A lot was made of the fact that Chauncey Billups was initially regarded as a throw-in piece in the Carmelo Anthony trade, but what does one make of the fact that the Knicks have won four of the five games without him since he suffered a deep thigh bruise in the loss to Orlando on March 1? And that a big part of those wins have been the play of second year guard Toney Douglas?
"He'll never be a true point guard, but that's OK," Mike D'Antoni said of Douglas, who had 18 points and 10 assists in the Knicks' win over the Memphis Grizzlies. "How he's playing right now is good. He's got to continue to make shots, keep making better plays."
In the five games he has moved into the starting role in Billups' absence, Douglas is averaging 16.6 points and 6.6 assists per game. He's shooting a red hot 59.2 percent from the field and 51.7 percent (15 for 29) from three-point range. The best number of all is that in the five games, Douglas has committed just 11 turnovers in over 30 minutes per game.
And most of all, he has endured the seemingly endless coaching by D'Antoni, who, after yanking him late in the loss to Cleveland last Friday, has forced himself to trust Douglas.
"It's a good thing he gets on me," Douglas said. "It means he expects a lot out of me. I adjust real well to it. I just say, 'OK, Coach, I got it.'"
That confidence comes from coaching as well, but it's not from D'Antoni. Billups may be out of the lineup, but the veteran point guard has become very much invested in the success of the team, and Douglas, during his absence.
"I'm glad he's here," Douglas said. "I hate to see him hurt... I'm just going to keep learning from him."
Billups could miss at least one more game, Thursday night in Dallas, but D'Antoni said he would "definitely" be back for Sunday's game against the Indiana Pacers at Madison Square Garden. Billups, who revealed that his left knee had some swelling as a residual effect of the collision with Dwight Howard that caused the thigh bruise, wouldn't make any commitments.
"I'm not going to definitely say anything," he said. "When I'm able to play, I will play."
But that isn't to suggest that Billups is expecting to take any more time than he needs.
"I don't like taking extra," he said. "If I can play, I'm going to play. I know that when I do come back I'm not going to be 100 percent and I'm happy with that, fine with that. I just want to be able to come back and just be effective, help the team and work myself back to being 100 (percent). I just want to be good enough to get back out there."
And once he does, the Knicks will suddenly be much deeper at the point guard position.
KNICKS 110, GRIZZLIES 108: Carmelo Anthony hit a 16-foot baseline game-winning jumper with five-tenths of a second left in regulation. Anthony had fouled Zach Randolph with 14.2 seconds left for a game-tying three-point play and on the previous possession missed a short jumper with 22.2 seconds left. The Knicks held a 16-point lead at the start of the fourth quarter, but their offense suddenly disappeared as they made just six of 20 from the field and scored 14 points in the final quarter. Anthony finished with 31 points, six assists and five rebounds to lead the Knicks (34-29), who have won three straight. Tony Allen had 22 points to lead the Grizzlies (36-30), who lost at home for just the 10th time this season.
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