Statistical Analysis. Humor. Knicks.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

NYT: Did History Play a Role in D’Antoni’s Departure?

In my latest Off the Dribble piece, I play armchair psychologist in asking whether D’Antoni’s history — both in Italy and in the NBA — contributed to his stubbornness, and thus his departure:

For D’Antoni, success as a player did not come until he was exiled from the sport’s biggest, brightest stage. You have to wonder, even given all the accolades and triumphs and trophies he won in Italy, if a part of him always harbored a nagging, resentment toward the N.B.A., one that has driven him as a coach to prove his system, led by a Mike D’Antoni-like point guard, can win there.

It should also be noted I got a C in psychology. Anyway, click here if you wanna read the rest.

29 comments on “NYT: Did History Play a Role in D’Antoni’s Departure?

  1. daJudge

    Jim, I thought your piece was very interesting. Whether it’s true, I don’t know. The more I thought about coach, the more I concluded that all coaches have a particular system or at least a preferred way of playing. The difference with D’Antoni seemed to be his unwillingness or inability to adapt to his players. I think this is in part what you are also saying in your article. Since D’Antoni appears quite intelligent, my guess is that it was unwillingness. So you should have received an A in psychology. One more thing. I hate watching teams that don’t commit to playing defense. In fact, I hate playing ball with guys that don’t play tough D, even in my rec leagues. I don’t think the coach stressed D or the type of physical play that many of us grew up playing. Nothing against ball movement, but the other end counts too. Just saying, as they say.

  2. Jim Cavan Post author

    daJudge:
    Jim, I thought your piece was very interesting.Whether it’s true, I don’t know.The more I thought about coach, the more I concluded that all coaches have a particular system or at least a preferred way of playing.The difference with D’Antoni seemed to be his unwillingness or inability to adapt to his players.I think this is in part what you are also saying in your article.Since D’Antoni appears quite intelligent, my guess is that it was unwillingness.So you should have received an A in psychology.One more thing.I hate watching teams that don’t commit to playing defense.In fact, I hate playing ball with guys that don’t play tough D, even in my rec leagues.I don’t think the coach stressed D or the type of physical play that many of us grew up playing.Nothing against ball movement, but the other end counts too.Just saying, as they say.

    Points duly taken. Part of what I was getting at — and they cut some of this stuff out for length purposes — was that he so badly wanted to prove that the system works, he sort of ends up living vicariously through his point guards. And yes, part of what’s sacrificed in this kind of system is a consistent commitment — or emphasis, anyway — on defense.

  3. JLam

    I feel a bit sorry for D’Antoni cause I think the Knicks had a decent team last year before the Melo trade then lost half the team and had to start his system from scratch with Melo. Then MDA system just didnt seem to work until he got the PG he liked in Lin. By that time it might have been a but too late and not everyone bought into the system.
    Even though things didnt work out I think 4 years was enough time, and he did leave with class unlike what happened with Isiah Thomas.

  4. jon abbey

    Jim Cavan: Part of what I was getting at — and they cut some of this stuff out for length purposes — was that he so badly wanted to prove that the system works, he sort of ends up living vicariously through his point guards.

    I know I’ve said it a dozen or more times, but why would Donnie Walsh hire D’Antoni and then not give him a young PG when he had the perfect chance to do so in the 2009 draft?

  5. ruruland

    daJudge:
    Jim, I thought your piece was very interesting.Whether it’s true, I don’t know.The more I thought about coach, the more I concluded that all coaches have a particular system or at least a preferred way of playing.The difference with D’Antoni seemed to be his unwillingness or inability to adapt to his players.I think this is in part what you are also saying in your article.Since D’Antoni appears quite intelligent, my guess is that it was unwillingness.So you should have received an A in psychology.One more thing.I hate watching teams that don’t commit to playing defense.In fact, I hate playing ball with guys that don’t play tough D, even in my rec leagues.I don’t think the coach stressed D or the type of physical play that many of us grew up playing.Nothing against ball movement, but the other end counts too.Just saying, as they say.

    That was the insight I got. a brief piece but I think it provides a very important insight.

  6. Jim Cavan Post author

    jon abbey: I know I’ve said it a dozen or more times, but why would Donnie Walsh hire D’Antoni and then not give him a young PG when he had the perfect chance to do so in the 2009 draft?

    It’s a great question.

  7. ephus

    Really very well executed piece. I too will never understand why the Knicks passed on Jennings, Lawson, etc. in 2009. I remember being in the crowd with my seven year old daughter, and she knew that everyone wanted Steph Curry. When he was selected by GS, the crowd was deflated, but immediately started hoping for Jennings. When Hill’s name was announced, the crowd could not understand it.
    I wiped away my daughter’s tears.

