Raymond Felton won't need surgery on the pinky finger that has recently kept him from hitting the hardwood, but the injury will still force him to be sidelined for 4-6 more weeks.
The Knicks have preached their point guard depth as a key to the team's continued success all season long, but with Felton down for the count, elder statesman Jason Kidd will likely be looked upon to log heavy minutes for the next month plus. In addition, Pablo Prigioni, who has shown promise in sporadic minutes, will also be thrust into a top reserve role as well.
Kidd's value, prior to the start of the season, was ranked highly because of the situation he was slated to be in as a Knickerbocker. As a backup, Kidd would have been able to play limited minutes and preserve himself for the postseason. That plan instantly changed when the veteran was thrust into a staring role due to the team's various injuries. The latest one to Felton will allow Kidd to strut his stuff as a more natural floor general and truly run the squad's offense.
On the flip side, Prigioni's high energy defensive prowess was beneficial to New York because he could hop off the bench and catch opponents off guard in bunches. Now, he'll be asked to display a similar skill set on a more consistent basis.
With both older floor generals expected to take on expanded roles and play more serious minutes, many wonder if the duo can do enough to pace the Knicks' efforts on both sides of the court in Felton's absence.
We'll have to wait and see, but the fact is, New York is better off coping with the cards they've been dealt right now, regardless of the situation.
From free agent NBA veterans to promising D-League prospects, there are certainly plenty of floor general options to be had by the Knicks. Signing one could enable the team to more effectively fill the void and make sure the squad doesn't miss a beat while charging ahead into the new year.
But what happens after that? In order to bring a player in, the Knicks would also be faced with cutting one of their own. Rasheed Wallace and Chris Copeland are the team's only two non-guaranteed contracts. Athletic but lesser used swingman James White signed for the league's minimum guaranteed contract this past summer.
None of those players should be cut. Given the chemistry, camaraderie, and potential the Knicks have shown to be able to bounce back in the face of hardship this season, the team should do nothing but roll with the bunches. Not only have Wallace, Copeland, and White all shown signs of positivity in limited minutes, but they've all accepted their respective roles with open arms. They fit in well with the team's makeup, and removing one of them would only shake things up even further.
What's more, the better point guard options available (like Derek Fisher, Mike James, and Johnny Flynn) all consist of otherwise established NBA players. When Felton (not to mention, Amar'e Stoudemire and Iman Shumpert) returns to action, it will prove difficult to get the new addition(s) time on the court as the months go on. Filling a void for a such a short period of time is not worth thrusting somebody new in the mix, while taking away a piece that has undoubtedly contributed to the Knicks' early success.
Instead, New York should search in house to find floor general alternatives. In addition to Kidd and Prigioni, the bold and fearless J.R. Smith will surely have no problem taking on expanded responsibilities. He has shown an impressive knack for ball-handling as of late, and has been racking up the assists off the bench. He knows how to look and find the open man.
Furthermore, in Coach Woodson's isolation heavy offense, his premier scorers often are asked to control the tempo. In addition to Smith, expect to see Carmelo Anthony run the floor and bring the ball up and down the court as well, simply because he's going to be the man with the ball in his hands at the end of possessions anyway.
The Knicks undoubtedly face a challenge in moving ahead without Raymond Felton helping them run the show. But if the last two months are any indication, this team is gritty, tough, and determined as ever to conquer any hardship that stands in the way of their success.