Consider me no longer among them. Not only did the deal have to be done in order to keep pace with the current trend of aligning stars, but …oh yeah, Chauncey Billups.
As I watched what was rightly billed as the dawn of the Amar’e-‘Melo Era in New York, I could help but watch…the other guy in the trade: Billups.
And in the end, he might as vital to the deal as Anthony.
I love what Raymond Felton brought to the Knicks. Few expected he would be as impactful as he was as Stoudemire’s concierge. He averaged 9.0 assists and 17-plus points and, perhaps most significantly, doused the embers calling for Steve Nash. Moreover he’s just 25 years old, while Billups is 34 – a nine-year gap!
But in watching Billups last night, I noticed this: He didn’t make me cringe. At times, Felton would drive wildly through traffic like a drunken sailor on leave. Or he’d jack up a trey early during the possession when the more prudent move might have been to swing the ball in search of a higher-percentage shot. Or, in other words, be a point guard!
To his credit, many of those prayers found their mark and Felton did far more good than not as a Knick.
But Billups. He’s a grown-ass point guard, an old-school play maker who not only still orchestrates with the bst of them but still has the ability to be Big Shot Billups.
Most Kicks fans celebrated ‘Melo’s 27 points and 10 rebounds in the Knicks 114-108 win over the Milwaukee Bucks.
But I marveled a Billups “supporting” line: 21 points, 8 rebounds, 6 assists and 2 steals in 33 minutes! And this from a guy who didn’t know a single play, who was having them literally explained to him by Knicks coach Mike D’Antoni as he dribbled up the floor.
Not one single time did I cringe.
Ultimately, though, Billups’ greatest value to the Knicks may be his commitment to defense. Remember now, he’s the only Knick with a ring. He’s been to the mountain top. And in the post-game press conference when asked what it take to get there he said, among other things, defense. He talked about embracing the “principles” of defense and getting to the point where the team can get stops for “three or four minutes” in a stretch.
Talk about an unlikely mix: D’Antoni’s seven-seconds-of-less philosophy (which, in all fairness, has been down-shifted this season) and Billups man-up mindset.
But in the end it just might make D’Antoni a better coach than he’s ever been.
And for now, it makes the Knicks look like they got themselves two steals.