The New York Knicks signed veteran guard Mike Bibby, re-signed forward Jared Jeffries, and inked their two draft picks Sunday, finally giving themselves enough healthy bodies to hold a normal practice.
With guard Iman Shumpert and center Josh Harrellson signing, the Knicks’ roster is at 11 players. Most of their moves were on hold while they worked to complete a three-team trade that brought Tyson Chandler from Dallas to New York on Saturday.
Bibby could replace Chauncey Billups, who the Knicks used the amnesty clause on to waive so they could afford Chandler’s four-year, $56 million contract. Bibby has averaged 15.2 points in 13 NBA seasons but struggled last season for the Miami Heat, managing only 3.6 points per game in 20 postseason starts.
For now, he’s expected to come off the bench behind Toney Douglas, saying he is comfortable with those plans after agreeing to a one-year deal.
”I don’t have nothing to prove. Ever since I came in people have doubted me. I’m going on my 14th year,” Bibby said. ”I don’t care what you guys say. I don’t care what anybody says about me. I’ve always been like that. I’m going to go out and do whatever it takes to help the team win. If that (means) for me standing on the sideline cheering, that’s what I got to do. You know, I’m here to win. I’m going to play the role that they want me to play. Whatever that is.”
The Knicks decided to sign Bibby in part because of a recommendation from new assistant coach Mike Woodson, who coached Bibby in Atlanta.
”We think he’s still got some gas left in the tank,” coach Mike D’Antoni said. ”Obviously, he’s a very smart, good-shooting point guard and there’s not many guys that can come off the bench as good as him. He’ll know his role and he’s looking forward to it. Then we’ll see what happens.”
Bibby could still start, but D’Antoni is confident in Douglas, who started the final three games of the Knicks’ first-round loss to Boston despite a shoulder injury after Billups was hurt in the opener.
”The playoff experience will help although he got hurt, but that will help,” D’Antoni said. ”Toney is a very determined young man. One of the reasons why we could do this is that we saw what Toney did when he was out there by himself. He did a great job. We expect more of the same.”
Douglas shook off criticism that point guard play remains New York’s major problem. He started only nine games last season, but believes he gained the confidence of Carmelo Anthony and Amare Stoudemire when he replaced Billups in the postseason.
”Nah, I don’t feel like I have anything to prove. My coaches, my teammates, they back me. So everybody else, they’re going to have opinions but at the same time I just want to win games and help the team win,” Douglas said.
”That helped me a lot. I wouldn’t wish the injury on Chauncey, but me stepping in right there and playing with Amare and Melo at that crucial moment really helped and also in the playoffs, even though my shoulder was hurting, that experience helped me. I’m coming with a different attitude this year, mentally and physically ready.”
Shumpert, the No. 17 pick from Georgia Tech, is also an option at the point.
Jeffries, a favorite of D’Antoni because of his ability to defend multiple positions, will be a reserve behind the frontcourt of Stoudemire, Anthony and Chandler. The 6-foot-10, 275-pound Harrellson could add some bulk off the bench after the Knicks acquired the former Kentucky center’s draft rights from the Hornets.
The Knicks had only six players available a day earlier, a week before their preseason opener at New Jersey.
”The first time we could get some five-on-five was good. I thought the guys were relatively in good shape. So practice was good,” D’Antoni said.
”Just a lot of stuff. Just getting familiar with what we do and trying to get the language on the right page and trying to get ready for Saturday and get some good tape that we can show them. (We’re) just trying to build the team as real quick. A lot of moving parts but I was just encouraged by their attitude and willingness to do things. That’s half the battle.”