NEW YORK -- While the Knicks have shown improvement on defense, holding opponents to 95.2 points per game (compared to 105.7 last season), they're a mess right now offensively.
They're playing like shy freshmen surrounded by good-looking senior girls. Stagnant, with no success. So when Baron Davis said fans should "judge us at the end of the season," while addressing reporters for the longest time as a Knick before Friday night's game against the Bucks, he must have been referring to the impact he'll have on the team. While the Knicks have All-NBA frontcourt talent, without a true point guard the Knicks will continue to hesitate with the ball, shoot a low percentage and not put enough points on the board to win.
Mike D'Antoni said Davis will likely start practicing next week and could return at the end of the month. Davis said he's making progress every day, improving his strength and conditioning. He can't absorb contact yet consistently, but he's getting reps in with his outside shooting, dribbling and defensive slides. Even with all of the shortened season's back-to-backs and additional games during the week, Davis said those factors aren't even on his mind as far as his recovery timetable.
"I'm not really thinking about that. I'm just thinking about taking everything one day at a time," he said. "I can't really look at the season. The games are coming so fast and they're so close together that you can't really predict anything. So it's hard for me to make any predictions or for the staff to make any predictions. It's just like I have to constantly work. There are no days off for me. I like it that way. We like it that way. That's what we're going to continue to do."
The faster Davis can get back on the court, the better. At this point, he's the Knicks' best chance for them to gain more flow in the offense and create easier scoring opportunities for each other, especially Amare Stoudemire, who's currently shooting a career-low 41.2 percent from the field. Watching Stoudemire and the team lose five straight games, Davis is aware they're going through some adversity with many new faces on the roster.
"You have to go through struggles, and right now this is our time to struggle," he said.
While Davis said patience is key, he knows the team needs help beyond his motivational support and instruction to the young players from the bench. Those on-the-court factors include instilling leadership and a sense of excitement to loosen up the frustration. Davis said it's only a matter of time before things look brighter.
"Offensively, I know that we'll come around," he said. "We just have to continue to sacrifice for each other, and make that extra pass and play with a little bit of quicker pace. If you look at it, we're 14 games into the season and we're only in the middle of January. So everything has been accelerated. In an offense like this, where it's more so free-flowing and based on reads, it takes a while to really get into the flow. I'm confident in all my teammates that we're all going to figure it out. This is definitely a work in progress. Our whole goal, the way we talk, is be ready by April -- clicking on all cylinders and ready to head into the playoffs."
Many believe Davis is the solution to all of the Knicks' current problems, and he's fine with the pressure. He said he accepts any challenge because he's confident in his 12-year veteran skill set. In fact, he believes he hardly needs any time to adjust to D'Antoni's perimeter-oriented offense, in which his pick-and-roll game and 3-point shooting ability will come in handy.
"I'm the type of person that picks up things very, very quickly," he said. "When I'm out there, I'm learning on the fly. I can see where I fit in on this team, and I know some of the things that I can bring to the table to make us a better ball club. Once I'm able to practice with the team and be out there on the floor with the team to really understand what our calls are and what the offense brings, then it won't be a problem. It'll take me maybe three days, two days, even a day."
That's music to the Knicks players' ears, as they're in desperate need of answers.
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