Dating back to training camp, there has been a level of uncertainty surrounding the Knicks and the point guard position. The skills of Derrick Rose and Brandon Jennings represented upgrades from past years. Each one's injury history (and not to mention, Jennings' streakiness) created some doubt that the duo would be all the Knicks needed at the one, however.
In preseason play, Chasson Randle's potential was easy to identify. His flashy play was punctuated by an ability to penetrate and a pesky defensive nature. He was a seemingly perfect fit to help fill out New York's depth at the position. Unfortunately, an orbital injury derailed his hopes of making the final roster. What's more, team brass saw something worthwhile in the otherwise underrated Ron Baker.
Baker may not be as explosive or agile as Randle, but he too offers something extremely valuable to this team. Despite still being a rookie, Baker plays with an immense amount of maturity on the court. He's young and obviously hasn't had many opportunities to hit the hardwood. Nevertheless, he carries himself with plenty of poise. In a similar fashion to the way Lance Thomas (quite the role model for reserves looking to cement their niche and respective value) plays, Baker is someone who can find ways to contribute while playing alongside higher profile players. All of this also adds up to a player like him handling pressure well, too. He certainly has the respect of his teammates.
The Knicks saw evidence of Baker's poise in mid-December, when Rose played just 10 minutes over a three-game period against the Suns, Warriors and Nuggets. Though New York lost each game, Baker had a positive plus/minus in each one. He boasted a plus-8 against both the Suns and Warriors, proving vital to the Knicks' late comeback efforts.
Though Jeff Hornacek had both Rose and Jennings in his arsenal Friday night against Milwaukee, he surprisingly turned to Baker to lead the Knicks' charge. Following some very clutch play, Baker can now add "successful comeback effort" to a still growing resume. The young gun was strong, controlling the tempo of New York's offense. Playing the entire fourth quarter, Baker kept those around him seemingly calm amid a very tense situation. He was a leader as the Knicks avoided their seventh straight loss. That says a lot about his character.
Such a performance was rather timely, as Baker's contract is set to become guaranteed this weekend. And, according to Michael Scotto on Basketball Insiders, the Knicks will indeed guarantee Baker's contract for the rest of the season.
Perhaps he isn't set to steal any major rotation minutes just yet. Still, Baker has shown that he can provide a steady hand when a change of pace is needed in lieu of the sometimes-overzealous Rose and Jennings.