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Wednesday, July 30, 2014

The D’Antoni Rules

The rotation is short.

This is a well known characteristic of D’Antoni. The Knicks employed 11 players in the blowout win against Indiana, which is rare for him. The last time D’Antoni went into double digits was December 2nd against Orlando. In between those two games D’Antoni used 8 players every game (including 11 straight) except for two contests where 9 players saw the floor. Factor in that the 8th guy usually doesn’t see a lot of minutes, and it’s essentially a 7 man rotation. For instance Eddy Curry saw “action” in 3 of those games, but he didn’t play more than 7 minutes in any of those games. D’Antoni’s rotation is much like you’d expect from a playoff team. The best guys (according to him) get the lions share of the minutes, a few other guys come in for breathers, and everyone else has front row seats to an NBA game.

You’re either in or your out.

There doesn’t seem to be much of a middle ground with D’Antoni. The Knicks coach has stated that he doesn’t like to put veterans in for spot minutes, prefering to keep them on the bench instead of bringing them in cold. He has repeated this frequently, especially when asked about bringing in a non-rotation player for offensive or defensive purposes in a single critical possession (Darko Milicic, Jerome James, etc.). Chances are if a player is seeing minutes, they’ll continue to get court time. And the converse is true as well.

Injuries doesn’t constitute succession

This was apparent last year when the Knicks were short on guards due to the Crawford trade, Mobley injury, and Marbury refusal. Instead of going to the next guy on the bench like most coaches would, D’Antoni ignored Roberson. New York rode Duhon into the hardwood and even went guardless at times, rather than turn to someone on the end of the pine. So if a player thinks that an injury means that coach D will be forced to insert them into the game, then they’re misguided.

If you’re suddenly out of the rotation, don’t expect a greeting card to make you aware of the fact.

Granted this is a leap for yours truly to state, because I’m not omni-present in the team lockerroom. However Larry Hughes was quoted as saying:

“It’s easy to communicate with a grown man,” Hughes said. “It’s a long season and you always want to have dialog and talk things out. I definitely want the dialog. Let guys know where they stand and you can voice opinions on both sides.

“There’s nothing wrong with voicing an opinion because they’re not facts. It’s what you’re thinking and how you’re feeling. Just to have communication, I think, goes a long way in this league.”

This isn’t the first time a player (or Hughes for that matter) has been unhappy with a lack of playing time and went public about it. However in this case it seems that Hughes isn’t just lashing out from spite. Compare this to Darko’s rant on NBA coaches, and Hughes’ request seems downright reasonable. Unfortunately it doesn’t appear that D’Antoni communicates his lineup changes to his players.

From these rules it’s easier to understand D’Antoni’s priorities. He seems to favor continuity & familiarity over strategic match ups. Granted there are deficiencies to D’Antoni’s system, most notably the lack of time for players outside of the rotation. But even this has its benefits as a young player could crack the starting lineup and see lots of playing time (see Wilson Chandler, 2009). Of course the lack of communication is a serious issue as well. However this system has its fair share of positives. Over the life of KnickerBlogger, I’ve criticized Knick coaches for not putting out a lineup that forced the opposition to adjust to New York’s strengths. And this is exactly what D’Antoni does. If you watched the Indiana game, Hibbert looked like a slow plodding dinosaur against the more agile Knicks.

Fortunately for D’Antoni, New York’s roster is conducive to such a set of rules. The Knicks can play the 6-11 Jared Jeffries at any spot, and D’Antoni has put him on both centers and point guards. Chris Duhon and David Lee can always shift over one spot, and the rest of the rotation is filled with forwards that can handle multiple positions like Wilson Chandler (6-8), Danilo Gallinari (6-10), Al Harrington (6-9), and Jonathan Bender (7-0). This roster construction allows D’Antoni to keep the rotation short, and not force him to play someone outside of his comfort zone.

82 comments on “The D’Antoni Rules

  1. stratomatic

    Very nice summary.

    I’ve been watching the “D’Antoni Show” every week. It also gives fans an excellent glimpse into coach “D’s” thinking on a wide range of subjects and players.

    A lot of the fan’s questions have also been very good. They allowed him to elaborate on some of the topics that often come up here. They ranged from treatment of veterans vs. young players, patience with some players and not others, sticking with players in a shooting slump, developing young players like Wilson Chandler, Gallo and Lee and even some of the specifics of his offensive system and zone defense.

    The more I hear from him, the more confident I am that we have a great coach.

    In one segment a few weeks ago he was talking about the development of Wilson Chandler. He said Wilson lacked a quick first step and wasn’t very good with his left hand. So it was easy for defenders to give him space and overplay him to his right side. That kept him on the perimeter. He said they were working hard on developing him in both those areas because they want him to get to the basket more often and draw more fouls as an excellent free throw shooter. So while we were all complaining about Wilson’s shot selection and low basketball IQ, there was actually something else in play also and they were busy fixing it. In the last few weeks we’ve seen the results.

    In the last show he talked a little about the development of David Lee and Gallo also. So I assume they are feverishing working on those players also. That’s why we are seeing so much improvement. We actually have a coaching staff that understands the details of game and uses their expertise to get better production out of each player. That’s a huge step forward from the days of Isiah.

  2. KnickFan4Life

    You were smart to admit that you don’t know what’s going on in the lockeroom or in the coach’s office. I think that’s a leap many take without a solid basis. i.e. such and such player said something about why he was not playing therefore that means the coach didn’t say it to him personally. I have a hard time believing these guys don’t know beforehand they are not in the rotation. I find it more believable they are used to people babying them more or softening the blow and from what I’ve gathered Dantoni seems to be very blunt with these guys…

  3. Frank O.

    I think what has emerged about D’Antoni, to his credit, is a cold-eyed pragmatism that at its core requires accountability from the players.
    Huzzah!
    It has been a long time coming.
    In fact, this is a bit like the cliche’ movie where a hardened coach takes over a team of misfits and begins to call out the team “star” or “stars,” who immediately start stomping around because they’re not getting their due so they try to undercut the coach.
    In this case, D’Antoni has really clamped down and established with the rent-a-player types that you either get on board, play hard and smart, or you’re going to sit in a contract year. And for the young guys, he said you either play yourself onto the court, and produce while out there, or you won’t play either.

