Still, there are those who wonder if the Knicks made the right move in signing Houston to be their shooting guard when the Indiana Pacers' Reggie Miller was still available. (Miller re-signed with the Pacers for a reported four years and $36 million.) At 31, Miller is six years older than Houston but has more of a thick-skinned New York-style mentality. It also raises eyebrows when a player as expensive as Houston—he has a seven-year, $56 million contract—is on the bench at crunch time, as he was in New York's 89-82 victory over the Denver Nuggets last Saturday. Starks played most of the fourth quarter of that game.
The two newcomers who have made the smoothest transitions are Childs and Williams. Childs, who signed with the Knicks for six years and $24 million, had played in New Jersey and thus was familiar with the New York atmosphere. And after 15 previous NBA seasons (including eight with the Nets), the 36-year-old Williams isn't affected by fickle fans or caustic media. "Buck has been by far our most consistent player," says Van Gundy. "If he's had a bad game this year, I can't remember it. He's been an excellent defender and rebounder, and a better low-post scorer [6.7-point average] than we expected. It's like having another Oakley."
But it's the play of Childs that has given the Knicks reason to believe they will eventually become a potent, balanced offensive team. Childs missed the first nine games of the season with a fractured right fibula and is just beginning to show what a dynamic, clever playmaker he can be. The New York offense, stagnant and predictable most of the season, finally began to look more fluid last week, especially in the win over the Warriors, in which Childs had 12 assists in 24 minutes.
Childs may ultimately prove to be the most important of the Knicks' acquisitions. He is the quickest point guard the team has had since Rod Strickland's 1988-90 tenure in New York, and he is a vocal leader on the floor. It is Childs who gets Johnson easy baskets by pushing the ball up the floor and taking advantage of Johnson's low-post mismatches with smaller players. It is Childs who penetrates and dishes to Houston and Starks on the perimeter for open jumpers. And with Childs handling the ball more, Ewing, not an especially adept passer, will handle it less. That means the other Knicks will be less likely to stand around and watch Ewing shoot jump shots.
"We have so many guys on this team who can score," Childs says, making a statement that hasn't been made about New York with a straight face for years. "It's coming together slowly. I know the fans don't necessarily dig slowly, but it's going to be worth the wait."
Worth the wait. Sounds like it could be a headline.