Melo and the Knicks are missing the point – they’re heading the wrong way.
Several weeks back, shortly after the Carmelo Anthony trade, Knicks coach Mike D’Antoni said he’d be satisfied if the Knicks won half their remaining games.
Way to set the bar high, coach. You’ve got two superstars on your team, two of the five top scorers in the NBA in Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire, and your goal is mediocrity. Sadly, the way the Knicks are playing right now, they’d settle for playing .500 ball.
The playoffs, which seemed like a lock a few weeks back, are no sure thing anymore. The Knicks are in a free fall, having lost five straight and eight of their last nine. It would take a historic collapse for the Knicks to miss the post-season in the NBA’s weak Eastern Conference, but after losing to the likes of the Bucks, Pacers, Pistons and Cavs, the playoffs are no longer automatic.
Here’s a typical Knick game: Come out flat and fall way behind in the first quarter, play catch-up ball in the second and third, then fail to execute in the fourth and go down to defeat. Again and again, the pattern repeats.
“It’s going to take a while,” D’Antoni said several weeks ago. “I don’t think we’ll get it as well as we want this week or next week. But at the end of the year we should have it real good. In the meantime we have to get in the playoffs — whatever seed it is and prepare for that team.”
“I know everybody’s anxious. I’m anxious, the players are anxious. There’s no way you can throw four-to-six new guys into a rotation and all be on the same page. Some teams exploit things we haven’t gone over.”
The Knickerbockers are good on one thing — excuses. Peter Vecsey outlined a few of those excuses in his always entertaining Hoop du Jour in the New York Post.
Excuses, Excuses, Excuses
“Everybody has them and goes to ‘em nightly. You all know the drill by heart — trade adjustments; readjustments to Billups returning from a thigh bruise, though the team was 4-1 without him; rough March schedule; rough upbringing; rough surf; the dog ate my home-court advantage; James Dolan spending too much time getting Radio City ready for Charlie Sheen.”
D’Antoni is part of the problem. More than one Knick fan has suggested he remove the “D” from his name — since his team doesn’t play any.
Earlier this week, the Knicks decided not to practice on an off-day — although it’s obvious they need the work. “If nothing else,” one player said, “we need a break from each other.”
Gimme me a break. Which of course Cablevision brat James Dolan didn’t give Madison Square Garden fans when he raised ticket prices by an average of 49 percent.
So far Donnie Walsh, Knick fans are not impressed.
After denying reports for two days, Walsh has decided Mike D’Antoni is the coach best suited to bring the Knicks back to respectability. D’Antoni may have a “D” leading off his last name, but that doesn’t mean his teams practice the fine art of defense. At least that was his reputation in Phoenix, where the Suns run-and-shoot style was a regular season hit but a post-season flop. D’Antoni is regarded as an innovative offensive coach who doesn’t stress defense.
D’Antoni has a 267-172 career coaching record with the Suns and Denver Nuggets. The Suns won at least 54 games in four of his five seasons and reached the Western Conference finals twice. He has a 26-25 record in the playoffs.
“I think it is a terrible match,” said one rival head coach. “I don’t get it. At four years and $24 million, it’s a tough get.”
First, Walsh decides it’s prudent to keep Isiah Thomas around. Understand there are money and contract considerations here, but there’s also perception. The guy who set the franchise back five years, the guy who was fingered in a sexual harassment lawsuit, is still on the payroll, collecting his millions from the team he destroyed. Appearances are important.
Now he banks the future on D’Antoni. Makes you wonder.
Mark Jackson had been considered the favorite for the Knicks coaching job. The Queens native and former point guard may not have head coaching experience, but he knows the New York drill, having played for both St. John’s and the Knicks..
D’Antoni…and Walsh…are on the hot seat now. They’ll soon discover how tough it is to rebuild in New York.