    I think you can be very tough on a losing team.
    And through all of it, the best players respond.
    There are many examples of this, too.
    Lee is having another break out year.
    Chandler has morphed from an outside bricklayer within a short period into a slashing wing.
    Harrington is actually playing a more complete game, and I’m less inclined to roll my eyes when he gets the ball.
    Gallo isn’t just a 3 pt shooter. He’s actually attacking the hoop and playing very good defense.
    And on and on.

    A couple of small points:

    “You’re either in or your out.”

    I kind of get that, but I’m not sure over the long hall it’s entirely true.
    For example, Hughes was benched, and then found his way back to significant minutes, and then benched again.
    I think Nate was benched and found himself playing significant minutes again. I think when Curry returned D’Antoni worked him in for minutes and then Curry was benched.

    I think it is situational in the sense that guys play themselves in or out of a rotation. But mostly it’s about the player playing and whether or not they are performing effectively. That’s accountability.

    In every case I mentioned, it was clear the guy who was playing most didn’t deliver or stopped delivering. I suspect if Duhon had a back up PG who was reasonably competent and skilled, Duhon would have been benched.

    “Injuries doesn’t constitute succession”

    This seems to undercut Hughes’ argument that he lost his job due to injury.
    The fact that he claims to be 100 percent and was still playing crappily didn’t aid his argument.

    By the way, I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a sport where marginal players get to have a summit with the coach about being benched.
    Am I wrong about that?

  4. clyderama

    Good synopsis, great comments by strat-man and Frank O, very observant, well said. I’ve had problems with D’antoni since his handling of Marbury, the (non) communication factor and abrupt benching seems to perturb players, although I like how Douglas and N8 have stayed focused; I think D’ant was dead wrong benching N8 when team struggled thru Duhon-led losses (esp Orlando). However, Knicks have turned it around on D, DLee is our first home-grown all-star in years, Chandler is looking great, Jefferies is earning his money for first time in years, Gallo looks like a keeper/starter, and N8 is back in. Life is good thus far in 2010, I can forgive D’antoni for his lack of social skills and pride and look forward to more of what we’ve seen thus far in 2010, I can only wish…
    I’m excited to see what Donnie can do come trade deadline and end of season. This team is finally looking like something Lebron can fit into and take to a higher level. The end justifies the means.

  5. Thomas B.

    Good exposition there Mike. It could use a song parody though :-).

    I think the four rules could really be condensed into one: D’Antoni is stubborn. Stubborn really is the best way to define him. Stubbornness ran Duhon into the ground last year, stubbornness kept Duhon in the rotation at the start of this year. Now that Duhon and Chandler are playing well, D’Antoni’s stubbornness is reaping rewards but when the team was 1-9. There really was no reason to stay the course like he did.

    Furthermore, whenever the Knicks are getting killed inside and we are all asking why Milicic isn’t in the game, well that’s stubbornness too. The lack on inside defense is somewhat offset lately by better team defense and by Lee giving as good if not better than he gets. I guess there isn’t too much to complain about with Milicic. I can only guess that he could help on defense because I have not seen enough of him play to know for sure. I guess D feels that the team is better with speed than it is with size. It’s hard to argue with playing 5 games over .500 since 12/01.

    The unwillingness to communicate with players is more stubbornness. I understand why Hughes is frustrated. He was out of the lineup, then in and playing really well, then he hurt his groin and has been really bad since. Now, he is out again. You’d think it would be easy to say, “hey you still have a place here we just need to work you back into the plan.” But it seems D’Antoni does not say that to any of the players.

    Get us into the playoffs and you can be as stubborn as you like.

  6. Frank O.

    You know, I was again thinking about D’Antoni’s comments regarding Nate being ready to play when he had his 41-point outburst.
    He seemed really nonplussed that somehow people were giving Nate props for being ready to play…when he’s getting paid $4 million + a year.

    I think this also points to accountability.
    If you are a player making a lot of money, you damn well better be ready to play. I realize there is practice shape and game shape, but these guys should be damn close to game shape.

    I think we’re all going through an adjustment here. I mean, for years the bar has been set so low in NY that things that should be commonplace were celebrated when they were actually done.
    We all got upset when guys didn’t go over picks, didn’t contest shots, didn’t make hard fouls, etc, or, god forbid worked late on their jump shot…

    What D’Antoni has done is reset the bar. Now when things that should be done aren’t there are consequences. And when they are done no one is falling all over themselves praising it.
    I realize this is a rather Randian view, but we should be lauding excellence, not mediocrity.
    And when people become apologists for players who are clearly subpar, regardless of whether others are also guilty, they’re arguing for the Knicks weaknesses. That to me is an anathema to competition…and a successful enterprise in general.

  7. KnickFan4Life

    Maybe I’m wrong but I feel like Hughes was not playing well, well before he got hurt. Also we can’t say he is not doing a good job communicating when players are clearly learning from him and improving under him. I dunno, it’s hard to say…

  8. Frank O.

    Miami has agreed to send Chris Quinn to Nets for future 2nd and cash to free roster spot and will sign Rafer Alston, sources say.
    pedroheizer – twitter.com – 3 minutes ago

  9. rrude

    Two things to keep in mind: 1) never before have players had so much access to the public and the media as they do now 2) this is NYC where more nitpicking is done of every move and potential motive than in most places.

    20 years ago or playing for a small-market team, does Larry Hughes even get asked what he thinks about not playing for a couple games? Larry’s been a marginal player for years now, who really cares what he thinks about the coach’s decision?

