Duhon signs with Knicks, could start

July 9, 2008 6:52:25 PM PDT
Chris Duhon is coming to compete for the New York Knicks' starting point guard job. Nobody is saying yet if that competition will be against Stephon Marbury.Duhon signed a two-year deal Wednesday worth more than $11 million, choosing the Knicks over the Orlando Magic because of an opportunity to play in new coach Mike D'Antoni's system - perhaps as the starter.

"He gives guards a lot of freedom to be themselves, to express themselves," Duhon said. "He just has a lot of confidence that we'll flourish in this type of type of system."

Duhon spent his first four years with the Chicago Bulls, averaging a career-low 5.8 points last season. He was not re-signed by the Bulls, who needed to clear room in their backcourt after drafting point guard Derrick Rose with the No. 1 pick.

Already frustrated by his inconsistent role while playing with Ben Gordon and Kirk Hinrich, Duhon figured he wouldn't be back in Chicago even before the Bulls won the lottery in May.

He had interest from an Orlando team that seems on the rise, reaching the second round of the playoffs last season. Instead, he agreed to join the 23-win Knicks, coming off their seventh straight losing season.

"Are the Knicks one of the best teams in the league? No, not at all," Duhon said. "But the opportunity to be part of a change is also great and something I'm looking forward to. People don't realize when I went to the Bulls, we were kind of in the same situation and we were able to turn that around."

Duhon could become an immediate starter in New York. Marbury has a year and more than $21 million left on his contract, but ankle surgery cut short the worst season of his career and the Knicks may prefer to move on without him.

Duhon said he was given no assurances he would be the starter, and team president Donnie Walsh denied offering any. Further, Walsh said he hasn't even began considering what his plans are for Marbury, who angered the organization last season on multiple occasions.

"I haven't projected it that far. Right now the players that are on this team are on this team," Walsh said. "All I know is the guy's got a lot of talent, he's a very good player and that's it."

Walsh added that D'Antoni's uptempo system makes it necessary to have multiple guards that can distribute the ball. Besides Marbury, the Knicks have mostly combination guards, but no true points.

Marbury left the team during an early season game in Phoenix after a disagreement with former coach Isiah Thomas, then opted for the surgery even though the Knicks weren't sure it was necessary.

Marbury also feuded with Larry Brown, Thomas' predecessor, and his poor reputation combined with his high salary would make a trade difficult. The Knicks could consider buying out the remainder of his contract, though Marbury has said he wants to return and is trying to show his commitment, coming to D'Antoni's introductory press conference in May.