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Friday, August 29, 2014

The Honeymoon is Over D’Antoni, Part I

Coming into this season most analysts and fans agreed that this might be another lost season for our beloved Knickerbockers. The roster, which we presume will be completely overhauled this summer, was constructed for cap flexibility–not winning per se. So given these pretty low expectations, even I am a bit surprised at how disappointed I am in D’Antoni. I will say this right up front so I can get on with the point I want to make. I am NOT advocating for Mike D’Antoni to be fired. Rather, my point is to register a few observations about his coaching performance with an eye toward the future. Suffice it to say that so far I liked him better in Phoenix, and I would like dearly to see him devote himself to improving in some specific areas.

Let’s start with an obvious caveat. No one wins without talent in the NBA, and NY does not have a single top 3 player at any position. Even had D’Antoni managed to squeeze a little more out of the talent on hand, we would need every conceivable break just to be an 8 seed. So finishing (in all likelihood) worse than last year is not in itself why I am disappointed.

My disappointment is concentrated in three areas (listed below). I have come to see these as weaknesses in D’Antoni’s game that are not an obvious function of his available talent. I’ll detail the first area today and list the others as the season (and spring semester) wind down.

1. Managing personalities
2. Developing game strategy
3. Developing youngsters

Managing Personalities. Every coach in the NBA must manage players unhappy with their playing time. Some do this better than others. Phil Jackson is universally regarded as the best, but even screamers like Stan Van Gundy can learn to do this reasonably well. What matters more than salving player egos is clarity. It must be clear to the players (at least) that the coach’s rotation reflects merit and necessity. Based on comments to the press from players, both current and recently departed, I doubt Knicks players would concede the point.

On a team with 30-win talent managing personalities is a negligible part of the job. But as the team’s talent improves, more of the coach’s job is devoted to efficiently and effectively using the whole roster, getting players to understand and execute roles. In order for that to happen though, players cannot feel like their fates are decided on a whim or through biased decision making. They don’t have to always be happy with their roles as much as they have to understand and execute them. Right now I would not identify managing personalities as a strength for Coach D.

46 comments on “The Honeymoon is Over D’Antoni, Part I

  1. cgreene

    Mike, I think of your 3 points this is by far the most vague in terms of having any real insight. Let me point out a couple of major factors working against MDA on this.
    1. As I have said repeatedly, he was in a NO WIN scenario with veteran players on 1 year contracts who have the ear of other veteran players around the league. So he most certainly felt obligated to use them in turn giving them the opportunity to get another contract in the league. I really have no doubt about that.
    2. And I think we tend to disregard this somewhat on this blog. But guys like Marc Berman and to a somewhat lesser degree Frank Isola (who openly hates Dolan) literally attempt to mess with the players’ heads that are not playing, instigate situations that actually don’t exist and purposefully go after the coach for the single purpose of creating a story.
    3. Losing. Everyone on a losing team thinks they should be playing. Everyone watching a losing team thinks the coach should be playing other players and doing things differently.

    If there is one thing we MIGHT point to as it relates to his managing of personalities it is that he seemed not to clearly articulate his position to players about their minutes with consistency. But frankly don’t you think that there were points at which even he didn’t know what he was going to do and therefore couldn’t articulate it to the player in question?? The one major maneuver was benching Robinson. It very much seemed that he told Nate he was going to sit and he told him why (defense, ball hogging). Other than that, frankly, it would seem that the “likeable” players on the Knicks (Lee, Gallo, Wilson, Jeffries, Harrington etc) really like MDA.

    I would be far more concerned with your points 2, 3 and mainly 2 than this point. We have very little knowledge about this and there were many factors working against MDA here as well. I would give him the benefit of the doubt.

  2. Caleb

    It’s a hard season to judge – a cgreene points out, it’s really tough to run out a roster of players, almost all of whom expect to be somewhere else next year. Renters vs. owners.

    I would agree that in-game strategy seems to be a weakness, but I’m in the minority here – I think that is a relatively minor piece of coaching. Like Jax, D’Antoni is great at getting his players to understand the system and know what to do, without having it tightly scripted. (as opposed to, say, Larry brown). IMO that’s the main reason he likes to play a tight rotation instead of switching to get ideal matchups — he would rather maximize players’ familiarity with each other, and not disrupt the in-game flow with substitutions. It’s an interesting trade-off.