    I have heard a number of people the last two years attribute D’Antoni’s actions (or inactions) to pride. But I think it takes a lot of interpreting to go from a coach making personnel decisions, not having a personal discussion with the player over it, to attributing his behavior to being prideful.

    Insubordination is a real problem for sports coaches. The atmosphere of the Knicks under Isaiah had a real ‘inmates running the asylum’ vibe. I think rather than it being pride at work there might just be an organizational push to establish more of a business atmosphere, D’Antoni clearly in charge as manager, and the players doing more working than whining. (of course there’s plenty of interpretation there as well)

    This goes back to where I started, though. With the media digging under the skin of the every player at the end of the bench for juicy tidbits to write about, we are invited to debate and interpret the meaning of the most minor coaching decisions. Hughes should have been benched, he was playing terribly. Does he need someone to spell it out for him? Do we?

    I get that a lot of fans sympathize with the employee over the manager. A year after Marbury abandoned his team, people were sympathizing with him on the grounds that management wasn’t treating him fairly. Silly, but I get it. That said, I don’t see pride playing a role in D’Antoni’s coaching. He might be behaving like a boss over-asserting his authority–his right not to explain his decisions–but maybe that’s not such a bad thing for a team that’s been dysfunctional for so long.

  10. Frank O.

    Frank:
    Renaldo Who???? :)

    rrude:
    couldn’t agree more.

    I hate three day breaks between games…when the Knicks are playing well.:(

  11. Frank O.

    Mike:
    A side note, but it appears I can’t access this site from my firefox browser. I can only get it to work today from explorer browser.
    Not sure if this is on my end or not, but I figured I’d give you a heads up.

  12. Ted Nelson

    Mike, good analysis. Hughes and now Nate (eve Curry briefly) earning their way out of the doghouse (and Hughes and Curry back in for poor play) sheds a lot of light on things we weren’t really able to see last season.

    stratomatic, I agree with everything you say. I would point out, though, that a lot of people here also commented on how Chandler lacked a left-hand, a first-step, and even finishing ability in traffic. They just didn’t know if he’d ever improve them. His shot selection was poor, so I don’t think understanding the explanation behind it makes it untrue. His shot selection was poor and he never got to the line. It is great to have a regime that recognizes the problem and is able to effectively address it, definitely.

    As fans it’s rare to get an inside view into a player’s work habits (even the PR related stuff… I’m working so hard this offseason, taking 10 million jumpers a day, etc… and rumors are unreliable). A lot of people did have the impression that Chandler is an upstanding guy and hard worker, but even then it’s a matter of whether he actually can improve. I’m sure a lot of guys on the NBA bubble spend years busting their butts to develop their skills, but they just never get to where they need to be.

    rrude, No one has to tell Hughes he’s not playing, but it would be a nice gesture. If you’ve been going out with a girl every night for a few weeks and she stands you up one night she doesn’t have to tell you she’s not coming, but you’re going to feel pretty shitty if she doesn’t let you know. I’m not a coach and whatever D’Antoni is doing is working, but I can see Hughes’ point.

    Frank O., I agree that we, and more importantly the organization, should expect more. And that D’Antoni expecting more is great. I guess my point is that they should be ready, but as fans it gives us a good view of who they are based on how they react to the benching. Of course, guys like Nate and Toney Douglas don’t have the luxury of flipping off D’Antoni because they haven’t earned enough money to live to a very, very high standard for the rest of their lives. Marbury has thoroughly embarrassed himself through his actions, but a lot of people would stick it to the man if they had $100 million plus. Marbury and Curry (and others) not only had tons of money in the bank, but also tons more money coming their way guaranteed. The Knicks have really let themselves become a victim of the disincentives created by guaranteed contracts more than any other organization.

  13. Thomas B.

    It was – to the tune of “Tiny Cities Made Of Ashes.” @ 8

    Oh see I was reading it while listening to “Dark Side of the Moon” and looking for a connection. I figured Hughes was singing “Speak to Me.” “Time” was Robinson. “On the run” is the offense. “Money” is Curry. “Brain damage” is Darko.

  14. Ted Nelson

    “I’m sure a lot of guys on the NBA bubble spend years busting their butts to develop their skills, but they just never get to where they need to be.”

    Or more relevant to Chandler, young guys in the NBA. I’m sure work ethic is a big determinant of NBA success among legitimate first/early second round talents, but I also assume that some guys work hard but just never get it together or at least never develop some skills (i.e. are somewhat limited “role players”).

  15. Frank O.

    Ted: “The Knicks have really let themselves become a victim of the disincentives created by guaranteed contracts more than any other organization.”

    So true. The days of Jerome James and Eddy Curry may soon be behind us.

  16. Frank O.

    From the Bergen Record:

    The Nets tried to acquire guard Nate Robinson from the Knicks recently, according to sources.

    New Jersey offered Rafer Alston and Tony Battie for Robinson and Darko Milicic, but New York wasn’t interested.

    At the time, neither player was playing for the Knicks and all four players have expiring contracts.

    In two games since coach Mike D’Antoni ended his month-long benching, Robinson is averaging 23.5 points, 6.0 rebounds and 5.5 assists on 57.1% shooting.

  17. rrude

    “rrude, No one has to tell Hughes he’s not playing, but it would be a nice gesture. If you’ve been going out with a girl every night for a few weeks and she stands you up one night she doesn’t have to tell you she’s not coming, but you’re going to feel pretty shitty if she doesn’t let you know. I’m not a coach and whatever D’Antoni is doing is working, but I can see Hughes’ point.”

    but the relationship between you and your girl, and that between a player and a coach, are hopefully very different. (unless that’s your sort of thing). Courtesy can be a place where they intersect, sure, but players still get paid if they don’t play…not sure how you can make that analogous to the dating scenario (although it might be funny to try).

