A Daily Babble Production
The Knicks may have an improbable battle on their hands for the starting point guard spot after all.
On the heels of a summer that had every indication that Stephon Marbury would be out of town by season's start, the enigmatic point guard not only remains on the Knicks payroll but by all accounts played well at Mike D'Antoni's first training camp with the team. Apparently, Marbury was pretty impressed with his own work, so much so that it led him to predict that he will be in the starting lineup come opening night.
When reporting Marbury's prediction, the New York Post's Marc Berman noted that the coach's sentiments still seem to lie with free agent acquisition Chris Duhon, but there is plenty of time for change prior to the season opener on October 29.
For the sake of the team's long-term growth, Knicks fans would be best served hoping that change doesn't occur.
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We can even forget for the moment that (with all due apologies to my buddy Soap, who is excepted here) you probably wouldn't want Marbury within a 100-mile radius of your team's locker room. The character issues have been rehashed to the point that makes going through them again piling on at this point. This is a decision that can be made simply from an on-court standpoint in the first place.
Of course, every team goes into the season telling itself that it is playing for a championship. But on a level based at least in some part on realism, the New York Knicks' brass needs to know that this team as currently constructed is not going to do that. This truth makes the reasonable expectation for this year to be focusing on building for years down the line.
To that end, even if Marbury is more impressive on an individual level than Duhon, it doesn't make much sense for him to be the main guy going forward. That's because no matter what happens this season, there is little to no likelihood that Marbury will be back in orange and blue a year from now. He makes $21.9 million this season, and he'll be 32 years old next February. He is coming off the least productive season of his career, and he has been both injury-prone and a clubhouse killer over his time in New York. He isn't likely to be settling for any minimum contracts, and if he were to have a productive season in 2008-09, he would almost certainly want quite a bit for his next NBA contract - that is, if he decides against his stated plan of packing up to head to Italy after his current contract expires. Signing him a season from now would make little sense for the Knicks, and there isn't much chance of it happening. Further, all of this theorizing only applies if he even makes it through the season as a Knick, which is no guarantee.
This isn't a player who is going to be a part of the Knicks' long-term future, and even if he can score and get to the rim well once more, he isn't the type of guy that has enough of a positive impact on his team to make it worth starting him for a year. Though Marbury can be a more dynamic scorer than Duhon by leaps and bounds, and though he has posted gaudy assists numbers at times in his career, he has long been known as a me-first point guard, a player who has to get his above all else. That's still likely to be case whether or not he looks to be in good physical shape. Similarly, the guy has never been committed to playing any defense, a part of the game the Knicks have been sorely lacking over the last couple of years.
Marbury might be more physically talented than his younger competition at the point in the Sizable Apple, and perhaps if he is in the right sort of shape, his theatrics might even make the Knicks a bit better than they would be otherwise as far as the coming season's won-loss column is concerned. But his teammates still haven't indicated any change from last year's stance that they didn't want to play with him, and his presence as a focal point of the offense would be more likely to stall the rest of the team's growth than to help it. This isn't to say that he shouldn't be used at all if he is available and physically ready, but he shouldn't be a primary cog in the present when there is a younger, more team-oriented point guard new in town and signed a year deeper into the future.
The Knicks spent the Layden and Thomas eras shooting for instant gratification, and it got them to laughingstock status. Perhaps the new regime of Mike D'Antoni and Donnie Walsh will think the better of it.
But hopefully they won't.
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UPDATE: A day after making his starting lineup prediction, Marbury qualified that assessment by telling the media that he could live with coming off the bench. The "I don't want to go through more distractions" rhetoric from Steph makes Marc Berman's report in the New York Post a particularly amusing read.
That said, if Marbury continues to play well, there could still be a dilemma for D'Antoni and Walsh, and the premise here stands. Marbury shouldn't be the starter no matter how the preseason shakes out.