    I think my biggest concern about Mike D. is a personnel issue – is he going to try and force round pegs into square holes? Does he prefer certain “types” to the actual best players? Will he insist on shooters, ignoring strong players who can’t shoot? I’m nervous about that. But I have to admit, cap management has been the overriding factor in roster moves for two years, so we have to wait for this summer to really start learning what kind of players Walsh & D’Antoni want to put on the floor.

  3. kaine

    1) MDA is loved by all the big talents in the league.
    Tier1 and tier2 players. that’s all that we need to know: other than money and the city is a key factor to attract good players.
    frankly I don’t give a dime of the nates or the hugues or the marburys…I care for the Lebrons, The Boozers, or the JoeJohnsons

    2)MDA share a trait with Phil Jackson: neither of them can outcoach the opposition in the final second of a game. that scares me in a tight playoff series…I leave that thought to may 2011

    3) I’m not a fan of giving a youngster every freedom.
    giving the talent he was given, he did ok to me.

  4. David Crockett

    cgreene,

    This is Dave by the way–not Mike. (I just don’t want Mike to take heat over my post.)

    I don’t know that any of the issues I raise is any sort of fatal flaw, although I did go for the NY Post-style headline to grab some eyes :P

    It’s one thing to watch a guy in the playoffs and the occasional game on TNT. It’s another to “live” with him as he coaches your team. D’Antoni has already proven he can coach. That’s not in question. Nevertheless, I have seen some things I would mark as flaws.

    Perhaps I should have left my original wording as it concerns managing personalities. Initially I said that I find D’Antoni to be whimsical and rigid at the same time. Critiquing personality management obviously requires some reading of the tea leaves. There is so little we have no access to. The best anyone can do is acknowledge limits and accept caveats where needed, while keeping in mind that no player who speaks out about a “locker room issue” is forced to do so. That doesn’t mean you take every word at face value, but you also don’t ignore it.

    “… But frankly don’t you think that there were points at which even he didn’t know what he was going to do and therefore couldn’t articulate it to the player in question??”

    :: I imagine this is probably more true than most of us realize of most coaches. You raise the Robinson benching, which I saw as indefensible on its merits. So rather than go back over that ground, I will address the Larry Hughes benching. His may be a somewhat better case of D’Antoni’s simultaneous whimsy and rigidity. I’m no fan of Hughes. He is not good, and his limitations are well documented. He played about as well this season for us as McGrady has–which is to say better than Duhon.

    D’Antoni was benched Hughes, a far superior veteran perimeter player, for Duhon based on performance, all while Douglas sat rotting away. Both Duhon’s and Hughes’ deals expire, and Hughes is the better defender–certainly no worse. It was a decision that didn’t pass the sniff test. Since Duhon’s more or less permanent banishment, the team really hasn’t missed him and I don’t know who other than D’Antoni seriously feared it would.

    “Losing. Everyone on a losing team thinks they should be playing. Everyone watching a losing team thinks the coach should be playing other players and doing things differently.”

    I’d go further to say that every player (practically) thinks they should be playing — period. The coach’s job is not to make them happy. There’s probably a baseline level of grumbling that is unavoidable. But, the words I use are “merit” and “necessity” and a coach’s decisions should have one or both of those. When they don’t the grumbles get louder–and that’s what caught my attention. I don’t think some of D’Antoni’s decisions–specifically his love affair with Duhon–have had clear merit, nor did they meet a need (e.g., playing the high draft pick over a better veteran).

    I don’t think that makes D’Antoni a bad guy or bad coach. Coaches develop crushes, pretty much without exception. It’s just something to watch out for going forward.

  5. TheRooster8

    I think there is a large piece missing from this discussion….
    If the Knicks won every game in which they lead by double digits, they would be a few games above .500 and in the playoff mix. The Knicks regularly get beaten in the fourth quarter and give up large leads. When they have the chance to shoot a game winner, most times they either turn the ball over or end up with some rushed fade away shot. And whenever someone has the chance for a game winner on them, they nearly always make it. Yes, players play, but coaches prepare them, or should, for these situations.

    Maybe the reason the Suns always fell just a little short is that while MDA is a offensive mastermind, his game management skills end up killing his teams in the end.

    And sticking with Duhon for as long as he did was inexcusable.

  6. cgreene

    Sorry, Mike/Dave!

