Toney Douglas will bring confidence to the Madison Square Garden court Monday night against Toronto, and not just because he had 17 points, eight assists and drew praise from his teammates and coach in Sacramento on Saturday night. Douglas will be confident because he always is.
His basketball self-esteem is not bred by the boxscore or public opinion. He said it is an outgrowth of his preparation. He always is optimistic that his time in the gym will pay off, and soon.
"I had two not-good games previous to this, but my confidence always stays high," he said after the 114-92 win over the Kings. "I keep working out, watch film. With every bad game I have, I treat the next one like I never had a bad game."
That credo sure came into play during the West Coast trip. The Knicks as a group played poorly against the Warriors and Lakers, especially offensively. That was a direct reflection on the guard running the show.
Granted, Douglas is learning on the fly, and he might not be the permanent point guard once Baron Davis is healthy. Still, it is his job now. It is up to him to keep the team's temperature from going cold or boiling over.
"I don't work hard for no reason," he said. "That's what keeps my head high -- and knowing that, hey, this is the NBA. We play a lot of games. I can always redeem myself."
Saturday night was a good shot at redemption. The Knicks were playing a team that did not play good defense, and everyone on the Knicks played with extra energy and focus because Amar'e Stoudemire was out with a sprained ankle. Also, the team had worked in practice Friday on spreading the floor more and moving the ball.
"Toney did a great job, getting himself going, getting other guys going, getting us going as a unit," Carmelo Anthony said. "We fed off of that. I looked up and I only had like one or two points and we were up double figures. That's how the night was."
Said Mike D'Antoni: "I thought Toney played like he did last year. He had eight assists, one turnover. He didn't shoot great [6-for-18], but he made threes. He did what he does. When he does that, it's pretty good."
Speaking of playing like last year -- way back to the start of 2011 -- Landry Fields made 10 of 18 shots and scored 21 points. That, combined with his strong start against the Warriors, was a sign that he may have rebounded from the slide that overtook him after the Anthony trade.
Referring to the two losses last week, Fields said: "I don't like harping on the past, but obviously there are some things to learn from those. When the ball moves, you can see how successful we can be. It opens up a variety of things, not only for me."
Said D'Antoni: "If the ball moves, they'll play better. They're a little bit of a product of our team. As coaches and players, we've got to make sure we do that."
Douglas added that he will try not to try too hard. The poor games might have occurred because he and other Knicks were going beyond their roles. He is confident he will do better.
"On our off time," he said, "we're still going to try to improve the things that you want to improve on. During the game, you're going to do what you do great."
Notes & quotes:Iman Shumpert practiced shooting before the game Saturday. That was the most activity he has been allowed since he sprained the MCL in his right knee on Christmas Day. "They said two to three weeks,'' Shumpert said, "and I'm ahead of schedule. That's all I know right now." . . .
Knicks rookie Josh Harrellson, who had 14 points and 12 rebounds, said, "I was a little nervous, excited . . . My teammates did a great job just making me calm, making me confident out there.''
Congrats to Douglas, but we can't let a good shooting game dictate his lack of playmaking, because, though he was throwing dimes, he still has a ways to go to meet expectations.
Good to hear about Shump being ahead of schedule on returning.