When the New York Knicks were down 84-82 to the Miami Heat Sunday in one of the most anticipated games this season, it was not one of the five All-Stars on the floor who became the hero of the game. Chauncey Billups drained a three to give his New York Knicks the lead, and one they would not give back.
It’s no big deal for Billups, whose nickname his whole career has been “Mr. Big Shot,” and that bucket re-certified his nickname.
The Knicks won the game — only one of 82 regular season game — but what many people are not saying, or do not even know, is that Chauncey Billups will mean more to the Knicks’ success this season than Carmelo Anthony or Amare Stoudemire will.
The hype machine that travels the NBA landscape is front and center on Amare and Carmelo teaming up and bringing the Knicks to the promised land. Listen to the conversation they had in an interview with ESPN — discussions about bringing the championship home (neither person grew up in New York), and dreams of the parade and how it feels to be apart of bringing the Knicks a championship. Many people are talking about the Knicks being contenders with these two players, but are ignoring the basketball logistics. Both players need the ball; Carmelo is a volume shooter — he has to shoot 20 times to score 25 points (he took 22 shots to score 29 against the Heat, and that was with 8 free throws and 2 assists in 37 minutes). Amare needed 14 points to score 16, 0 free throws and had 3 assists in 40 minutes. The point is both men are isolation players who are not even average passers.
So how are the Knicks going to win with two players who command and dominate the basketball, while being inefficient? Compare Carmelo and Amare’s respective games Sunday to Billups, who scored 16 points on 11 shots, went 3-4 from the line and had two assists. Chauncey Billups is that answer.
Billups was seen as a throw-in player in the Carmelo Anthony trade between Denver and New York. He is 34, on the last year of his contract, and he didn’t want to leave Denver because he grew up there and was a cornerstone in that community. But he went gracefully, and in the two wins the Knicks have had, he has played as big of a role (if not more) in both of New York’s wins as any of his teammates did.
Billups’ value to the Knicks cannot be understated. Mike D’Antoni’s system requires the primary ball handler to get the ball where it needs to go. Prior to Carmelo’s arrival, it was easy to run the offense — throw the ball to Amare — and Raymond Felton could do that. But with Carmelo, now you have two huge, New York-style egos, and you need a point guard who is more savvy at distribution and who can handle both players.
Chauncey Billups is that guy.
The Knicks would not have beat Miami Sunday night if Felton were still their point guard. But because Billups knows this situation, and is comfortable in it, he is the right guy for the position. He doesn’t need to score to be effective, unlike Carmelo and Amare. He will play perimeter defense while Carmelo doesn’t even know what defense means. And he is a pure, respected, and thoughtful leader — something Carmelo and Amare have never been accused of. If the Knicks want to make more noise, it will be on the back of Chauncey Billups, not Carmelo or Amare.
As the season winds down, and the Knicks venture into the playoffs, they will need a player who can lead them through the rocky times, who will never shoot them out of a game, and who will grind it out when it matters. Chauncey Billups has been there and done that. If the point wasn’t clear enough, when asked how he felt about the trade, Nuggets Coach George Karl said he was sad, because Chauncey Billups was leaving, not Carmelo.
He may not be a superstar, he may not score a ton of points, but he has the one thing both Amare and Carmelo both want — a championship ring. If the Knicks are going to have a parade this off-season, it will be Mr. Big Shot who will be in front of the masses, leading the charge.
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