    RE: Larry Hughes etc

    Agreed that Duhon was just awful. And maybe this is where the “rigidity” you speak of comes into play. I just think MDA NEEDED a PG that he felt could make the right play on the PnR and for no other reason (not a crush) did he stay w Duhon. MDA’s offensive philosophy starts with that play and what he was in love with was Duhon’s ability to make the right pass. Period. (In your analogy of McGrady vs Hughes, McGrady also makes that play nicely much better than Hughes IMO.) In addition Hughes has had minor personality clashes with coaches in a few stops now so my preference is to see that as the culprit combined with the losing. Hughes simply thinks he’s better than he is. He is a product of the current NBA cancer of guaranteed deals for young players that MIGHT be great. Hughes thought he was entitled to more communication than he was because he was getting paid alot.

    I would have like more Tony Douglas as well. However, he is also not very capable of running the PnR yet and his production slips mightily when his shot is off. Maybe MDA actually knows this because he coaches him everyday????????

    PS: Do not want to come off as MDA apologist. Think he has a lot to prove especially with game strategy, flexibility with his “system” and personnel.

  7. Robert Silverman

    All good points so far Dave, though for it to be a true NY Post-style headline, there would have to be more puns/alliteration. Since you bring up the Post, I think it’s really important to mention the factor that the NY tabloid/magnifying glass plays in the perception of D’Antoni.

    If you read McCallum’s book, 7SOC, it’s clear that the managing personalities “issue” was present there as well. Shawn Marion is portrayed as constantly needing his ego massaged/feels underappreciated. No one’s sure how hard Stoudamire is really working on his rehab. Tim Thomas won’t play defense. Boris Diaw would look great one play and completely clueless the next, driving the coaching staff to fits of exasperation.

    Sound familiar?

    The difference is, Berman/Vescey/Isola don’t work for the Arizona Republic so the dirty laundry from 55-60 win teams wasn’t aired until well after the fact. The truth is, coaches in NY (and LA/Boston/Chicago) are going to be under greater scrutiny. Some of it deserved. Some of it (as in Berman’s weird Marbury fixation) not. But because the papers need conflict/drama…heck “news” to sell papers, you’re going to get stories like the one’s we’ve heard about MD’A this year and the perception is going to be that he’s not doing a good job “handling” the various personalities on the team.

    I don’t want to sound like a D’Antoni apologist either, it’s just that if he has the same players and was coaching w/the same results in say, Milwaukee, I don’t think this would be an issue.

  8. TheRant

    I don’t want to judge a coach on developing strategy or developing young talent when he didn’t have and still really doesn’t have a go-to point guard. Just not fair.

    My main complaint here is likely with Donnie Walsh, not D’Antoni. I don’t want to rake the crew over Brandon Jennings much longer — after all, lots of people passed on him.

    But it turns out to have been a point guard rich draft and we didn’t even *try* one of them. And we have no pick this year. Which means we need a free agent PG, and they’re hard to find (let’s hope CP3 is progressively unhappy this year).

    It’s like going to the seafood restaurant, ordering the steak, getting a crappy steak, and then having the doctor tell you you’re eating too much saturated fat. At least try *something*!

    Ben

  9. rrude

    I felt for a while MDA was trying to counter the culture he inherited and bring in a more authoritarian management style (sort of along Mike Keenan’s lines, for the hockey fans). No explanations are necessary because these are men, paid quite well to do a job.

    But I sort of lost faith that there was a method behind his style. My recent theory was that he just didn’t want to invest in players that he knew wouldn’t be here. Why should I explain something to Hughes when he’s going to be gone as fast as we can get him out? MDA seems perfectly willing to talk to Gallo.

    I can’t say I am comforted by the supposed fact that star players like MDA: most have only experienced him as a part of an all-star Olympic environment, or him cracking jokes with them on the sidelines. Pretty easy to like someone in those moments, and doesn’t say anything about the sort of coach he is.

    Ultimately, I am guessing he is not as bad as his time with the Knicks so far, but not as good as his record with PHX suggests (see: Nash, Steve). Some folks argue coaching is far less important than talent in the NBA, and while i think it’s true for the most part, it’s certainly more comforting as a fan to think that your team’s talent doesn’t have to overcome the coach’s shortcomings.

  10. Brian Cronin

    Off on a bit of a tangent – I was just about to complain about the NBA giving fans a vote for MVP, but then I realized that it will never actually matter (has one vote ever determined the final voting?) so it’s just a nice bit of PR, so never mind.

  11. BigBlueAL

    D’Antoni should be fired for his lack of usage of the future HOFer Nate Robinson. I mean ever since going to Boston he has been lighting it up, in the month of March he is averaging a whopping 5.9 ppg and 2.1 apg on a 39% shooting from the field. Doc Rivers must be as stupid as D’Antoni since he is only playing him 14.5 minutes per game this month.
    Maybe he is saving him for the playoffs….