    I would love to see what MDA could do in Washington or with Clippers. In two seasons, we would learn whether SSOL (or a variant) is a viable system without Nash.

  8. max fisher-cohen

    Jim, interesting perspective. I do think D’Antoni has a sort of artist’s mindset in that he wants to see beautiful basketball with all these moving parts working together. As a result, he maybe sometimes overlooks the more clunky but sometimes more effective opportunities that anything other than 4-out high pick and roll can bring, especially in light of his roster and opponents.

    That said, I disagree with a couple of things here: First, I feel it’s wrong to say that Anthony doesn’t fit with MDA’s system as he never gave it a chance. Starting after Denver game, in which he shot 10/30 and was demolished by Gallinari, after which he conceded he might be shooting too much, he gave D’Antoni ball a chance for all of two games. After that, when the primo matchups v. Boston and Chicago came along, he reverted to his old ways, and we lost both games.

    In the first four games after he came back from injury, he hovered in the 22%-29% USG range, and we went 2-2. In the 7 games that followed before MDA was fired, he was only below 28% once, in the Dallas loss, when he shot 2-12.

    His D-Rating was also terrible during that entire 7 game losing streak — around 114, compared to his season average of 103.

    So what I see is Melo playing defense early and MDA giving him his way on offense (and accepting that he lacked the PG to play any other way), Melo then compromising for a few games, and then, after struggling shooting (as he had all season) going back to taking a lot of shots outside of the offense while at the same time dogging it on the defensive end.

    Perhaps it is more his attitude of “system first” that irked Anthony, but 90% of coaches fall into the “system first” category or the “you’re the man, and I’ll feed you as much as you like” category when dealing with stars. Unless your star is as dominant offensively as Shaq, both lead to mediocrity.

  9. Jim Cavan Post author

    @ Max

    All excellent points. I agree that it might’ve worked with Melo given more time, but everyone’s inner clock was ticking down on D’Antoni’s tenure. They just ran out of time.

    So I agree that, metaphysically speaking, there’s nothing to suggest that Melo couldn’t thrive in D’Antoni’s offense. As with a lot of things in life, whether or not potential is reached depends on context and situational circumstances. In short, this whole season was a bad one for that particular dynamic.

  10. bluemax

    For the life of me, I can’t even begin to undertsand these kind of discussions.

    MDA has a very long record of getting carreer (extraordinary) years from carreer bench(or worse) players. Lin, Jeffries,Novak,….being just the latestexamples . Diaw, barbosa, bell, duhon…..being same older ones.

    The knicks and Dolan have a very long record of getting “overrated” stars to routinely underperform here in NY on fat contracts. It is pretty apparent that Melo is just one more illustration of that unfortunate rule.

    Yes, MDA was uncompromising with Melo but who could blame him?
    The man proved his point brilliantly. You actually can win with a bunch of bench players ( and a PG) sooner than you can with these overrated superstars. He did it with Lin, he did it last year with Felton, and did it with great success in Pho.

    Analyse all you want, give him a decent PG and $30M, and he’ll get you a winning team. The fact are there to back him up. Give dolan 3X that and he can’t do it.

  11. ruruland

    MFC, I think you’ve got to take into account the compounding effect losing has on a player’s mindset in terms of fitting in with the team concept.

    I think there are two things that were great detriments to their working relationship from

    1) I never got the sense that MDA was appreciative of Melo’s skills. It’s not coddling, it’s more of embracing the things Melo can do and putting forth the effort to try to incorporate them into the team concept. Sure, MDA would let Melo iso, but it always felt more like a concession or at best acquiescence, then it was, “we’re going to work with your skills Melo and help them make this team better.”

    You could see that in player’s body language. You could hear it in the things Mike said and didn’t say about Melo.

    I don’t think Melo wanted to dominate the offense. I don’t think Melo wanted to change Mike’s offense just to fit him. I think he wanted the opportunities to do what he does best and help the team, and he wanted his coach to embrace them and incorporate them to maximize the results.

    I think if there was more “give” in that respect, Melo would have been a much more focused player in the things Mike wanted him to do.

    Mike was not willing to have the kind of give and take and bend the system, for reasons Jim alluded to in his piece.

    2) It was clear that Mike not only wanted to make Melo subservient to the system, but subservient to Jeremy Lin. That was perfectly clear. When you’re losing and Lin is the guy with the ball in his hands, Melo the guy standing in the corner, no competitive person who was recently traded to be the man is going to take that well. Melo reacts differently than most, but it was the result of his competitive nature that made him react the way he did.

