Pablo Prigioni changes his role for the Knicks
Saturday, January 5, 2013
BY STEVE POPPER
Pablo Prigioni may be new to the NBA, but not to basketball after a lifetime of stardom overseas. But still, he is grounded, a fundamentally sound, unselfish old school point guard.
What he has seen in his basketball life told him that he’d erred Thursday night when he fired a pass to J.R. Smith, cutting along the baseline. Intended to be a lob, it was too fast, too low. Except that nowhere in his basketball life has he encountered anyone like Smith, who grabbed the pass and in one motion swung it over his head, rifling it through for a sensational dunk.
"I like him a lot," Prigioni said. "Doesn’t matter how you pass the ball, he will catch it. I don’t know how he dunked the ball because I think the pass was too low. But he catch it. He go up. He’s amazing."
The two combined the other way, too, if a bit more earthbound, earlier in the game when Smith weaved through traffic and fed Prigioni cutting along the baseline and the 35-year-old Argentine rookie flipped in a reverse layup. That one, as you might expect, didn’t lead any highlight shows.
But Prigioni did his job Thursday, without the flash. He played 27 minutes — his second highest total of the regular season — and handed out nine assists with six points and three steals.
Prigioni’s job has changed in recent weeks. It’s closer to what he was in the Spanish League, where he was one of the top point guards, and for the Argentine National team, where he teamed with Manu Ginobili and Luis Scola. His fellow countrymen convinced him to finally head to the NBA.
With Raymond Felton sidelined for what is expected to be four to six weeks after fracturing his left pinkie Christmas Day, Prigioni and Jason Kidd are needed to step up. And after empty offensive performances by the pair, Knicks coach Mike Woodson sat them down and told them he needed more.
"I tell him, I know how Raymond plays — this is not my game," Prigioni said. "I will try to do my best and try to be aggressive and attack the basket. If I can finish I finish. If not I try to pass the ball. Even if I want to I can’t do what Raymond does. I only can try to give my best and put all my best for the team."
Prigioni did put up nine shots Thursday against the Spurs, which was one off of his season high. The Knicks know that he will not be the scorer Felton is, but do need him to present the threat.
"With Raymond out, everybody wants me to do something extra and more — me and Jason," Prigioni said. "We are two point guards that are healthy. So I will try to give my best until Ray comes back, and then when he comes back try to go back to my role on the team and continue trying to do my best in my role. I will try to focus this two or three weeks until Raymond comes back to give all that I have for the team and then come back for my role."
"He was great," Woodson said after the effort against the Spurs. "He stepped up. I thought Kidd did a great job early in the game getting us off to a good start. And they’re going to have to continue to play that way. I was able to rest Kidd for a while and let Pablo roll up the minutes, and he did an excellent job running our ballclub."