  12. TheRant

    The Portland game was really sad to see.

    The sense of defeat, that we are at the very end of the season, that most won’t be back, it was all too palpable.

  13. BigBlueAL

    Just to clarify since I know I probably will hit a nerve with most of the Nate Robinson fans here with my comment I was basically making a point about the ridiculous criticism of D’Antoni for his 2 seasons here.

    The roster the last 2 seasons has been one of the freakin worst in the NBA for crying out loud!!!! Larry Hughes hasnt even been picked up since he was traded and immediately released, and when the Knicks did pick him up he was rotting away on the Bulls bench last season (the Bulls last season were a decent team who made the playoffs). Everyone here loves Nate and ripped the way D’Antoni obviously wasnt thrilled with him yet he gets traded to Boston and what has he done for that weak Celtics bench??? Nothing, hell they just picked up freakin Michael Finley who is playing almost the same amount of minutes as Nate now.

    D’Antoni actually made Jeffries into a decent role player here by putting him into a specific role yet he gets traded to Houston and gets a bunch of DNP-CD’s because he sucks. So Marbury, Nate and Hughes dont like D’Antoni, well man thats a shocker. Who the hell does like those 3 players anyway???? Zach Randolph and Crawford have said if they had stayed here under D’Antoni they wouldve made the playoffs and are probably right but thankfully Walsh and D’Antoni saw the bigger picture and were willing to suck for a couple of years to hopefully become a title contender next season.

    I still honestly believe if given the talent D’Antoni will win and win big in the regular season like he did in Phoenix and I believe Walsh even w/o getting Lebron can get him the talent needed to become at least a perennial 50 win team who can make noise in the playoffs. If the Knicks do improve as we all hope this off-season than the pressure will definitely be on D’Antoni, and rightfully so, to win next season and if not he will 100% deserve all criticism and calls for his firing. BUT until then really all this criticism of D’Antoni I believe is a waste of time and is totally meaningless.

  14. Nick C.

    Pretty funny and not entirely off target, BBA, I follow Nate and have noticed that as well, and its not like his game exactly needs a system. FYI, Hughes just started playing for Charlotte and just wait for the “he buried Jordan Hill….Chauncey Douglas” comments or the final fall back, but “he played Duhon and Duhon sucks.” But D’Antoni hasn’t shown much either way.

  15. ess-dog

    Didn’t watch the game but it sounded terrible. Again it comes back to post defense for me: Aldridge was 10-12?? That’s absurd. Was Lee guarding him or Walker? Hopefully D’Antoni isn’t sticking with Gallo guarding point guards and putting Walker on a pf, because that just doesn’t work. Moves like that make me wonder about D’Antoni a bit, but it might just be him saying “look I have nothing to work with”.
    So obviously we need a big, but which big should we go for? Camby’s good but old. There’s Perkins in 2011, right? Bosh, Amare and Boozer of course but they are all scorers and bad defenders. I like Lee but he just can’t stop anyone. I don’t think Biedrins is the answer. Maybe we can trade for a young big. I’m much more concerned about this than the pg position (even if we strike out on lebron, sergio and TD make a fair duo and adding Joe J. or even McGrady helps make up for the lack of a true playmaker.)
    With Gallo, Chandler, Walker and maybe McGrady, I think we are set with swingmen. I suppose if we get Lebron or Johnson, we would look to make a trade involving Walker/Chandler.
    Ugh, it’s amazing I still care at this point.

  16. Brian Cronin

    The Nate criticism is unfair because it was never a matter of “D’Antoni doesn’t play him enough” or “Nate’s awesome” it was that D’Antoni benched him completely for fourteen games for no good reason, particularly since Nate played the same way after the benching that he did before the benching, so it wasn’t even like, “Nate learned something from the benching.”

    If Doc Rivers decides to bench Nate Robinson for multiple games or if whoever coaches Nate next year decides to bench Nate for multiple games, then sure, fair enough, it’s not on D’Antoni – there might be something to “Nate Robinson forces people to bench him”.

    But that’s never going to happen, because Nate Robinson is too good to bench for multiple games (unless, I suppose, your guards are all really awesome, which the Knicks’ guards were not).

  17. rrude

    I think it’s funny the Nate benching is the main topic of a discussion of D’Antoni’s coaching. Personally, I thought some sort of disciplining of Nate (or anyone else on the team) was long overdue. 14 games was too long, but regardless of Nate’s talent, he too often was playing and acting for himself on the court to the detriment of the team. Even if it’s not shown in stats, the idea that he gets away with celebrating while he should be getting back on d, shouldn’t be tolerated. It’s not like we have a winning team anyway, so why tolerate these ‘loser’ habits, even if it means benching perhaps your best guard option for some games.