  12. cgreene

    Nice and fair article here. I agree with the thought that MDA was trying to prove something. But that’s not what the job is about. The job is about winning. If you look at your business and you always wanted to make one product but your people are better suited to making something else then you better make something else or you’re going to go broke. Know what you do well and do it the best you can. Jim Collins who wrote the book Good To Great talks about it in depth. Pat Riley practices it as a coach and now as a GM better than anyone.

    MDA should not have had TD, Shumpert, Bibby etc trying to do things they weren’t capable of just because MDA himself and later Steve Nash were capable of doing them. Threading passes off the pnr against the fastest best defenders in the league is hard. Not only that he did not have the shooters to spread the floor to stretch the defense. There was a lot of writing on the wall that this was the wrong approach. And PS I like Lin a lot and think he has a bright future. Certainly see no reason he should not play a lot. But I do not find him to be a good pnr passer. He’s a good passer on the break. He’s a good penetrator on the pnr. He’s a decent finisher. He’s good at drawing fouls and he shoots better than expected. But he is NOT a great pnr point IMO. I think this offense may actually benefit him.

  13. ruruland

    bluemax:
    For the life of me, I can’t even begin to undertsand these kind of discussions.

    MDA has a very long record of getting carreer (extraordinary) years from carreer bench(or worse) players. Lin, Jeffries,Novak,….being just the latestexamples . Diaw, barbosa, bell, duhon…..being same older ones.

    The knicks and Dolan have a very long record of getting “overrated” stars to routinely underperform here in NY on fat contracts.It is pretty apparent that Melo is just one more illustration of that unfortunate rule.

    Yes, MDA was uncompromising with Melo but who could blame him?
    The man proved his point brilliantly. You actually can win with a bunch of bench players ( and aPG) sooner than you can with these overrated superstars. He did it with Lin, he did it last year with Felton, and did it with great success in Pho.

    Analyse all you want, give him a decent PG and $30M, and he’ll get you a winning team. The fact are there to back him up. Give dolan 3X that and he can’t do it.

    He won with Felton? You really think an 8 game stretch in which you win 7 games against teams with a combined winning percent around 40% proved that the system should go unquestioned?

    No one’s doubting Mike’s system is good. But think about it, was he really trying to win with the “superstar system?”

    Let’s be honest, do the Knicks win 7 games without Novak? When the Knicks struggled making wide open shots with Melo playing point forward, where was Novak?

    While a great deal of the early-season struggles were the result of almost historically bad shooting woes from supporting players, I don’t think Mike knew or really wanted to come up with schemes that could maximize what he had.

    And let’s not forget or dismiss that by all accounts it was Melo and CHandler who suggested Mike D’Antoni play Lin.

  14. ruruland

    cgreene:
    Nice and fair article here.I agree with the thought that MDA was trying to prove something.But that’s not what the job is about.The job is about winning.If you look at your business and you always wanted to make one product but your people are better suited to making something else then you better make something else or you’re going to go broke.Know what you do well and do it the best you can.Jim Collins who wrote the book Good To Great talks about it in depth.Pat Riley practices it as a coach and now as a GM better than anyone.

    MDA should not have had TD, Shumpert, Bibby etc trying to do things they weren’t capable of just because MDA himself and later Steve Nash were capable of doing them.Threading passes off the pnr against the fastest best defenders in the league is hard.Not only that he did not have the shooters to spread the floor to stretch the defense.There was a lot of writing on the wall that this was the wrong approach.And PS I like Lin a lot and think he has a bright future.Certainly see no reason he should not play a lot.But I do not find him to be a good pnr passer.He’s a good passer on the break.He’s a good penetrator on the pnr.He’s a decent finisher.He’s good at drawing fouls and he shoots better than expected.But he is NOT a great pnr point IMO.I think this offense may actually benefit him.

    Great points.

  15. jon abbey

    ruruland:
    And let’s not forget or dismiss that by all accounts it was Melo and Chandler who suggested Mike D’Antoni play Lin.

    yeah, I love how this part is totally overlooked, and D’Antoni still only did it because it was the third game in three nights and he was desperate.

  16. nicos

    Nice piece, Jim. I think D’A’s stubbornness was exacerbated by circumstances this year- he was a lame duck coach heading into the year (and upper management hiring a possible mid-season replacement in Woodson to start the season didn’t help). He was certainly on the hot seat prior to Lin taking over when the Knicks reeled off 7 straight playing the closest approximation of SSOL since D’A arrived. My guess is he knew nothing short of an Eastern Conference Final’s appearance was going to save his job (especially with the specter of Phil Jackson looming in the background) so by favoring Lin and his system over Melo he was in effect auditioning for his next job.