    If pride is at work anywhere it’s on the players side: Larry doesn’t want to admit that the reason he’s not playing is because he doesn’t deserve to. So he makes it about D’Antoni and says, I don’t know why I am not playing, ask the coach. Nate didn’t want to confront his own behavior, so according to him it’s a mystery created by the coach. So on and so forth.

  18. Thomas B.

    “If you’ve been going out with a girl every night for a few weeks and she stands you up one night she doesn’t have to tell you she’s not coming, but you’re going to feel pretty shitty if she doesn’t let you know.”

    I have to take your word for it as I have never been stood up. ;-)

  19. jon abbey

    “If you’ve been going out with a girl every night for a few weeks and she stands you up one night she doesn’t have to tell you she’s not coming, but you’re going to feel pretty shitty if she doesn’t let you know.”

    if I was getting paid $150,000 per night (Hughes’ approximate salary per game), I’d STFU, smile, cheer for my teammates and happily collect my checks. that’s what too many of these players don’t seem to understand.

  20. Sandy

    Frank O., that really made me laugh too, the two game average. Smart, averaging two statistical outliers and using it in an article.

  21. Sandy

    Maybe D’Antoni could have told Hughes or maybe he could have conducted a simple self evaluation. Its too easy to blame the coach, and these players do it all too often.

  22. Ricky_J

    “…I don’t think we should say, ‘Oh man, this is really great that somebody actually worked for a living.’…”

    Loved D’Antoni’s quote about Nate staying in game shape… Reminiscient of Chris Rock’s bit about people trying to get credit for things they’re supposed to do… “You’re SUPPOSED to have a job. You’re SUPPOSED to take care of your kids.”

  23. Ted Nelson

    I haven’t followed the Hughes stuff too closely, but the issue addressed in Mike’s original article is not that Hughes is upset he’s not playing but upset because he wasn’t told he wouldn’t be playing. From the quote above, I get the impression that Hughes is saying, “I am a grown man, I can handle the explanation but I would like to hear it.”

    In the “upset because he wasn’t told he wouldn’t be playing” sense I think it’s somewhat like my analogy. Or at least that the analogy illustrates my point. Maybe a better one is just to say that if your boss suddenly gave work that had been going to you to your co-worker you would probably prefer that the boss let you know why than just did it with no explanation. There may be a few reasons the co-worker is getting the work and not you, and you’d like to know which one(s) it is. If there’s something you are doing wrong, you’d like to correct it. If the co-worker doing the work is better for the team (but you’re not out of a job) you’re cool with it. But since you don’t know… you’re stuck wondering. The boss doesn’t have to tell you, but you’d really prefer she/he did.

    I’m not saying it’s a pride thing from D’Antoni. I’m also not saying he had to tell Hughes. I’m just saying that it might have been better for him to. Especially since Hughes responded to his last benching by working hard and helping to power the team’s resurgence. Hughes seems to respect D’Antoni, so he may just be looking for some reciprocation. I’m a fan of communication, and I would say that if there’s a reason a guy is not playing… let him know.
    Something we have all applauded D’Antoni for is not airing the team’s dirty laundry to the media, and in that spirit you might let the player’s know a little more than the media. When players mouth off to the media about the coach, you can blame them but the problem can also be that they don’t feel comfortable communicating with the coach. Not saying that’s the case here, just that it might be.

    Pretty much related, I guess Hughes injury is not the reason Nate got back into the rotation.

  24. Z-man

    “I’m not saying it’s a pride thing from D’Antoni. I’m also not saying he had to tell Hughes. I’m just saying that it might have been better for him to. Especially since Hughes responded to his last benching by working hard and helping to power the team’s resurgence. Hughes seems to respect D’Antoni, so he may just be looking for some reciprocation. I’m a fan of communication, and I would say that if there’s a reason a guy is not playing… let him know”

    Fair point

    On another note, Roy Hibbert is demolishing Dwight Howard.

  25. Mulligan

    I agree the lack of communication is weird – but it’s so weird that I think there must be more to it. I feel like I’ve heard tons of anecdotes from players throughout the NBA saying that they haven’t spoken with their coaches about specific issues? Why not? Do they speak with assistant coaches? The GM?
    I guess I’m saying that a total lack of communication is so strange that it seems unfathomable to me. There must be some piece of the story that we’re not hearing. I guess I could imagine a benefit of giving players the silent treatment and shaming them in front of their teammates, but it still seems unnecessary. Then again, I’m a therapist.
    Also, in the Hahn article that Frank O. linked to, there’s an anecdote about D’Antoni putting Hughes on notice and telling him at practice that he needed to step it up – so it’s not like Hughes wouldn’t have been able to see it coming.

  26. Frank O.

    z-man:

    how are you watching that game. NBA league pass is blocking it…
    I’m watching the bulls and charlotte

  27. Z-man

    Not watching, just checked on NBA.com. Not really sure if Hibbert is ding it vs Howard or if Howard is just in foul trouble. Anyway, I like Hibbert, he could wind up being a nice find in that draft.

    So does this mean we should beat Orlando by 50+ next time? (actually Orlando is catching up as we speak…)

  28. Mulligan

    Between the Bulls and Charlotte, who do you root for? Seem to be opposites to me – Bulls have so much more talent than their record indicates, while Charlotte seems to be making a lot out of very little…

  29. Z-man

    Charlotte is more talented than they appear. Wallace, Jackson and Felton are all very tough, Diaw is a good role player. They seem to be a team that is very dependent on matchups, kind of like us!

  30. Mulligan

    They are tough, but of the 3 the only one that stands out is Wallace. They have a lot of guys who have been inconsistent over their careers. Seems like LB is managing to get a little bit more out of everyone (although their road record is terrible!).
    Still, I respect their effort way more than whatever it is that Chicago’s doing..

  31. Frank O.

    I’m watching the bull charlotte.
    Bulls gave the game away.
    Had plenty of chances but can’t hit an important shot.

