DALLAS - Chris Duhon's Knicks legacy might not be a memorable one. He might wind up one of those names you come across in the team archives and say, "Remember when he was the point guard?"
But although Duhon may understand he's probably not going to be part of the Knicks' future, he still might have an impact on it. On a team in which several veteran players have publicly grumbled about their playing time and their roles, Duhon not only quietly accepted his demotion to the bench, he turned the situation into something of a positive.
"Eventually I want to coach," the former Duke standout said. "So this gives me the opportunity to learn and help a young player develop."
That player is rookie Toney Douglas, who has emerged as Duhon's replacement as the starter. Mike D'Antoni originally gave the spot to Sergio Rodriguez, who came to the Knicks from the Sacramento Kings as part of the Tracy McGrady deal, but in a 12-game span, it became clear that Rodriguez might not be suited to play a starting role. In fact, in Saturday's stunning 128-94 win over the Mavericks, Rodriguez did not play for the first time since he became a Knick.
D'Antoni instead tapped Duhon, who hadn't gotten off the bench since Feb. 20, to play 10:45 as Douglas' backup. It was somewhat of a surprise for Duhon, who said D'Antoni had told him that tonight's game in Philadelphia would be his next opportunity to play.
It is much easier for a coach to reward a player who has handled his situation as well as Duhon has. Rather than sulking, Duhon has been the first player off the bench during timeouts and regularly is seen offering insight to players.
"He really helps me out a lot," Douglas said. "Even when I'm on the bench with him . . . I really respect him. He was a starter here and he hasn't been playing, but he still talks to me and everybody and is in the game like he's starting still."
Douglas has an element of his game that Duhon most struggled with: scoring. But Douglas had to learn how to run an offense, how to get others involved and, most importantly in this system, how to effectively run the pick-and-roll, especially with David Lee. Against Dallas, Douglas showed he is starting to figure it out. Along with his 21 points (8-for-10 shooting), Douglas had eight assists with zero turnovers.
"Obviously, he's a natural scorer, so his mind-set is to score," Duhon said. "I want him to stay aggressive, but at the same time, David's open and I just tell him to look for him. And if he's not comfortable throwing it, don't do it. But I just let him know it's there."
Duhon, 27, will be a free agent this summer and is too young to already be thinking about beginning a coaching career. What's in it for him to help Douglas, especially if Duhon knows he probably won't be around after this season?
"No matter if I'm teammates with him or not, I still want him to succeed," Duhon said. "I think he's a great guy and we've built a great friendship. I want him to grow and stay in this league as long as he can."