Broken Clouds 37° Good Morning
Broken Clouds 37° Good Morning

D'Antoni singing, 'Jesus, take the wheel'

Been a while since I referenced lyrics, Fixers, but this is fitting. Not quite my typical genre, but fitting:

Jesus, take the wheel,

take if from my hands

'Cause I can't do this on my own

I'm letting go, so give me one more chance

to save me from this road I'm on . . .

Mike D'Antoni's stubborn loyalty to the highly ineffective Chris Duhon came with good reason. Duhon running the offense meant D'Antoni still had some control of it.

But what good is control of the offense when you don't have any control of the season?

It may have been a long time coming, perhaps even long overdue, but D'Antoni appears to be ready to give Duhon a turn on the bench. At halftime Wednesday night he opted to start Robinson to inject some desperately-needed energy into a flatline game and it worked in what turned into a 107-85 win over the Wizards.

Robinson had 14 of his 23 points in the second half and added a season-high eight assists. But while D'Antoni admitted after the game that Robinson could supplant the slumpingDuhon in the starting lineup, let's not mistakenly refer to Nate as the "point guard."

What D'Antoni really went with in that second half was a lineup without a point guard. Or one that handled the role by committee.

Robinson certainly did bring the ball up and ran a few plays, but really his role was to be primarily a scorer, which is his strength. What the Knicks can do is relieve some of the responsibilities of being a "floor general" (read: getting others involved) by having other players -- Larry Hughes, Jared Jeffries and David Lee -- handle the offense to allow Robinson to focus on scoring and getting up the floor for some quick baskets.

The eight man rotation seems to now include Robinson, Hughes, Jeffries, Lee, Wilson Chandler, Danilo Gallinari, Al Harrington and if not Duhon than rookie Toney Douglas, whom D'Antoni said he planned to give another look. Remember in training camp when D'Antoni toyed with the idea of playing Robinson and Douglas together as a tandem, to wreak havoc as a full-court pressing backcourt that can also zip down the court and score?

Anyway, before we get too ahead of ourselves, let's acknowledge that for 24 minutes against a very weak defensive team in the Wizards everything seemed to work nicely. We've seen this before, of course, so you can understand D'Antoni, though relieved to get a win after three straight L's (and two alarmingly lackluster performances over the weekend), sounded extremely hesitant as he talked about his latest smoke-and-mirrors tactic.

"I've been on that limb a few times," he said, "and it was sawed off."

Hughes was certainly pleased to finally get minutes again and seemed to do so at the expense of a big: rookie Jordan Hill (DNP-CD). Hughes played 18 minutes and scored 11 points and looked effective on defense like he did in December. After a month of complaining and days after he said he was looking forward to Feb. 18 (the trade deadline), Hughes seemed satisfied again. And he explained his frustration a lot better this time around.

"The reality is I get paid a lot of money [$13.6M] and I want to earn it," he said. "I want to be ran until my tongue's hanging out. That's how I am. When I don't get the chance to play, it just frustrates me."

D'Antoni promoted the notion that he doesn't pay attention to the media-driven controversies, such as Hughes widely-reported dissatisfaction with not playing and direct and public criticism of the coach.

"I don't hear the chatter, I don't listen to the chatter, I don't really care about the chatter," D'Antoni said. "I understand the frustrations, but I'm just trying to put the best guys on the floor. I'm not going to get it right all the time, because I don't have a crystal ball. But the intent is to see how good we can play. [Hughes] was working, he practiced. I thought he had a good practice yesterday. I thought we needed something, obviously. You keep losing, you got to change something up."

There are 36 games left in the season, with three to go before the all-star break. The Knicks (19-29) still need somewhat of a miracle -- or misfortune for Miami, Chicago or Charlotte -- to get a playoff berth. But D'Antoni seems to have come to the conclusion that there is nothing more to lose, other than his team. So with seven expiring contracts all with personal agendas (admittedly or not), he seems to be ready to let go of the wheel and hope that those agendas can somehow work congruently.

Really, with the Knicks expected to do very little, if anything at all, by the trade deadline, what other option does D'Antoni have at this point?

Meanwhile, Duhon took the benching -- and the potential demotion from the starting lineup, with a twinge more professionalism than some of his other teammates throughout the season.

"Whether you're starting is not the biggest thing in the world," Duhon said. "It's all about wins."

* * *

* - We heard tonight that Danilo Gallinari was officially asked by the NBA to participate in the Foot Locker Three-Point Shootout. Gallo accepted and will compete on Feb. 13 in Dallas, though the NBA has yet to release the contenstants. Gallinari will be the sixth Knick to participate in the shoot-out and the first since Quentin Richardson in 2006. No Knick has ever won the event. The highest finishes were Trent Tucker (1986) and Charlie Ward (1998), who both finished fourth. Gallo hit four treys against the Wizards to raise his league-leading total to 126 three-point field goals made.


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