  32. Frank O.

    Goodness, Washington actually won one.
    I’m waiting to see if the Wiz can have a better winning percentage than the Skins and Nationals.

  33. d-mar

    Man, the NBA is strange. Against us and most of their opponents over the last few weeks, the Pacers get their doors blown off, and then tonight they beat the Magic with Hibbert getting a career high 26 pts. against the best defensive center in the NBA.

    The Bobcat game is a big test for us – the only time we beat them this season they had no Wallace and Jackson sat out the 4th. They’re probably the hottest team in the NBA right now, I hope the fans get into it on Thursday.

  34. jon abbey

    I don’t see why an explanation is necessary. if someone’s not playing, it’s because D’Antoni doesn’t think they can help the team win that game. and what if he changes his mind mid-game because of circumstances? I can see why Hughes would want an explanation, but the explanation is also pretty self-evident, which I’m sure is what D’Antoni’s position.

  35. Mulligan

    Agreed that the Charlotte game is crucial for us. Glad I’m going!

    Charlotte, Milwaukee & NY have the smallest negative point differentials among teams in the East with losing records.

    Anyone want to predict the 6th, 7th & 8th seeds in the East? I think Milwaukee, Chicago & Toronto seem the least reliable at this point. I say 6. Charlotte, 7. Toronto, 8. Knicks.

  36. NateRobinson

    I was going to say the same thing Jon Abbey. I think Mike D felt mid-game that he needed some offense and got me in there. Especially the way Larry’s been playing. I’ll be G’ damned if I get benched again!!

  37. KnickFan4Life

    I just don’t get all this talent people say Chicago has, I just don’t see it and I think they overachieved somewhat last year and skewed people’s expectations. Noah and Rose are good solid pieces and Rose is definitely a difference maker. Deng has been in the league a while already and has been a disappointment. Thomas remains a project. Hinrich again a nice player but not much more. Salmons ditto. Anyone I’m leaving out. I actually like the Charlotte roster way more. They don’t have a Rose type player but I like the rest of the roster more.

  38. Dan Panorama

    I think the perception no longer is what it was two or three years ago, when Deng looked like a budding superstar, T2 had a much higher ceiling, and Hinrich was a more solid player. Like Boston, they had a lot of young “assets” to package but they really blew it by not selling high and giving them up for a more established player.

  39. Travis Knight Rider

    Instead of sending away Deng in one of the many rumored trades they were offered (Garnett? Kobe?), they decided to give the guy whose offense is basically shooting 20 ft jumpers a billion dollars. Oops.

  40. Ted Nelson

    Most of Chicago’s talent is on the defensive side of the ball. Their offense has been just pitiful this season, though, which I don’t think many people would have expected after the young team finished 15th in offensive efficiency last season. They did lose Gordon and try to replace him with Jannero Pargo (…), but Rose, Hinrich, Noah, Miller, and Salmons have all taken a step back or fallen off a cliff in terms of scoring efficiency. Their first pick, James Johnson, has stunk too.

    The HUGE difference between Chicago and Boston is that Chicago’s young core was a 50 win team and the best defense in the NBA. Boston was one of the worst teams in the NBA and managed to get a HOFer and another star for 10 cents on the dollar. I can’t really say what offers Chicago made or passed up, but not trading something like Gordon, Deng, and Thomas for Kobe is not a real crime. Minnesota overvalued Al Jefferson, so for all I know they may have passed on a better offer from the Bulls.

    The Bulls biggest mistake, in my opinion, was blowing their cap space on Ben Wallace. They had a solid young defensive core and the cap space to add some offensive fire-power to it. They decided the upgrade from Tyson Chandler to Ben Wallace was the best way to use the space, and although Wallace did help them step it up defensively from #7 to #1 for a season it was a short-lived upgrade. In fairness I think that year’s FA class stunk (Larry Hughes was another max guy I think), but they could have eventually or through a trade found a better fit. To add insult to injury they immediately gave away half of what they got for Chandler–JR Smith–for a 2nd round pick.

    Drafting Thomas was also a questionable call. Trading down to draft him smelled like an Isiah Thomas kind of “I’m smarter than everyone else” draft pick. That turned out to be a really weak draft class, though.

  41. Ted Nelson

    “but not trading something like Gordon, Deng, and Thomas for Kobe is not a real crime”

    Or didn’t seem like it at the time.

  42. David Crockett

    Clearly you take the good and the bad with D’Antoni, as you would any coach. D’Antoni can be doctrinaire*, but he has met with a lot of success in the NBA. So I suppose he doesn’t owe anyone an apology for doing what Mike D’Antoni do.
    *He’s not even in the same league with Pat Riley in terms of being doctrinaire.

    Nevertheless, a seven man rotation (for all practical purposes) is unusually short in the NBA. Van Gundy, and Riley before him, played effectively seven(ish) man rotations in New York, but neither played D’Antoni’s blistering pace. His seven man rotation wears down the guards, most notably Duhon, who has pretty well demonstrated that he can’t handle Steve Nash-type minutes.

    Although I don’t expect the Knicks to be a playoff threat this year (in the sense of having a legitimate shot at a series win). So if this is all just a preview of what is to come I hope D’Antoni can see his way to playing two guards off the bench rather than just one. I think D’Antoni’s refusal to develop a bench is one of the least talked about downsides to his time in Phoenix.

  43. jon abbey

    “I think D’Antoni’s refusal to develop a bench is one of the least talked about downsides to his time in Phoenix.”

    this isn’t totally fair, since the owner gave away quite a few bench players/draft picks simply to save money. Bill Simmons did a rundown on all of these moves at one point, it was pretty much criminal for a team that had a legit title shot.