    More to the point is maybe the fact that D’Antoni’s disciplinary action (if that’s what it was) didn’t seem to change Nate’s behavior much, didn’t seem to get through to him. That’s more worrisome to me than the benching itself.

  18. BigBlueAL

    OMG I forgot about Tim Duncan, I mean Jordan Hill. Yup, how dare he not play a rookie who liked like shit in Summer League and did nothing during pre-season and who actually plays a position where in the beginning of the season there was some depth. He did actually give him decent minutes here and there and if they wouldnt have traded him I think its pretty obvious he would now be playing 25 to 30 minutes per game so please. Thats right I forgot also, how could I have forgotten about Darko Milicic!!!

    You see thats my point, the roster he has had is so pathetic that people are complaining about not playing players like Hughes, Milicic and Jordan Hill. C’mon. Again with Nate so yeah Doc isnt benching him he is playing him 15 minutes per game yet people here wanted him to play 35 to 40 minutes per game here. Again a sign of how weak the roster is that a player like Nate is looked at so highly. He certainly can be/is a very good bench player who will have games that he can carry you but thats it which is basically how D’Antoni viewed him.

    I think the only thing Isiah ever said that was correct was that you cant rebuild in NY. I mean thats what the Knicks were basically doing for the most part the last 2 seasons yet D’Antoni is still getting killled for not winning enough. Hell if you look back at all the game threads this year and last you will see me frustrated as hell during the games like everyone else here too but when you look back rationally you realize how pretty bad this roster has been. I also have absolutely no problems with it since I am totally on board with what Donnie Walsh is doing.

    I guess I am just tired of complaining about this team and with the season almost over and July 1st closer than ever I am just willing to give everyone a break and am ready to finally be positive and hopeful about the future and for that to be the case we have to be willing to trust DW and D’Antoni and hope they can finally turn this thing around.

  19. Nick C.

    Al I think the can’t rebuild is BS. Remember the excitement with the Pitino team or further back the 79-80 50 win team w/ Ray Williams, Cartwright, Michael Ray RIchardson. The problem is re-build means traditionally with kids and you watch them gel, this is mercenaries, flotsam and such for the sake of the salary cap in the hope that we can get LBJ to come and save the team.

  20. Mike Kurylo

    BBA – No need to build up a strawman just to knock him down. I know Jordan Hill isn’t Tim Duncan, just as you know Chris Duhon isn’t Steve Nash. So I’ll spare the theatrics.

    Your point that the roster is quite pathetic is true, but it doesn’t answer the question why didn’t D’Antoni play Jordan Hill. It also doesn’t answer the question why didn’t D’Antoni play Toney Douglas more earlier in the year. Nor does it answer why D’Antoni did the same with Nate Robinson.

    The team sucked it’s true, and D’Antoni has had little to work with. I agree with that. The difference is that you’re saying it doesn’t matter, and I’m saying it does. Not because this could have been a playoff year, because it would mean that D’Antoni is the type of coach that can get the most of out every person on his roster.

    And I agree that things will be different when there is better talent on the team. It might just hide that weakness of D’Antoni’s. Or perhaps, his penchant for ignoring guys at the end of the bench could bite the team in a playoff series (think Riley not playing Blackman against Houston).

  21. BigBlueAL

    My point about the can’t rebuild thing is exactly what this thread is about, criticizing a proven coach because he is losing with a roster that is not built to win. I know they had a goal to make the playoffs both last and this season and they kinda gave you some hope they would until the end of February both seasons. But in the end neither team really had a snowball’s chance in hell of making the playoffs with their rosters.

  22. BigBlueAL

    Yeah my bad Mike with going strawman, got a bit carried away Ill admit.

    I guess Im used to coaches with real short rotations who ignore end of bench players since thats what Riley and JVG were known for and D’Antoni was similar in Phoenix. But the fact is D’Antoni did give minutes here and there to TD and Hill earlier and you have to understand his thinking about going with the veterans at first for the most part. Of course D’Antoni has his weaknesses but all coaches do and especially if they are stuck with a crap roster.

    Remember I am not saying D’Antoni is the greatest coach ever but he definitely deserves to be judged when he is an actual decent team. He is a proven NBA coach just as Walsh is a proven GM in this league. TRUST me next season if the team is greatly improved and struggling I will be the first to get on D’Antoni’s ass but I just think doing so now is a bit unfair.

