Plenty of New York Knicks have taken blame when things have gone wrong, from J.R. Smith shooting too much, to Carmelo Anthony not playing defense, to Kurt Thomas not retiring. But when credit is doled out for what has truly been a solid season, one deserving player is always lost in the shuffle.
That man is Pablo Prigioni.
The Argentinian point guard plays a significant role for New York, backing up Raymond Felton and Jason Kidd.
With J.R. Smith being a shoot-first (and second, and third and fourth) player, and Iman Shumpert more of a defensive specialist than anything else, Prigioni serves a much-needed purpose at the point position.
Playing approximately 15 minutes per game, he makes it much easier to keep the elder Kidd and formerly-injured Felton fresh for later in the season. He's even gotten some starts in the month of March.
He's been doing a great job too. The Knicks are currently 10-4 in games where Prigioni plays 20 minutes or more. While not the most prolific scorer, Prigioni has quietly remained productive, leading the team with more than seven assists per 36 minutes.
In the game where he logged his most minutes of the season (30), a loss to the Chicago Bulls, Prigioni put up 12 points, eight assists and three steals. So not only is he good in short bursts, he can carry the load when needed.
This contribution cannot be understated given the Knicks' guard situation. Jason Kidd just turned 40 and cannot play long minutes on a regular basis if the Knicks want him to be effective in the postseason.
His service can best be compared to a back-of-the-rotation MLB pitcher who gives his team 200 innings with a 3.75 ERA. By no means all-star numbers, but he gives the rest of the team a chance to win every time he's out there, and takes the pressure off of other players by eating minutes.
More impressive than the quantifiable value, is the ease that he has had in transitioning to the NBA.
It's easy to forget that Prigioni is a rookie, mainly because he's 35 years old. The fact that at his relatively advanced age, he's able to adapt to the American game and contribute in a significant way won't show up on a stat sheet, but it's impressive nonetheless.
Attention usually goes to the flashy slashers, long-range bombers and defensive terrors. But just as valuable are the role players—the "glue guys."—the ones who keep the team running, allowing the others to do what they do best.
Fans notice when they screw up, but the successes aren't as noticeable.
The fact that Prigioni doesn't get much attention is in itself, proof that he's doing his job well.