Appreciating an aging former Wildcat in Mike Bibby

April 20, 2012; Cleveland, OH, USA: New York Knicks point guard Mike Bibby (20) reacts after getting poked in the eye during the game against the Cleveland Cavaliers at Quicken Loans Arena. Mandatory Credit: Eric P. Mull-USPRESSWIRE

Tomorrow night, Mike Bibby will suit up and start for the New York Knicks, who will once again attempt to stave off elimination from the Miami Heat.

It'll be four days before the former Arizona Wildcats point guard turns 34 years old.

His athleticism never did him much good. The downturn of Bibby's career came swiftly following his glory days in Sacramento, but it shouldn't be overlooked that what got Bibby into the NBA in the first place, and got him to an NCAA title in 1997, wasn't because of that athleticism, nor because of his skillset even.

Mike Bibby isn't talent-less. Still, there is probably a 34-year-old, former Division I player at the YMCA near you that's twice as athletic and even twice as skilled.

Why isn't he in the NBA?

Knicks head coach Mike Woodson still believes in Bibby when everyone cringes at every missed, open three-pointer because Bibby downright plays smart basketball. Likely, not many people could believe their eyes when on Sunday, as I was watching the Knicks beat the Miami Heat while sitting at a bar in Tucson (how fitting) the captioning on the TV read, "Bibby from the corner -- bang."

One thing. Mike Breen must be calling the game.

Another. Maybe I should appreciate Mike Bibby a little more.

That shot gave New York the 84-81 lead with 1:23 left, and it was evidence that the old, stone-cold daggers Bibby used to hit when running Rick Adelman's offense still linger in his heart, hoping to get that big-stage opportunity once again.

"The guy's been around a long time," Woodson told ESPN New York after having coached Bibby for two seasons in Atlanta. "He's still got the heart of steel, man, to make big shots. He's still capable. He's not as quick, as fast, as he used to be but he's still capable of running a team and doing all the necessary things to help you win games. His shot was huge. It was a big 3 that put us up. I kind of expect that from him. He's been around awhile so I'm comfortable with him."

Bibby can't do it all anymore. Carmelo Anthony and JR Smith will again help him because the former Wildcat has problems just dribbling the ball up the court against Miami's ball pressure.

But you've got to appreciate the one glimpse on Sunday, and potentially more to come on Wednesday, of the old Bibby.

"That's what I do," Bibby said to ESPN New York. "If everything leaves me, I'll be able to shoot still. So I'm happy I made the shot but most of all I'm happy that we won."

And yes, Bibby's role has come from a bad run of luck.

He was buried on the bench as Knicks fans struggled to call Toney Douglas a point guard, still when they found delight in Linsanity, and again when Iman Shumpert was better suited to be a hounding defender rather than the offensive operator. Baron Davis finally came back but now faces the end of his career after suffering a horrific knee injury that will cost him perhaps a year.

Lin won't be rushing back before he's ready, according to this New York Times report, so it's up to the only man left to hold down the fort, hoping that the Knicks can make the Heat break a sweat. Shumpert isn't an option after tearing his ACL, and Woodson still will go with Bibby over Douglas.

That has to say something.

This, after all, is a reminder that Bibby's career should be remembered not for the reason people like myself watched Atlanta point guard Jeff Teague flourish following Bibby's trade from the Hawks a year ago, all the while wondering why this hadn't happened sooner.

Guilty as charged, maybe we shouldn't think about how any wide-open, missed three-pointer became known as classical Bibby. It's easy to stay in the present, joke about it, and forget about the past.

You don't just find your way into starting for an NBA playoff team.

Jeremy Lin didn't accidentally become a cultural phenomenon, but earned it with a little push thanks to opportunity. Same with Bibby, who still stands as a respected, starting NBA point guard, not ready to let go of his ability to hit the big shot or run an NBA offense.

Tomorrow, no matter the outcome, basketball fans should appreciate that.

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