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Living and Dying With Chris Duhon

Written by Matt Barbarasch
When it was reported last summer that the Knicks had interest in signing point guard Chris Duhon to a two year deal using their MLE, I was elated. He was the anti-Marbury, a point guard who distributed before shooting, played defense, didn’t scowl at team mates for ill-advised shots and turnovers, and didn’t sit on the bench with a towel over his head while his teammates took on the court. From his days at Duke, Duhon exhibited the characteristics of a leader. He is a guy coaches relied on as a coach on the floor and as someone who wouldn’t be a detriment to the team.
This year has been a different story. It is not coincidence that Nate’s return to the lineup has coincided with Duhon’s slump. Nate single handedly won the game for the Knicks in his first game back against Atlanta, provided a spark at the end of the third quarter recently against Charlotte and gave the Knicks a boost off the bench during Monday’s win against Detroit. The numbers do not lie either. In the Knicks twenty-four losses, Duhon has shot 29%, while posting an assist to turnover ratio of 2.66, and contributing a team worse, .86 points per shot. In the seventeen wins, Duhon has shot 45% from the field, posted 4.32 assist per turnover, and contributed 1.39 points per shot, third on the team. Duhon is not totally at fault. He was always considered a stop-gap player, a point guard who could help stabilize the offense until the summer of 2010. Last year after a hot start, he wore down late with back problems, and he is showing signs of wearing down again. He was never supposed to be a thirty-five minute a game player (he is currently averaging 33.6). If the Knicks are going to make a run at the 8th spot, and they should be in playoff contention heading into March, it is time for D’Antoni to give Duhon’s minutes to Nate and Tony Douglas.
On a related note, the criticism directed at Walsh for passing on point guard Brandon Jennings is out of line. Jennings was a high school star who became one of the first star high school athletes to bypass his mandatory one year of college, and decided to play in Europe. In twenty-seven games playing in the Italian Lega A, Jennings averaged 17 minutes, 5.5 points, 2.2 assists while shooting 35% from the field, and 20% from three. Walsh was supposed to have a feel for a player who put up those numbers after one season? If Jennings looked so good on tape, why didn’t the Timberwolves, who drafted two straight point guards before the Knicks were even on the clock, select Jennings? Jennings was the ultimate enigma, and Walsh deserves a pass on this one.

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