  23. BigBlueAL

    Oh and BTW Ro Blackman was NOT the answer in Gamer 7, he was absolute crap during the regular season. Hubert Davis shouldve gotten more minutes maybe but he had struggled during the postseason. Hell he was the starting SG for the first few games of the postseason so if anybody shouldve gotten minutes over Starks in Game 7 it was Davis not Blackman. But again Starks had been great in the previous couple of games so cant really blame Riley for hoping Starks would turn it around since he was streaky as hell.

  24. Z

    “Ro Blackman was NOT the answer in Gamer 7, he was absolute crap during the regular season.”

    I know this is somewhat irrelevant to both your broader point and Mike’s, but the Rolando criticism isn’t just about game 7. It is about the entire playoff run and Riley’s refusal to expand the bench to include a veteran player with a whole season’s worth of playoff games under his belt. Yes, Blackman wasn’t putting up great shooting stats during his tenure in NY, but the season before he did make his playoff minutes count by hitting a game winning 20 footers to go up 3-1 against a pesky Hornets team. (Without that shot, it’s possible Charles Smith never even gets the opportunity to miss four straight layups!) In 1994 Rolando should have gotten on the court against the Rockets (just as Toney Douglas should have gotten on the court against the Rockets on January 9th, 2010– only a bit less glaringly so! :)

  25. BigBlueAL

    Blackman was HORRIBLE in both seasons, regular and post-season. I remember the game-winner vs the Hornets, but earlier in the series in Game 2 Hubert Davis sent the game into OT and was just a rookie then but was more effective than Blackman already. Blackman vs the Bulls was useless because he couldnt cover anybody and that was in 1993. By 1994 he was done and like I said Hubert Davis had come on that season and started when Starks got hurt and remained the starter for the first few games of the post-season.

    I totally disagree with the criticism of Riley for that but at least that is legitimate criticism since it was during a run at a championship with a talented roster. Of course when you come that close to a championship and dont win you will get analysed and criticized and rightfully so, especially when you had the better team (statistically the 1994 Knicks although were 0-2 vs the Rockets and won 1 less game in the regular season were far superior to the Rockets). But criticizing D’Antoni’s handling of a basically pathetic roster is to me not fair. BTW the Knicks this season are 3-1 vs the Hawks, have blowout wins vs the Suns and Dallas plus also have nice wins vs the Nuggets and Blazers. Also those wins came some with the full roster before the trades and some after the trades too.

  26. Z

    BBA– You point to the Knicks big wins this year, but ignore the horrendous losses. (More than one to the pathetic Nets and dozens of other games they never even showed up to play). Any bad team can blow out a good team on any given night. Especially a team that shoots 8000 3 pointers. It’s not really worth giving points to D’Antoni for it. (It’s like Kevin McElroy said early in the season (paraphrasing): the way this team plays they should win 33% of their games thanks to good shooting nights, lose 33% of their games thanks to bad shooting nights, and the other 33% should be decided by meaningful basketball elements). The Knicks have won almost exactly 33% of their games so far this season, indicating they aren’t doing so well in the in between games where things like defense, play-making, and hustle make a difference.

    I think we’d all be happy with the season if the Knicks had played hard and competed, regardless of their record. Those really aren’t very high expectations, and the team failed to meet them. I know D’Antoni is here to coach stars next year, but he’s looked really bad at a lot of times this year. Bad to the point that he could be losing his mystique (a risk he and Walsh hopefully calculated before giving him the reins eighteen months ago).

    I think it is valid to criticize him for his performance, especially in facets that will make a big difference to the success of a team, good or bad, in the coming years (like the ones David is outlining).

  27. BigBlueAL

    The reason I brought up those wins was because it showed that at least they had some good wins this season and arent as bad as the freakin Nets or T’Wolves. This Knick team will win close to 30 games which was the worst case scenario before the season started and that was before the team made the trades and have been w/o Chandler for what is going to amount to the final 20 games or so.

    As bad as the Knicks are they will probably finish 11th or 12th in the East which is obviously bad but not embarrassing bad. Of course the team had had games recently when they didnt compete, youre talking about games in Phoenix and Portland w/o Chandler playing. But dont say they havent competed/they have quite on the season when they go to Dallas and win by 34, sweep a home-and-home vs the Sixers and beat Denver at home, not to mention close losses to the Rockets and Jazz. Quite frankly I am not surprised when they get blown out and have been surprised at how competitive they have been once Chandler went down.

