Robinson, Hill Give Knicks a Boost

Mike D'Antoni is nothing if not consistent with his rotations. He plays eight guys -- the same eight guys -- night in and night out. If you're in the rotation, you get your run. If you're out, you might as well not even put on your uniform under your warmups.

That rigidity has probably cost the Knicks a game or two this season -- the games in December he refused to use Nate Robinson, even when Larry Hughes was hurt spring immediately to mind. But there's another down side to playing playoff-style rotations in mid-winter: the team gets run down. That's particualrly true at the Knicks' thinnest positions, point guard and center. Chris Duhon seems to be in the midst of a January swoon for the second straight season - he's failed to score in New York's last two games. Meanwhile, David Lee was noticeably dragging during the MLK Day matinee against the Pistons, and no wonder; Lee played 139 out of a possible 144 minutes in the Knicks' three previous games, and managed to work in a trip home for his grandfather's funeral in between.

It seems D'Antoni recognizes the problem, and is making an adjustment to bring fresher -- and more athletic -- players into the mix.

The most immediate beneficiary is Nate Robinson. Though Robinson won't take over Chris Duhon's starting job, it sounds like he'll play a more significant role going forward -- much of it at the point. Robinson scored a game-high 27 points in Monday's game, and played 33 minutes to Duhon's 19. D'Antoni is clearly uncomfortable with the idea of using Robinson as his primary floor leader, so this may not be a long-term solution -- but until Duhon gets back on track, look for Robinson to play starter-type minutes.

The other player showing signs of life is rookie Jordan Hill. The little-used lottery pick won't make New Yorkers stop wishing for Brandon Jennings any time soon, but he's played 15 minutes in each of New York's last two games. His stat lines haven't been memorable -- an identical six points on 3-of-5 shooting in both games -- but on Saturday night, against Detroit's athletic and mobile frontcourt, Hill was on the floor for the bulk of New York's near comeback, and finished the game with an impressive plus/minus of +17. (Robinson was the only other Knick in positive numbers on the night.)

Hill gives the Knicks another big man with the athleticism to guard multiple positions -- a key to New York's defense, which is built around Jared Jeffries' ability to switch off on just about anyone. Now, it's hard to imagine Hill guarding the likes of Steve Nash or Chris Paul as Jeffries has this season... but it's equally hard to imagine Hill botching a layup or five-footer, something Jeffries does nightly. Players in deeper leagues might want to take a long look at Hill now -- players in shallow leagues might want to give him a look if Jeffries is traded before the deadline.


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