As Jeremy Lin Rises, Toney Douglas Falls
While Jeremy Lin has been the story of the year for the New York Knicks, the player he replaced has been forgotten about at the end of the bench.
The point guard that started the first seven games of the season (nine overall) for the Knicks, Toney Douglas, has played a total of seven minutes over the past month. In the last 13 games, Douglas has not touched the court in 12 of those — including eight straight DNP-Coach’s Decision overall.
“His role’s defined,” Knicks coach Mike D’Antoni said of Douglas, literally laughing as the words came out of his mouth. “He’s probably the only one that knows what he’s doing [every game].”
When I asked D’Antoni if there was any shot Douglas could break his way back into the rotation, the Knicks coach’s answer was grim.
“I don’t know how you do it,” D’Antoni said of Douglas’ chances. “Unless Jeremy gets hurt or Baron [Davis] gets hurt. He’s the third point guard, I just can’t play everybody. Mike Bibby didn’t play either. We’ve got a guy in the D-League and he didn’t play either so that’s just how it is.”
What a difference a year makes.
Just last season, Douglas closed out the year so well that New York decided to amnesty incumbent starter Chauncey Billups in the offseason so that the second-year player could take over as the starting point guard coming into the season.
So how did this story go from starting point guard to the end of the bench for the once promising Douglas?
Well, Linsanity happened – that’s a given.
But the bigger issue has been that Douglas’ deteriorating play this season has left much to be desired by New York. For the year, Douglas regressed to shooting just under 32 percent from the field, scoring just 7.7 points per and is averaging nearly as many turnovers (1.8) as assists (2.2) per contest.
Because of his erratic play, Douglas playing time began to take a huge hit early in February – just few games before Lin began to make his mark on the NBA.
Even though D’Antoni began to lose confidence before Lin erupted, Douglas’ fate was sealed to the end of the pine as Lin proved he could be a starting-level talent in the league.
In Lin’s breakout game against the New Jersey Nets on Feb 4, in which Lin scored 25 points, dished out seven assists and grabbed five rebounds off the bench; Douglas played 13 minutes.
Since then Douglas has played a total of just 13 minutes as the Knicks have gone 10-5 with Lin getting the most run at the point guard position.
If it wasn’t for Lin’s meteoric rise, Douglas would have likely had the chance to play his way back into at least some kind of role with the Knicks. As it stands in New York, Lin is the clear-cut starter for the rest of the season with Baron Davis available for 20-25 per game to ease the burden.
As D’Antoni jokingly (maniacally?) told reporters, Douglas knows where his role is for the rest of the season – the bench.
Watching Lin ascend from below in the depth chart to being the biggest story in basketball would be tough for anyone to go through but Douglas has taken his demotion in stride.
“I don’t feel like it’s been tough,” Douglas told HOOPSWORLD. “Obviously I want to play but I’m mentally strong and I stay working hard. I’m always in the gym, always the last one to leave and I always prepare myself like I’m playing.”
His teammate, center Amare Stoudemire, says Douglas is one of the most upbeat players on the team and has stayed in good spirits even through his struggles to get on the court.
“Toney’s a phenomenal player and he can still get it done,” Stoudemire said. “He’s been great in the locker room and he’s been great for us ever since he’s been in New York. He’ll be OK.”
When asked if he thought the D’Antoni system may be to blame for his struggles, Douglas took a second to calculate his response before retorting with a stern “no comment.”
However, his teammate Stoudemire says the offensive system is set up for point guards who are able to distribute the basketball on a consistent basis – something Douglas has not been capable of doing on a consistent basis thus far in his career.
“The system is well-designed, so whenever you have a point guard who can distribute the ball, it always works,” Stoudemire said. “You have certain players that thrive in that type of offense and so far we’re doing well [with Lin starting].”
Even though his spot on the bench is virtually set in stone barring injury, Douglas says it isn’t his job to worry about his future with the team and that he is going to continue to stay positive and try to improve his game.
“I can’t control that,” Douglas said of the business side of the NBA. “The only thing I can control is going into the gym every morning, working out and getting better. I’m getting better every day so that’s all I can do. That’s not my job to worry about trades and stuff like that. My job is for me to become a better basketball player and that’s all I’ve been doing.”
Unless a trade happens in the next week, which is unlikely given his low trade value right now, Douglas’ rookie contract isn’t up until after the 2013-2014 season. At least Douglas can continue his NBA career knowing that if he can handle this situation with a positive attitude, he can handle just about anything.
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