  44. SeeWhyDee77

    I think I hafta re-asess Mike D’s decisions. Theoretically, I agree with his methods as long as A) U have versatile enough players to handle the short rotation, and B) Obviously u win an acceptable portion of your games. That said, I am still not completely on his side-but I do have more faith in him than I did at any other point during his tenure as Knick coach. I agree that if ur play is not conducive to winning, that u should be out of the rotation regardless of how many years u’ve been in the league and how much money u make. That obviously ruffles some feathers in the league, but it makes sense. What I don’t agree with is not communicating with players properly. It seems gutless to remove guys from the rotation and not have a “sit down” with them. While it’s true that all players know when they are not playing well, they at least deserve a chat to define roles at the least. I think that if u don’t communicate with players on their roles, u risk alienating them-and that’s a rep no coach needs. I also disagree with his non development of players at the end of his bench. In games where the outcome is a non question-whether it’s a blowout loss or win-u should play the other guys so that they can be ready should u need them. It is damn near impossible for the same 8 or 9 guys to stay healthy. One thing I absolutely love about D’Antoni is that he is a fiery competitor with an insatiable desire to win. There are a lot of coaches who are simply not built like him. He is a better coach than I thought he was. I, like many others, thought he was successfull b/c of Nash and the SSOL. He has proven this season that he can actually coach, and coach well. I would just like for him to change a few of his tactics. If u don’t need a player, get rid of him. Don’t act like u don’t need him and treat him accordingly becuz u may eventually need him for something. When Marbury refused to play, I understood-but I did not agree. Players get paid to play regardless of their feelings for the coach. But I understood how Marbury was feeling becuz Mike D flat out lied. Steph’s mental stability aside, no one can convince me that Mike D wouldn’t have been able to integrate him into the system. Steph was in shape, playing great ball in practice and preseason, and willing to play whatever role Mike D had for him. Then when the season started, he completely ignored Steph after all the talk of how he would use him. I’m not saying all of this to say I side with Steph on that beef becuz I don’t. I’m just saying that in that situation, D’Antoni said one thing and did another. By the time Steph was allowed to play, he clearly wasn’t ready. Physically he was, but mentally-he was gone. And that problee had more to do with the previous season, loss of his father and old coach, and the trial than it did with Mike’s methods. But Mike’s methods added a whole lot more weight to whatever was on Steph’s mind. But overall, I am happy Mike D is our coach becuz he has proven alot to me this season.

  45. rrude

    “. I think D’Antoni’s refusal to develop a bench is one of the least talked about downsides to his time in Phoenix.”

    There are some mitigating factors, primarily that there wasn’t much on the bench to develop. PHX botched and traded away a number of draft picks. I don’t really remember a true NBA talent languishing away there. Their free agent signings weren’t too hot either–Marcus Banks?

  46. Frank O.

    I really think the Bulls miss Gordon.
    They just don’t have a guy that is willing to take the big shot and drain it.
    The Bulls defense kept them in that game last night, but they missed something like 6 shots down the stretch, including a wide open 13-footer by Hinrich, that would have either put them ahead or tied the game.

    I am so glad I didn’t waste my time with the Nets. There was a point at half or so that it looked like it could be a game, but they were putrid in the second half from what I read.
    Still can’t wrap my brain around the first half they had against the Knicks. So frustrating…

  47. David Crockett

    I have a tough time seeing mitigating factors since D’Antoni, in effect, hand-picked his bench. He was the de facto GM before Kerr waltzed into town.

    Phoenix opted for a “stars and scrubs” roster (and its attendant salary structure). But, even within those confines they still could have taken the San Antonio approach of signing aging-but-once-good vets to minimum deals to play on a winner. Instead they opted for *actual* scrubs.

    The ONE thing that has gotten under my skin about the D’Antoni discussion is this bit about Nate’s play not being conducive to winning. Of course when people put it that way, benching Nate was the easy decision.

    We can all agree that Nate is immature, but on the court what’s the difference between him and Leandro Barbosa? Yet D’Antoni somehow managed to win with the latter, and I doubt you will find two more similar players in terms of style of play and output. Barbosa’s modestly higher career TS% is basically balanced out by Nate’s slightly better boards and assists. (Career steals are identical iirc.)

    For the role he is slated to play–6th man offensive energizer–he’s actually pretty good at it and has been for a few years.

  48. rrude

    The Suns approach was pretty similar to the Knicks under Van Gundy, another coach who had a short rotation and who also preferred vets over rookies. Some of the moves were cost-cutting and I don’t think you can blame D’Antoni for that. San Antonio is able to attract players because of their legacy, I’m not sure every team has the same ability to pick and choose from the top vets on the market. And, hey, are you calling Sean Marks a scrub?

  49. d-mar

    “I am so glad I didn’t waste my time with the Nets. There was a point at half or so that it looked like it could be a game, but they were putrid in the second half from what I read.
    Still can’t wrap my brain around the first half they had against the Knicks. So frustrating…”

    I really thought the Nets would turn a corner after our loss to them, not necessarily a winning streak, but at least better play and a few wins. Now that they’re basically healthy, I think management has to be alarmed at their play to say the least.

    This 3 day break between games sucks. I don’t think I can listen to any more pregame analysis of the Jets game (caller: I think the 37-0 win meant something, the Jets will kick butt on Sat….host: the Bengals didn’t care, they rested key players….blah blah blah blah) And the game isn’t for another 3 days!!

  50. Frank O.

    d-mar:

    I wonder, tho. Yi’s first game back was great, but, like Nate, after that first explosion, I’m sure his legs felt like limp noodles the next day. I’ve seen this in other players who have been out. Bender did the same. His first game back, he was very solid, but then it was like his legs were beat up fron the initial run.

    I think a couple more games and Yi is going to be an important contributor on that team and, in time, he and Lopez together will be a tough combination.

  51. Ted Nelson

    “I really think the Bulls miss Gordon.
    They just don’t have a guy that is willing to take the big shot and drain it.”

