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Wednesday, March 30, 2011

NBA REPORT

Billups a real liability for Knicks


NEW YORK — Chiming in at a minus-17 against the Bucks, Chauncey Billups was a "moot point guard," coins column chondriac Richie Kalikow.

I forget . . . how many good years does Mike D'Antoni estimate Billups has left?

Was he quoted saying three or four?

Guess that might be in the realm of reality as long as Billups doesn't have to guard anybody at his position . . . or get the ball inside early on the shot clock to Amare Stoudemire or Carmelo Anthony . . . vs. hoisting unsavory threes and making very few.

In that case, maybe the Knicks really intend to pick up next season's full $14.2 million option, as reported by the New York Daily News by the June 20 deadline, though we're still waiting for a reasonable (any) explanation for the delay.

D'Antoni was probably talking about Marcus Banks having three or four good years left.

For those of you who might have tuned him out by now, D'Antoni has joined ranks with so many other extraordinary oblivious observers. In interview after interview all we hear is the same tired refrain, "We gotta do a better job."

It's so feeble.

Come on, son, you can do better than that.

"We gotta do a better job!"

Well, what are you waiting for, coach?

I would accuse D'Antoni of checking out, but I'm not all that sure he ever checked in. Taking command of the Knicks' situation is more than standing in front of the bench with your arms crossed or pacing the sidelines and clapping hands, shouting encouragement, you would think.

As best as I can tell, D'Antoni's pre-game or "on-the-fly adjustments" are neither obvious nor subtle. He may be making them but they're not paying off. Nothing changes.

I take that back. After intermission against the Bucks on Friday, D'Antoni realized Billups couldn't stop Brandon Jennings — his opponent five days earlier — or any fleet-footed caretaker, for that matter, from tap-dancing past him into the paint and creating instantaneous defensive emergencies for the Knicks' inferior interior.

Considering it was Billups' eighth game back following six on the shelf due to a thigh bruise (it'll be interesting to see how long it takes Manu Ginobili to come back from the one he sustained against Memphis) and 11th overall since his arrival from Denver, it's fair to figure D'Antoni should have picked up sooner on Chauncey's limitation.

("We've seen it with boxers how after one tough fight they're never the same and it's all downhill from there. A few weeks ago against Orlando, Chauncey got injured and got old," e-mails a celebrity Knicks fan.)

The Nuggets felt strongly that Billups was nearing the end, I responded. That's why they insisted he be included in any Melo trade, either to the Nets or the Knicks.

At first, the Knicks and their fans gloated about getting Billups, but the team really had no choice. I'll always believe Donnie Walsh would have preferred to keep Raymond Felton, to name one give-away, but there were in-coming contracts to match.

The Nuggets wanted him out of hometown Denver so they didn't have to do the dirty deed come June 20 and cut him loose at a savings of $10.45 million.

"Slow, aging or moot point guards can only work on teams that have real big men (i.e. Derek Fisher). Miami won a title with Jason Williams for Christ's sake. But slow point, plus no center, equals Dunk City," the source added.)

* * * * *

There are plenty of similar personnel or game situations D'Antoni dawdles to counter, if he reacts at all. If he is going to stand, it would be nice to be able to think (fast) on his feet.

"Mike D's lone expectation as coach was to 'be better than Isiah Thomas,' " e-mails John Busacca from Orlando. "That's like telling a newly married man to be a 'better husband than Tiger Woods.' "

Proving I don't always accentuate the negative, let's wrap this up with a positive outlook: Try as the Knicks might to tank the remainder of the season, there's no way, it says here, they'll be able to incinerate their invite to the second season . . . though I certainly applaud their effort.

Saturday night's visit to Charlotte offered the perfect illustration of what has become an imperfect finish — one team, a month removed from a theoretically franchise-redefining trade, trying to avoid falling to eighth in the Eastern Conference; while the Bobcats, whose owner did nothing at the deadline unlinked with the phrase "salary dump," are attempting to grab enough gusto to apprehend eighth.

* * * * *

According to reports, the Mets stand to lose about $100 million between last season and this one. In fact, things are so bad, the only way they get back from Florida is to bum a ride with kids returning from spring break.

Saturday's matchup of the evening: Atlanta, playing out the season, hosted New Jersey, playing out the decade.

Peter Vecsey covers the NBAfor the New York Post.


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