Sam SpiegelmanFor the first time in recent memory, the Knicks went .500 on the week. Not coincidently, this was arguably the most difficult week to choose a Player of the Week.
There were a number of worthy candidates, beginning with Carmelo Anthony, but the role players — largely due to injuries — have had no choice but to step up. Among the key contributors of late: Beno Udrih, Andrea Bargnani and Tim Hardaway Jr.
And to be honest, just seeing Tyson Chandler out there battling in his first game back from a broken tibula almost warmed my heart enough to hand him the honor.
But, when it’s all said and done, one role player has been forced to step into the starting lineup and has outplayed the starter, and that player is Udrih.
The veteran point guard has averaged more than 14 points per game, including a season-high 21 points filling in for the injured Pablo Prigioni in Wednesday night’s double-overtime victory over the Milwaukee Bucks.
The Knicks have a had a rash of injuries plagued point guards this season, and between Raymond Felton struggling and Prigioni getting hurt just as he got an opportunity, Udrih’s veteran presence has had a clear impact.
As a distributor, Udrih has totaled 11 assists in the last three contests. And last night, the veteran played starter’s minutes, playing in 40 minutes, his highest total on the year.
As I stated earlier, Bargnani and Hardaway Jr. were both worthy candidates for Player of the Week honors as well. Bargnani went 12-10 off the bench in last night’s victory, and has averaged 16 points and 7 rebounds in his last three. Hardaway Jr. has been a spark off the bench for New York, averaging almost 12 points per game and more importantly providing the team with some energy when he’s on the court.