Not long ago, Baron Davis was going to be the one who saved the Knicks.

Desperate Knicks fans, hoping for a way to make their talent-laden roster work, had latched on to the idea of Davis as the problem-solver. The thought was that after the 13-year veteran's back finally healed, he would be the point guard to blend the talents of Carmelo Anthony, Amar'e Stoudemire and company.

Well, Davis finally came back Monday night to find the only thing he's going to save Knicks fans from is arm fatigue as they get a respite from madly waving Jeremy Lin signs.

With Lin having led the Knicks to eight wins in their last 10 games, Davis finds himself in a greatly reduced role. Not only is he not going to be the starter, but with Lin doing so well, he's going to have limited playing time.

Knicks coach Mike D'Antoni confirmed this before Monday night's 100-92 loss to the Nets at Madison Square Garden, saying he hadn't bothered to sit down and talk with Davis about the situation simply because the facts are so obvious.

"We haven't had the conversation," D'Antoni said. "We'll talk about it. I think he can see what's been happening, too, and he knows where he is . . . Right now, Jeremy's the starter and Baron's going to get ready and get in game shape and we'll see. Nothing's ever written in stone, but Jeremy's playing pretty well."

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Davis, who had been recovering from a herniated disc in his back and an elbow infection, scored three points and had one assist and one turnover in 9:40.

He first entered the game with 2:07 left in the first quarter and the Knicks up 19-15. His only points came on a three-pointer that tied the score at 27 with 8:37 left in the second quarter.

It marked the first time the 32-year-old former All-Star guard has played since last April 11 with Cleveland. Davis played in only 58 games last season, averaging 13.1 points and 6.7 assists for the Clippers and Cavaliers.

When it became clear during the weekend that he would be returning to the floor shortly, Davis said he would embrace whatever role the team needed him to play.

"So now I'm not the savior," he said with a laugh. "Whatever I can do to help the team win . . . Jeremy is doing an excellent job. To be able to come in and give him some spot minutes here and there, and to continue to build on my conditioning and rehab, I will only make the team better."

D'Antoni would not commit to how many minutes Davis will play even when he is fully healthy.

"There's just so many factors. I don't know,'' D'Antoni said. "I would like to keep Jeremy 36, 34 [minutes], around there, and then Baron will play. He and Baron can play together. He can play the two. It just depends on how good guys are playing."