If there's one coach who knows the importance of a legit point guard to his team, it's Mike D'Antoni, who gravitated towards Steve Nash several years ago in Phoenix and now in Los Angeles.
"Without a doubt," the coach said on Thursday morning after the Lakers' shootaround at the New York Athletic Club. "They've got two point guards that know how to get the ball distributed, so they're doing a good job."
D'Antoni told reporters that his "biggest challenge" last season in New York -- during which he resigned in March -- was not having a reliable starting point guard.
After the Knicks amnestied Chauncey Billups last December, they were left with Toney Douglas. And throughout the season, they never had any structure at the one position, as they fluctuated frequently from Douglas to Iman Shumpert to Mike Bibby to Jeremy Lin to Baron Davis. Injuries and inconsistent play were the main reasons for these moves.
"We didn't have a point guard to start the season off," D'Antoni said, "and then things got sideways."
Lin obviously showed the most potential in 2011-12, but it came towards the end of the season when the team was still banged up, especially without Stoudemire who had a lower back injury. This season, Felton and Kidd are mostly healthy, and the Knicks are hoping that's the case when STAT returns on or around Christmas.
There's been no word yet on whether Mike Woodson is leaning towards starting Stoudemire or not, but that shouldn't be the concern. More importantly, the Knicks have enough depth and experience at point guard -- including Pablo Prigioni -- to help STAT and Anthony space the floor well and get the ball in their sweet spots. The team's ball movement and low turnover rate should definitely help.
The biggest question mark surrounding Stoudemire, besides his health, of course, is what kind of impact he'll make on the defensive end. That's been his biggest weakness as he's gotten older, as he's demonstrated some lack of effort and footwork flaws.
Some insiders suggest that STAT should not worry about getting called for fouls, as he has in the past, but instead play more aggressive down low and fight harder for rebounds. They argue that because the Knicks are deeper this season, Stoudemire doesn't need to play as many minutes, and he can exert more energy during the time he's in the game.
Stoudemire has an opportunity to be a big difference-maker inside, helping Tyson Chandler protect the basket and alleviating some pressure off of Anthony. These could be STAT's most important assists to the team this season.
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