The New York Knicks are having one of their finest seasons in a long while, pleasing the faithful and very, very rabid fanbase.
The last week or so, however, has been concerning for the team. With starting center and reliable interior presence Mitchell Robinson already sidelined since December 12th due to ankle issues, two more key pieces were also been bitten by the injury bug – Julius Randle, who dislocated his shoulder and could be out until the end of February, and OG Anunoby, who has an ailing elbow. Both have missed the Knicks’ last four games. Randle will sadly miss out on his third All-Star game, where he would have been alongside Jalen Brunson.
If that’s not enough, Brunson also turned his ankle during Wednesday’s 123-112 win against the Memphis Grizzlies. He left the game and didn’t come back, but as a slightly good sign, it was reported that the guard has avoided a severe sprain.
Adding to the frustration is how bad the timing is, seeing as how it’s right in the middle of the team’s nine-game winning streak, with other East opponents playing inconsistently.
Fortunately for the Knickerbockers, guys are stepping up to steer away from trending down, with Donte DiVincenzo at the forefront. He may further his efforts now that Brunson is day-to-day
The five-year pro is a solid journeyman who’s known to provide offense as a shooter and energy off-the-bench, as widely seen in his stints with the Milwaukee Bucks, Sacramento Kings, and Golden State Warriors. This past off-season, he signed with the Knicks to join former Villanova Wildcat teammates: Brunson, Josh Hart, and Ryan Arcidiacono.
DiVincenzo stayed the same for the most part and did his job well. While at the second unit during the first 20 games of the season, he filled in as a starter in two outings, chipping in 19.5 points on 66.7% shooting, including 11 total three-pointers. It wasn’t left unnoticed by head coach Tom Thibodeau and his staff, and by early December, the career reliever was inserted into the starting lineup. He hasn’t looked back since.
As part of the resurgence, which was heightened by the absences of Randle and Anunoby, DiVincenzo upped his scoring, so much so that he’s right up there with Brunson over the last couple of games.
First 20 games (as a back-up guard)
- 9.1 points, 2.8 rebounds, 1.7 assists, 0.9 steals, 20.3 minutes
Next 26 games (as a starter)
- 13.2 points, 3.4 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 1.3 steals, 23.8 minutes
Last five games (as a starter with Randle and Anunoby out)
- 27.8 points, 4.8 points, 4.2 assists, 1.8 steals, 39.9 minutes
Doubling your points and helping the team into a 4-1 stretch right as two co-starters went out is impressive, especially since it helped maintain the group’s momentum.
It doesn’t hurt that DiVincenzo is a confident shooter that has been given a bright, green light. As soon as he got the nod, he simply strutted to the floor and proceeded to hoist bombs. In his current scorching run, he is averaging 14.2 attempts per game from beyond the arc (more than double his average prior), but is still able to compile a respectable 39.4% clip.
At the same time, though, he is also able to flex his ability to put the ball on the floor and attack downhill, so as such, the points keep coming in healthy amounts – 28, 33, 20, 26, and 32.
Next on the Knicks’ calendar is a date with Luka Doncic, Kyrie Irving, and the rest of the Dallas Mavericks this coming Friday. It wouldn’t be a surprise if the team elects to rest Brunson after an injury scare, and if that happens, we may see DiVincenzo as the lone feature scorer. It will be a huge test for him, but also another opportunity to prove his stock.