As the Knicks take on the Hornets in New Orleans Friday night, Knicks fans will be teased, and then quickly brought back to reality. The game will feature a key point guard matchup between Chris Paul, whom the Knicks have been attached to via trade rumors since the summer, and Raymond Felton, the team’s incumbent point guard.
Although Felton’s play has been strong during his team’s climb to a 10-9 record (their best start in six seasons), the Knicks have been linked to potentially trading for and/or signing a “better” point guard in the near future. It’s been quietly maintained that Felton was not the Knicks’ first choice at point guard when he was signed earlier this summer, as the Knicks reportedly had (and may still have) eyes for guards like Paul, Deron Williams and Tony Parker.
However, there may still be one more point guard to add to that still-growing list. In fact, it’s a player who is in especially high regard with Knicks’ coach Mike D’Antoni and star Amar’e Stoudemire: Steve Nash.
At 9-9, Nash’s Suns just cling on to the eighth seed in the Western Conference, with multiple teams trailing not so far behind for the conference’s final playoff spot.
Granted, the NBA is approximately only a quarter into its season, but a .500 record is hardly the type of record that gets a team from the West into the playoffs. However, after the Suns lost their leading scorer in Stoudemire to the Knicks this past summer, perhaps that’s simply the level they are capable of playing at right now.
With “struggles” come rumors of trades, changes, rebuilding and more. After signing a hefty contract extension, Nash knows he is no exception to the rule, but is not overly worried.
“It’s never been a concern of mine. I’m just trying to get this team to come together and I’m not worried about trade talk,” Nash told AOL Fanhouse.
When asked about whether he is planning on leaving the Suns in 2012 when he becomes a free agent (or perhaps wishes his team would move him earlier), he relayed, “I don’t even think about it. That’s too far in advance. So I’m worried about this week and see how good we can be this week.”
At only 10-9, good enough for the seventh seed, the Knicks are in much better standing in the Eastern Conference. As good as Felton has been, there are still rumblings that he could be traded after he becomes eligible on December 15.
Would Nash qualify as one of those (apparently) coveted upgrades at point guard for the Knicks? Would the team go out of its way to acquire him? More curiosity would beg the question of whether Nash would improve the Knicks much more than Felton has already.
The seemingly ageless Nash, after all, is a two-time MVP award winner, both coming while being coached by D’Antoni in Phoenix. He may have Felton beat in pure skill in addition to obvious experience and of course, favoritism.
While Felton has been embracing his inner point guard under the reign of D’Antoni, the Knicks have still depended on his individual offense. He is the team’s second-leading scorer with 18.2 points per game.
Nash, who is also averaging over 18 points for his own team, recently mentioned he wished his points would go down and assists would go up, giving the Suns more balance.
On the Knicks, it is possible that Nash would be equally as depended on for his scoring as Felton. At the same time, Felton is playing above any other level he has before, so perhaps his eight assists per game (under D’Antoni) has been his maximum potential production. It may simply be in his nature to score more.
Nash, on the other hand, is a pure passing point guard who may be more fluent than Felton is at being able to get other players involved, such as Danilo Gallinari and Wilson Chandler. In the case of Gallo, D’Antoni has said multiple times he believes that Gallo has the potential to be a 20 point scorer. Perhaps that is due to how he saw Nash maximize the potential of so many of his teammates in the past.
If Nash (or Felton, for that matter) were able to bring that much out of Gallinari, the point guard on the Knicks would not be depended on to score as much. That was, after all, the Knicks’ original vision, as Gallinari was expected to become Stoudemire’s right hand man.
Ironically enough, Nash and Felton both become free agents at the same time. There’s no assurance that Nash’s play will continue to be at the same level in 2012, after he turns 38 and would be free to join the Knicks. However, he has so far shown no signs of slowing down; proving like fine wine, he only improves with age.
Whether the Knicks trade for Nash early on, or even consider him as much of an upgrade at point guard as some of the NBA’s younger talents, remains to be determined.
For now, D’Antoni and his team can only hope that the wins rack up and Felton continues to improve, thus not giving them a reason to look elsewhere as rumored.