    It’s not just big shots. Right now they don’t have a guy who can drain ANY shot consistently. They are the 29th offense in the league (according to B-R) and their TS%s are just terrible all around. A good scorer to make those “big shots” would help them, but a good scorer or two and they win those games easily and don’t need to make any big shots.

    “I have a tough time seeing mitigating factors since D’Antoni, in effect, hand-picked his bench. He was the de facto GM before Kerr waltzed into town.”

    D’Antoni did a lousy job as GM (or at least didn’t do anything good that I know of… he’s the jerk-off who gave Marcus Banks all that money), but it was only about a year. Bryan Colangelo stepped down on February 27, 2006 and Kerr took over June 2, 2007.

    “The ONE thing that has gotten under my skin about the D’Antoni discussion is this bit about Nate’s play not being conducive to winning.”

    Agreed.

    “I don’t really remember a true NBA talent languishing away there.”

    Pretty true… their depth was weak, but I guess they could do that with all the talent they had at the front end of the rotation. Amazing that even when Amare went down for the season they were still sick.
    If you look at the guys taken with the draft picks they sold/traded it’s pretty crazy: a few I know off the top of my head are Luol Deng, Rajon Rondo, and Rudy Fernandez. I can understand the rationale behind cashing in high risk picks for proven vets, but I’m not sure selling picks even makes sense from a financial stand-point unless you get a lot of dough (payment you receive vs. projected production from pick).

  52. David Crockett

    rrude – the big difference between JVG and D’Antoni is pace. It’s one thing for JVG to play 7 guys at the league’s slowest pace. It’s another to play 7 guys in 7 seconds or less.

    OH SNAP!!!! I hadn’t noticed all the sevens before. How could I have missed. Maybe D’Antoni’s in the Nation of Islam?

    Slightly off topic but Kevin Pelton’s look at NY’s recent success (http://basketballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=847) may cause me to turn down the volume on my “D’Antoni’s too rigid!!” lament. Remember, I said “may.”

    Pelton points out that the Knicks have slowed the pace a good bit during their month plus of solid play. Additionally, his willingness to cast Wilson Chandler in the role of Raja Bell and Jared Jeffries as Boris Diaw (minus the 3pt shooting and the passing, respectively) does point to some flexibility.

    Chandler and Jeffries are the two guys we’re probably not talking about enough. Both are playing pretty good ball right now, and neither is doing something that seems unsustainable.

  53. Ted Nelson

    Oh, and Nate Robinson. But getting rid of Q’s contract was a lot of dough and they brought back Kurt Thomas in that case.

    They also drafted Gortat and traded him for a future pick.

    Sergio Rodriguez is another one.

    The only guys they’ve kept have been the likes of Alando Tucker, Robin Lopez, and DJ Strawberry.

    Their draft karma just seems really bad, or their scouting…

  54. Ted Nelson

    DC,

    I think Chandler and Jeffries are the guys we’re talking about most outside of Nate and maybe Lee.

    He ran seven man rotations at a fast pace in Phoenix for a long stretch with success and good health. You’re not getting up and down the court as much with JVG, but I’m sure playing D for him is not exactly easy work on your body (then again, since he doesn’t know what the word “offense” means who can pretty much take a breather on that side of the ball if the ball isn’t in your hands). I’m not a believer that Duhon faded because of heavy minutes, personally.

  55. Frank

    So looks like Gilbert Arenas is in big trouble. Suspended indefinitely, or worse.

    Not to turn this board into a discussion on guns, but I am so glad that Stern put his foot down on this guy, and HARD. The fact that the guy has been talking to federal investigators and is still joking around with making shooting motions at his teammates during pregames — that just goes to show this guy thinks everything, including pointing guns at his teammate in an NBA arena/locker room, is a big joke that he can get away with by giggling and being a clown.

    Well, I guess to at least some of these guys, only money talks. 147K per game should probably hurt. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if the Wizards try void his contract over this. And hopefully he’ll end up in jail. Losing $100 million might make the point.

    I’m an anti-gun guy in my own life, but am overall ok with the idea of the 2nd amendment etc. But this whole Arenas thing is just ridiculous.

  56. SeeWhyDee77

    Amen Frank..I don’t know wtf Gil was thinkin. Bring a gun to work?? Shit, if I take a water gun to work they’d problee fire my ass w/o thinkin twice. Still, if the NBA investigation leads to nothing (and he’s reinstated fairly quick) and the Wiz voids his deal, i’d like to see DW give him a look. It can’t hurt given our guard rotation.

  57. StevenU

    An aside: I am so glad David Stern has taken the step of an indefinite suspension without pay for Arenas-good move.
    I really liked Mike’s post; a pretty simple fair description of D’antoni’s approach with regard to the rotation. I do not know why so many people here seem to think that making a lot of money means that a person is not entitled to respect. Maybe we could have a poll here just to see what sort of consensus there is on the issue of communication. Of course D’antoni does not HAVE to tell anyone anything. At the same time, what’s the hard? Does it cost him anything to let a guy know why he is or is not in the rotation, and what might affect it going forward? When Hughes got benched the first time he was lauded for being such a professional about it. I think it was because he understood perfectly well that after he was approximately oh for the preseason he didn;t really earn playing time. When opportunity knocked he played very well for several games. Knick announcers said that he was playing the best all around game of any Knick over a period of a couple of weeks-and he really was. Passing the ball, really playing some good defense, providing a little rest for Duhon with competent pg play,and even shooting better than he usually does. Then he hurt his groin (if you have never had this injury, it is one of those insideous ones wheree it doesn’t hurt so badly but it can linger and reduce lateral movement and mobility for an extended time-weeks or even months). Upon his return he played and shot poorly. I have no beef with sitting him as a result but really-why NOT talk to him? Especially since he had been a good soldier to that point. This is not about Hughes or any other individual player and nor is it about D’antoni’s responsibility as coach. I will grant that it is above and beyond his job requirements. Still when you have so many players with the same gripe it does detract form the positives. It does have a cumulative effect. It does affect how players around the league view him-and rightly so.
    Dantoni’s stubbornnes-to a fault- is exactly what I’ve been griping about on here for a while. If he had rings, I am sure it’d be easier to ignore or accept-but he doesn’t and he ain’t getting any anytime soon, either.
    Short rotation? FINE. Never adjusting in game? Awful and that’s when stubbornness costs games.
    They had at least two game sduring the supposedly amazing run through December that they lost, where the starters seemd to really tire in the 4th quarter. Is this somehow not completely obvious to everyone who watches?

