Mike D'Antoni has stopped trying to make Nate Robinson a point guard, which has left the Knicks without a true backup point guard. Actually, what the Knicks lack is a true starting point guard, because what Chris Duhon has proven in a season-and-a-half in New York is he's really a good backup playing a starting role.
At the midpoint of the season, Duhon's overall numbers are respectable (seventh among NBA guards with a 3.26 assists-to-turnover ratio and 10th with 6.2 assists per game), but in the last 10 games he is averaging 6.4 point and 5.4 assists with a 2.46 ratio.
If these are signs of a second-half breakdown for Duhon, D'Antoni needs to take immediate action. The point guard position is critical to the offense and that's why Donnie Walsh's main focus before the Feb. 18 trade deadline will be to find a point guard. The Pacers would be more than willing to deal unused T.J. Ford, but he has an option for one more year at $8.5 million, which would work against the 2010 plan, unless the Pacers would be willing to trade him for injured center Eddy Curry. The Cavaliers may be willing to move Delonte West ($4.5 million), a tough defender who is only guaranteed $500,000 next season if he is waived before Aug. 2. Another option is Portland's Steve Blake ($4.9 million), who has an expiring contract, but he may not be available if Blazers coach Nate McMillan and Andre Miller remain at odds.
In the meantime, while D'Antoni joked that he limits Robinson's minutes as the point guard to "as long as my blood pressure will stay . . . I don't want to pop an artery," he has experimented with a format that would allow Robinson to play more minutes in his most effective role as a scorer without the demands of running the offense.
"We can kind of work around it," D'Antoni said after Robinson scored 27 points in Monday's 99-91 win over the Pistons. "David Lee does a lot of the playmaking now out of certain sets and we can go with that."
Lee had five assists in Monday's game and has 23 assists in his last three games, which includes consecutive games where he had a career-high nine. He leads all NBA centers with 3.4 assists per game and is averaging 5.3 in his last 10.
D'Antoni has used Lee at the top of the offense, where he generally gets the ball from Robinson. Jared Jeffries has also filled that role and occasionally even brought the ball up the floor to allow Robinson to get open.
"It helps out a lot," Robinson said. "We have a lot of guys who are very versatile. It's kind of cool having an offense like we do. Just makes it easier for everybody to play their game."