    I have League Pass so I guess I know what real pathetic teams look like and the Knicks for the most part have not played anywhere near that pathetic with a roster that quite frankly isnt much better than most of those teams, especially the roster that has played since March. So Im sorry criticizing him for this season I still think is foolish and when guys like Joe Johnson and Boozer recently talk about what a great coach D’Antoni is I am not concerned about him losing his “mystique”. Quite frankly superstars like that Im sure dont give a shit about how scrubs/losers like Marbury, Hughes, Milicic and even Nate are treated because they know that wont happen to them and they remember how good Phoenix was under D’Antoni and assume if they play for him with a good cast around them they would win as many games as Phoenix used to win under D’Antoni.

  28. Z

    “guys like Joe Johnson and Boozer recently talk about what a great coach D’Antoni is I am not concerned about him losing his ‘mystique’.”

    What players say is not always what they do. What would either Boozer or Johnson have to gain publicly ruling out the rich-in-cap-space Knicks? And if Johnson and Boozer are the two FAs D’Antoni’s mystique yields, then I’d have to say he probably wasn’t worth the initial investment.

    “As bad as the Knicks are they will probably finish 11th or 12th in the East which is obviously bad but not embarrassing bad. Of course the team had had games recently when they didnt compete, youre talking about games in Phoenix and Portland w/o Chandler playing.”

    I was actually talking about the entire month of November, up until the first Nuggets game, and then various strings of games in January and February before the season was officially lost about a month ago. During those games (Two losses to the Nets, 50 point loss at home to Mavs, back-to-back-to-back losses to the Raptors, Wizards, and Wolves, a home-and-home sweep to the Bulls, etc…) D’Antoni was left smiling to the press corps, grasping at the same few straws every time.

    The Knicks are currently the 8th worst team in the league, and only 3 games up on the 5th worst team. They are all but guaranteed to lose more games this year than last– the only real expectation that they were being held to. And considering last year they had every reason to flail down the stretch, the lost season of 2009-2010 hurts even more. We can point fingers at Chris Duhon and Al Harrington, but they won’t be here next year, so it’s silly to deconstruct their failures. D’Antoni will be back, so let’s look at him for what he’s been, and what we hope he’ll be in the future.

  29. Z

    And in separate news: I’m still waiting on an official Knickerblogger statement from Jon Abbey, re: Lebron’s new Nike deal…

  30. BigBlueAL

    Fine I give in, I admit the Knicks sucked this year cause of D’Antoni. Any other coach wouldve gotten this team into the playoffs easily. Hell maybe even gotten this Knicks team to win 50 games if not even 60. I admit during their streak in Dec and into Jan I thought they had a chance at the playoffs just like last season but honestly if you looked at this team objectively they are exactly where they should be. Hell I think Hollinger had them winning less than 30 games this season and that was his prediction right before the season started.

    Anyway I just hope the Cavs dont win it all and Lebron joins the Knicks, it would be kinda cheap if they do win it all and then he joins the Knicks. I dont think he will leave Cleveland either way but still if he does again I hope he goes to NY to win his 1st title. Hell what am I saying, I dont give a shit what the Cavs do this year as long as Lebron comes to NY!!!!

  31. BigBlueAL

    btw Z u know I love u since you have an Anthony Bonner pic and go back to the 90′s Knicks so Im not trying to ridicule you or anything. Same with Mike who I love since this blog is great for us Knick fans so no hard feelings I just feel strongly that criticism for D’Antoni’s coaching these past 2 seasons is really unfair.

    It doesnt help that an idiot like Berman blogs about how Alvin Gentry has the Suns playing much better D than D’Antoni did which is statistically such a joke its laughable, hell D’Antoni has these Knicks playing the same if not slightly better D than Gentry has the Suns doing now. After the years with Isiah as coach and the horrible year Larry Brown had here to me D’Antoni has been a breath of fresh air with his entertaining interviews/press conferences. People calling him D’Amphony and trying to minimize how good his teams were in Phoenix to me is totally unfair and uncalled for.

    I think having the League Pass is a curse because I see the teams that are actually really good and trust me this Knicks roster the past 2 seasons is easily one of the worst in the NBA and nationally it is looked at that way only locally is D’Antoni getting crap for apparently underachieving with this current team. The Knicks are a joke nationally but the only thing that gives them some credibility is the fact that Walsh and D’Antoni are running the team now instead of freakin Isiah.

    I reiterate though that next season D’Antoni is fair game so trust me next season I will be critical of him if necessary so again I am not a D’Antoni lover but I do respect him and believe he shouldnt be judged on these past 2 seasons but should be judged fairly starting next season.