  58. jon abbey

    “I have a tough time seeing mitigating factors since D’Antoni, in effect, hand-picked his bench. He was the de facto GM before Kerr waltzed into town.

    Phoenix opted for a “stars and scrubs” roster (and its attendant salary structure). But, even within those confines they still could have taken the San Antonio approach of signing aging-but-once-good vets to minimum deals to play on a winner. Instead they opted for *actual* scrubs.”

    this had nothing to do with D’Antoni, the owner made a whole bunch of purely financial moves that probably cost them at least one title. Bill Simmons did a nice rundown postmortem of the SSOL era here:

    http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/page2/story?page=simmons/080501

  59. Frank O.

    Good Boston Miami tilt.
    Always weird seeing O’neil in Heat uniform.
    tough D on both sides, and still 49 all with 1:29 remaining

  60. Frank O.

    Perkins eFG% 64.3 and TS% 65.3.
    2.5 blocks per 36
    10.4 rebounds per 36
    64% from the field.

    Only problem is FT shooting. 61%

    Very nice player.

  61. Frank O.

    If the celts didn’t turn the ball over so much (23 times tonight) this wouldn’t be close…

  62. Frank O.

    Man, great game. A game like this makes me think Wade will move on.
    He scores 44 and loses.
    The alley oop to Rondo with .6 remaining was a killer.
    Down the stretch it was only Wade.

  63. BigBlueAL

    Great finish to the Heat-Celtics game. With the Heat’s upcoming schedule (something like 20 of next 27 or so on the road) dont be surprised to see them start slipping a but under .500 (or just stay around .500) and bring another team back into the “battle” for the last few spots in the East. Toronto though might be switching spots with the Heat and might grab a stranglehold on a playoff spot like it looked like the Heat had but I doubt it.

    It looks like there might be only 4 teams over .500 in the East, circa 2003-2004 season which incidentally was the last time the Knicks made the playoffs :-)

  64. tastycakes

    If Artest and Spree couldn’t have their contracts voided for incidents that involved actual physical violence, no way does Arenas lose the remainder of his contract for this. The exception would be if he got convicted of a felony .. but I’m not sure what that’s gonna be.

    There’s talk of the owners wanting non-guaranteed contracts, which would be fucking amazing if it happened. The Wiz want to waive Arenas not because of the gun incident, but because they have buyer’s remorse.

    Anyway, I think the whole gun incident is blown slightly out of proportion by the sensationalist sports media, but the league is doing the expected (and right) thing by taking Arenas out. He’ll probably sit the rest of the year. The Wiz are screwed. What can they do? Buyout would be too expensive. Trade won’t be possible without getting raped. Bad situation for them, but they probably need to bring him back next year after a bunch of group hugs and public mea culpas.

    My primary concern is what they are gonna replace the Rainn Wilson NBA commercial with (“I don’t wanna grill it on the hibachi for you”). Let’s face it, it’s not like the Wiz were remotely watchable!

  65. rrude

    Coming at this from a different angle:

    I guess I am not really sure what a conversation between Hughes and D’Antoni would consist of. What’s good enough?

    “Hey, Larry, you’re out tonight.”

    “Hey, Larry, we want to give Nate some minutes and we aren’t going to play you if you aren’t playing at least X minutes.”

    “Hey, Larry, you have really fallen off the last few games and we can’t afford to have you out there bricking.”

    “Hey, Larry, I’m sooooo sorry but we aren’t playing you today.”

    Maybe it’s just me, but putting it this way makes me think it’s much ado about nothing. Larry doesn’t know what’s going on w/o Mike telling him? Please. Larry is using the press to complain about not playing in a really passive way.

  66. The Honorable Cock Jowles

    Tastycakes,

    Walk into your place of employment with four guns, and put them in front of a coworker you owe money to. Tell him you wanted to make it easier for him to make good on the threat that he would shoot you for not paying him a gambling debt, then see if you have a job by the end of the hour.

    Although it seems as though NBA players live without bounds (and really, how did Jayson Williams crash his car on the FDR if he’s doing a stint in Sing Sing? Oh wait-), they’re still people under contract like you and me.

    If he’s indicted on weapons charges (and D.C. has one of the most strict firearm policies in the country), and he likely will be, you won’t see him in any uniform until, at earliest, November, and it most certainly will not be with the Wiz.

    The difference between the Arenas and Artest/Spree situations is that one involves firearms, and one does not. Maurice Clarett and Plaxico can vouch for that.

  67. tastycakes

    Who was the whistleblower in the Arenas case? Anybody know? With all the horsing around and such, I just have to believe that for Gil + his teammates, it was not nearly as big of an issue as it is for the breathless, holier-than-thou press corps.

    I’m not trying to defend his borderline sociopathic behavior. I’m just saying: nobody got hurt. No charges have been filed yet. The NBA Players Association has negotiated some sweet deals for their incredibly well paid contingent. It is not a trivial thing to cut him without penalty.

    Like I said before, if he’s convicted of something, they will void the contract. Short of that, the man is getting paid. (Which is unfortunate for everybody *except* Gilbert Arenas).

  68. Thomas B.

    Made the Dime, very nice. Now if they would suspend their bias towards well written and informative material in favor of song parodies, I could join you.

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