The New York Knicks probably aren’t going to win an NBA Championship this year. But does that mean the likes of the Heat, Celtics, and Bulls are looking forward to dealing with New York in a seven-game series? The answer is most certainly no. And while Carmelo Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire have a lot to do with that, the secondary piece in the ’Melo mega-deal, Chauncey Billups, might be the biggest reason.
It’s a crime for anyone to overlook Billups’ importance for the Knicks for the remaining half of this season, the postseason, and next year. Even in last night’s sloppy win over the Bucks, in which Billups was clearly not on the same page with Stoudemire, Chauncey’s value was apparent. It’s not in the numbers (21 points, 8 assists, 6 rebounds) , which were more impressive than the way in which he compiled them. He showed his savvy by getting to the free-throw line 12 times, knocking down all of them, including four in the final 20 seconds. Billups also drew a charge in the third quarter when the Knicks had let Milwaukee back in the game, and set up Toney Douglas late in the fourth for a big three-ball that just about sealed the game. And his already-there familiarity with Anthony should help speed up the Knicks’ process in getting on the same page offensively.
It’ll also be interesting to see Billups’ influence on Douglas. Rajon Rondo and Russell Westbrook raved about Billups and how he helped both of their games during the World Championships this past summer. Douglas has a lot of talent and potential, as shown with last nights 23 points, but he still has a long way to go in learning how to run a team and play an effective point guard. The Knicks could use solid backup point guard play, especially with Billups up there in age. If Douglas is wiling to learn from Billups, Mike D’Antoni would be better served to use Douglas in the backup point guard role, and less so at shooting guard.
There’s already been a lot of talk about whether this will be Stoudemire or Anthony’s team. But make no mistake. While Billups is here, he’s going to be the one directing the Knicks in crucial situations.
That’s a good thing.