has not played since his thigh collided with the knee of Dwight Howard in the Knicks' loss to Orlando on March 1.
Toney Douglas has started in his absence and averaged 16.5 points on 52 percent shooting with 7.5 assists per game.
"The timing couldn't have been any worse with us trying to build as a unit, me as the point guard trying to learn these guys' games and play with them, but it is what it is and we need to move forward," Billups said.
Currently sixth in the Eastern Conference, the Knicks are just a half-game ahead of the Philadelphia 76ers but also are within reach of the fifth-place Atlanta Hawks, who lead New York by 1½ games but have a tougher schedule down the stretch.
Sunday's game against the Pacers will begin a run of five games in which four of the opponents currently have losing records. Indiana, which the Knicks will face Tuesday as the visiting team, has lost six in a row to fall into a tie with Charlotte for eighth place in the Eastern Conference standings.
That has given a glimmer of postseason hope to the Detroit Pistons and Milwaukee Bucks, whom the Knicks will face next weekend before the schedule turns tougher with the Boston Celtics visiting Madison Square Garden on March 21, and the Orlando Magic coming in two nights later.
Amare Stoudemire said he was pleased with Friday's ruling from the league office to rescind his 16th technical foul, which would have forced him to miss Sunday night's game. Players are automatically suspended for their 16th technical, plus another game for every second subsequent technical foul they receive.
"There's only been once so far where I was close to receiving a 16th technical foul. Other than that I've been pretty conscious of not receiving it," said Stoudemire, who has not been called for a non-rescinded technical foul since Feb. 23 against Milwaukee.
After having a day off Friday following seven games in 10 nights, the Knicks will be busy the rest of the month. Saturday marked the last time until April 2 that the Knicks will have two consecutive days off between games.
"We'll bounce back. That's something I'm not worried about," Carmelo Anthony said. "The schedule has been brutal to us, so we're trying to get through right and we have two days to get right.
"The chemistry is not going to be there quite yet this early. We've seen flashes where everybody is on the same page, and we've seen flashes where we were out of sync -- whether it was due to the scheduling, fatigue, whatever it was. But as far as the chemistry, we're getting better each day."
In the 10 games since Anthony and Billups were acquired, the Knicks have averaged nearly 115 points per game -- well above their season average of 106.6. Anthony has averaged 25.6 points in his 10 games with the Knicks, while Stoudemire has been scoring at an average of 30.3 points.
But the Knicks also have surrendered at least 108 points in seven of those 10 games, with the Dallas Mavericks' 127 points Thursday night representing the third-highest point total scored against New York this season.
Chris Sheridan covers the NBA for ESPN.com and ESPNNewYork.com.