GREENBURGH, N.Y. –- With Carmelo Anthony’s scoring punch on the shelf for the season, Phil Jackson sees one player on the Knicks roster who might be able to shoulder some of the scoring load.
Jackson thinks Andrea Bargnani can help offset some of the 24.2 points per game lost with Anthony. At the very least, Bargnani should be able to replace Amar’e Stoudemire’s 12 points per game -- provided he can remain on the court.
Of course, Bargnani has been a 7-foot walking injury as a Knick.
“Now that we have a gap in scoring, this is a guy that is a natural scorer,” Jackson said last week when asked before the trading deadline what could happen with Bargnani if he isn't dealt. “I think the coaching staff would like to have him on the court and be competitive with his scoring capabilities.
"Without Carmelo and Amar’e there, we are going to need some scorers out there. And we would like to give him a forum.”
The problem with Bargnani is he simply can't stay healthy. He has played in just six games this season and a total of 48 games in two seasons with the Knicks. Over the previous three seasons, Bargnani averaged 36 games played.
Considering this is the final season of his contract, Bargnani has something to prove in the final months of the regular season. And he could be the go-to option offensively for the remainder of this lost season if he can take advantage of this opportunity.
“I think Andrea’s best basketball is ahead of him,” Knicks coach Derek Fisher said. “But the opportunity now presents itself that he can really step into a role that maybe he would not have had if we were healthy (earlier this season), and show some things for himself.
“He’s a free agent going into the summer, and whether it’s our team or 29 other teams, there’s a lot of reasons why he should want to go out and play well.”
After missing the first two months of the season due to hamstring and calf injuries, Bargnani returned but lasted just two games and a total of 22 minutes before reinjuring his calf.
The former No. 1 overall pick missed another 16 games before returning on Feb. 9.
“I am not going to hold it against him if he wasn’t here for the first 40-something games,” Jackson said. “That was something beyond his control and perhaps beyond ours. We are hopeful that he will contribute.”
Bargnani has played in four games since coming back and has scored 11 points in each of his last three games. Bargnani knows he might have to remind some people of what he can do again.
“I haven’t played in a while, so for me it is very important to play,” Bargnani said. “Just keep playing, keep playing hard and keep playing every game, that is what is important for me.”
It might take some time for Bargnani to get his offense going again, but he should have plenty of opportunities to showcase his game moving forward.
“Well, he has the skill set and the versatility to do those things,” Fisher said of trying to fill the void left behind by Anthony. “Whether he can average the same amount of points, we’ll see. He’s capable of it.
"I think if he can stay healthy and just continue to get a comfort out on the floor again … He’s shown some flashes though that he can, but we don’t want to put that kind of pressure on him. We want our team to figure out how to make up for guys who aren’t with us anymore, or right now.”