Nate Robinson's energy and production off the bench made him a fan favorite at Madison Square Garden. The diminutive guard now appears to be regaining coach Mike D'Antoni's favor -- at the expense of Chris Duhon.
Robinson is expected to make his first start in almost a year Friday night when the Knicks host the Milwaukee Bucks.
The 5-foot-9 Robinson had his best season in 2008-09, averaging 17.2 points and 4.1 assists in D'Antoni's first season coaching the Knicks (19-29).
That production hasn't carried over into 2009-10, as he's posted 12.9 points and 3.5 assists per game while being used as a reserve in all 27 contests. He started 11 times last season.
Robinson has also developed a tepid relationship with D'Antoni, who yelled at him for lofting a 3-pointer at the wrong basket at the end of the first quarter of a win over New Jersey on Nov. 21. The shot went in just after the buzzer.
D'Antoni didn't use Robinson at all for 14 games in December, and the guard was fined $25,000 by the league after his agent publicly demanded a trade.
He's appeared in 15 of 16 games since returning, averaging 14.4 points and 3.8 assists. Robinson came up especially big Wednesday, scoring 23 points with eight assists and six rebounds to help New York end a three-game skid with a 107-85 victory over Washington.
He provided a spark after starting the second half in place of the struggling Duhon, who had two points on 1-of-6 shooting.
"In the first half we were dead in the water and I didn't feel like there was any life," D'Antoni said. "We weren't giving anyone in the building anything to cheer about. I just thought we needed Nate to show some energy and he did, and the rest of the guys responded really well."
After injecting that needed energy, Robinson is expected to replace Duhon at the start of Friday's game.
Duhon leads the Knicks with 6.3 assists per game, but is averaging just 8.0 points. His shooting has become a major problem of late, as he's shooting 24.6 percent from the field and averaging 3.5 points over his last 11 games.
"Nate's playing well, I'm not playing well. I'm not getting it done, so it's his job to make this team win," said Duhon, who averaged career highs of 11.1 points and 7.2 assists last season -- his first with New York. "Nate is obviously capable of doing that."
A sprained ankle forced Robinson to miss the Knicks' 102-87 loss at Milwaukee (21-26) on Nov. 7, while Duhon mustered one point and four assists in 20:13 of play.
Robinson had 32 points and eight assists off the bench to lead the Knicks to a 120-112 win over the Bucks on March 10, also at Milwaukee. That was New York's only victory over the Bucks in the last six meetings between the teams, two of which have come at Madison Square Garden.
Milwaukee is looking to conclude a three-game road trip above .500 after falling 99-82 at Orlando on Tuesday.
A two-day layoff might be what Brandon Jennings needs to rebound from perhaps his worst performance of the season. The rookie guard had a season-low two points on 1-for-7 shooting Tuesday after scoring nine in a 97-81 victory at Miami the previous night.
"It was one of them," Skiles told the NBA's official Web site after the loss to the Magic. "He's had some difficulty in the second games of back-to-backs and it's understandable, too. It's something he hasn't done before."
Jennings, who leads the Bucks with 17.2 points and 6.2 assists per game, had 17 points against the Knicks in November.
MATCH-UP OF THE GAME:
PG N. Robinson 12.9 ppg
SF W. Chandler 15.2 ppg
PF J. Jeffries 5.2 ppg
F D. Gallinari 14.6 ppg
C D. Lee 19.7 ppg
SG C. Bell 7.8 ppg
PG B. Jennings 17.2 ppg
SF C. Delfino 10.0 ppg
SF L. Mbah a Moute 5.8 ppg
C A. Bogut 15.9 C ppg