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Q-Rich Revival Aberration Or Foreshadowing?

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A Daily Babble Production

It turns out the Knicks' roster isn't limited to malcontents of whom you wouldn't want any part (see: Marbury, Randolph, Curry) and that one stud youngster whose lack of an extension makes suitors around the league happy for the moment (David Lee).  Particularly after his performance Sunday night, swingman Quentin Richardson falls right in the heart of the gray area.

Though the Knicks lost at home to the Bucks, Richardson's offensive effort was certainly not the problem.  The veteran forward poured in 28 points on 11-of-18 shooting (5-for-11 from deep) to go with 9 rebounds.  It was a throwback performance for a player who not so long ago thrived under Mike D'Antoni's watch, and at least for the moment, it brings the questions surrounding Richardson's future prospects with the Knicks back into focus.

A season ago, this looked like a guy who was on the verge of being done.  For good.  By the end of his third season with the Knicks, Richardson had played 55, 49 and 65 games over those three campaigns respectively.  Hampered by injuries, he slogged through the worst season of his career, scoring 8.1 points per game and shooting 35.9 percent from the field and 32.2 percent from deep to contribute to a miserly 44.4 percent true shooting mark, the lowest of his career.  He looked strained getting up and down the floor, and his shooting motion appeared awkward throughout the season.  He missed open looks left and right, and it was genuinely painful to watch him with the ball.

Q-Rich didn't do much else last season either.  His rebounding fell from 7.2 per game in 2006-07 to 4.8 last season, despite his playing only five less minutes per game.  The 6-foot-6 forward didn't provide much of any defensive presence either, which had been a strength of his in past seasons.  It was his second largely unproductive year of his three with the Knicks, sandwiched around that 2006-07 season, in which he put up more than 13 points per game and a 53.2 percent true shooting to go with his solid rebounding figures.  Two rough seasons out of three, and a rapidly deteriorating physique didn't seem to add up to much of a future for Richardson in New York.

But if there is anyone who might be able to kick-start Q-Rich on this particular Knicks team, that someone would be his old coach, Mike D'Antoni.  Richardson played one season for D'Antoni in Phoenix in 2004-05, and he thrived.  When healthy, this is a guy who gets up and down the floor and loves the freewheeling style that D'Antoni espouses as it provides him no shortage of open perimeter looks (with the green light to shoot) and easy lay-up finishes on the fast break.  He put up nearly 15 points per game on 52.2 percent true shooting and pulled down more than 6 boards per outing as well that year.  A fully intact Richardson has the desire to run, the athleticism to finish at the rim and the shooting touch to prosper from the outside in an uptempo system.  It turns out he isn't a bad on-ball defender either when he puts his mind to it.

This all brings us back to the original question of which Q-Rich the Knicks will get this season.  It bears remembering that the swingman is only 28 years old and should be entering the prime of his career rather than a graceless goodbye.  He has a coach in place who wants to play a system that will make him look good, which means it's all about staying healthy from here on out.  If Richardson can do that, look for him to regain his status as one of the few Knicks playing with some degree of effectiveness.