  17. cgreene

    Don’t love Melo’s body language and effort issues but there was simply a better way for MDA to handle him.

  18. jon abbey

    I just tweeted him, but Brian C needs to start a new game thread ASAP! when you start a game thread and your team wins by 42, you start the next one in as similar a way as possible.

  19. ruruland

    jon abbey: yeah, I love how this part is totally overlooked, and D’Antoni still only did it because it was the third game in three nights and he was desperate.

    Honestly, for those who are really depressed about losing Mike (and there’s a lot to like about the guy and coach), how inexcusable is it that it took him months to figure out Lin could work in his system, given how pitiful the guys playing it were?

    That, to me, is a pretty severe indictment on Mike’s ability to think outside of the box, and of course, on his talent evaluation.

    When you’re losing as bad as you’re losing and the ways that you’re losing, the good coaches tinker and obsess over everything. That’s when you see the coaches creative juices manifest in lineup changes, scheme changes, strategy and tactics.

    All of the very good coaches do it. I’m just not sure Mike had those qualities.

  20. Doug

    Wither game thread?

    If you haven’t been reading Seth Rosenthal’s pre-game posts at P&T, you ought to. Before every game he goes on Omegle and chats with a random person impersonating a player on the other team. Today talked with a guy from Turkey pretending to be Tyler Hansbrough.

  21. ruruland

    nicos:
    Nice piece, Jim.I think D’A’s stubbornness was exacerbated by circumstances this year- he was a lame duck coach heading into the year (and upper management hiring a possible mid-season replacement in Woodson to start the season didn’t help).He was certainly on the hot seat prior to Lin taking over when the Knicks reeled off 7 straight playing the closest approximation of SSOL since D’A arrived.My guess is he knew nothing short of an Eastern Conference Final’s appearance was going to save his job (especially with the specter of Phil Jackson looming in the background) so by favoring Lin and his system over Melo he was in effect auditioning for his next job.

    I completely agree. Reading the subtext and between the lines in the things he said post-Lin, some of the places he used past and future tense, I think he knew he was gone during the season, and probably soon.

    In fact, it may have surprised him that he hadn’t been canned when he expected to. Maybe that’s why he quit.

  22. nicos

    ruruland:
    MFC, I think you’ve got to take into account the compounding effect losing has on a player’s mindset in terms of fitting in with the team concept.

    I think there are two things that were great detriments to their working relationship from

    1) I never got the sense that MDA was appreciative of Melo’s skills. It’s not coddling, it’s more of embracing the things Melo can do and putting forth the effort to try to incorporate them into the team concept. Sure, MDA would let Melo iso, but it always felt more like a concession or at best acquiescence, then it was, “we’re going to work with your skills Melo and help them make this team better.”

    He handed the entire offense over to the guy early in the year- that may have pushed Melo out of his comfort zone but it sure as hell must have shown him the coach appreciated his skills- you make it sound like Melo has been an afterthought since he’s been here rather than the guy the offense absolutely ran through for 90% of his time here. When he came back from injury that did change but it took all of four or five games before Melo stopped trying to fit in- that’s pathetic.

  23. Jim Cavan Post author

    Doug: If you haven’t been reading Seth Rosenthal’s pre-game posts at P&T, you ought to. Before every game he goes on Omegle and chats with a random person impersonating a player on the other team. Today talked with a guy from Turkey pretending to be Tyler Hansbrough.

    I second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth, and one millionth this. Absolutely hilarious.

  24. ruruland

    nicos: He handed the entire offense over to the guy early in the year- that may have pushed Melo out of his comfort zone but it sure as hell must have shown him the coach appreciated his skills- you make it sound like Melo has been an afterthought since he’s been here rather than the guy the offense absolutely ran through for 90% of his time here.When he came back from injury that did change but it took all of four or five games before Melo stopped trying to fit in- that’s pathetic.

    Losing streaks, the scapegoat of the media, trying to make the playoffs, the pressure of the trade, the contract….Like I said, if none of those things were the case, and if Mike had done more to embrace the things Melo does well when he came back, Melo would have focused much more on being just another cog in the machine.

  25. gbaked

    Jim Cavan: and they cut some of this stuff out for length purposes

    odd that a blog has length issues… NY Times seems to be confused about the internet.

Comments are closed.