  32. DS

    Mike Brown says that LeBron makes him look smart… I think it’s fair to say, then, that the Knicks often make D’Antoni look stupid.

    D’Antoni’s job over the past two years has been different than what it will hopefully be for years to come (w/ better players) This is just another way of saying that the team sucks, but; can you imagine trying to get 12-15 guys on the same page, learn and run a system that involves 5 guys working together BUT with Nate, Steph, or Al Harrington in the middle of all of it? If he only gets a B or C for managing the leftovers of Isiah’s and Layden’s mess, does that really matter? The team now has the opportunity to grab better players that will coincide w/ D’Antoni’s strengths.

    D’Antoni keeps a short rotation but he also helped develop players like Raja Bell, Diaw, Barbosa, Q, and Joe Johnson into stars on 60 win team. His end of the game play calling will seem like less of an issue when the team isn’t scratching and clawing not to blow a 15 point lead in the last 6 minutes. NOT TO MENTION he’ll (hopefully) have playmakers on the team.

    RILEY, by the may have faired better if he let Blackman take the last shot of game 6 of the NBA Finals BUT you can’t say he ignored his bench. What were Mason, Starks, Ike Austin, and Voshon Lenard before Riley??

  33. Frank

    I think there’s no way we can end the honeymoon before D’Antoni has a chance to do the job he was brought here to do: that is – to recruit free agents and to coach good players. He and Walsh both said that the first 2 years were going to stink– and they have. Like Z said, at least 1/3 of games are close, and team cohesion, heart, and yes, coaching will determine the outcome. How can you possibly have cohesion when the entire roster flips every year? How can you have heart when everyone other than Gallo, Chandler, and TD are lame ducks? And how can you blame coaching when the roster stinks (as was the plan) and is totally mismatched to the way the coach wants to play?

    And re: the bad losses — every team, even good ones, have bad losses. For Pete’s sake, after the 50-pt blowout to the Mavs, we blew THEM out by 30. And they’re actually a GOOD team. I just think it takes special players to play through this crap time of year, and for the most part, we don’t have special players. I do have to exempt Harrington from this — for all his faults, the man does come to play every night. If there were any way we could resign him for MLE-type of contract I would do it.

    I’m still voting for the signings of Lebron, Camby or Haywood, and Lee, btw.

    And lastly – if anyone hasn’t seen the new ESPN-NY site yet, there’s a great article on why LBJ should come to NY — http://sports.espn.go.com/new-york/columns/story?page=oconnor/lebron-james/100402

  34. ess-dog

    I also liked this ‘Knicks backup plan’ article where Walsh talks candidly about The Plan:

    http://sports.espn.go.com/new-york/columns/story?columnist=sheridan_chris&page=KnicksPlan-100402

    Reading this buoys my spirits a bit, although I’m not going to be overjoyed with a Johnson/Bosh combo. I’d rather do a Lee/Bosh combo for cheaper. I think you can argue that Bosh is worth close to the max, but I think Johnson is worth the same as Lee – maybe a bit more. I honestly think the Hawks would come away a winner in a Lee for Johnson sign and trade.
    I like the idea of getting Bosh because he’s young (25) and a big who’s having a great year. I think he’s the only other player you consider maxing out this year besides Bron/Wade (and Melo next year.)
    If you can’t get one of those 3, make a few small deals and wait for Melo and hopefully CP3.

  35. TheSportsWatcher

    I so want to agree with the notion that D’Antoni does not deal with personalities wrong, but it’s hard for me to do that given his track record. Absent of everything that has transpired during his tenure with the Knicks, an organization so jacked up its GM/coach was in a sexual harassment suit, D’Antoni gets a long with all of his former players. I didn’t hear about any problems with players in Phoenix, and most importantly, everyone on the Redeem Team loved him. Maybe D’Antoni just doesn’t get along with bad players. He seems to manage David Lee’s and peronality fairly well. So perhaps once we do get some proven free agents in here this summer, we’ll see a more personable D’Antoni in 2010-2011.

    As for the idea of signing Chris Bosh, I am 100% against that if he is the team’s best signing. Honestly, I don’t like the idea of investing in a big man that’s not a dominate player from the low post. Don’t get me wrong, he’s a great player, but I think the only way Bosh is winning a championship is if he’s the supporting “actor,” if you will, like a Scottie Pippen. Maybe I’m still skeptical of big men who relies on his jumper so much. I just remember the 90′s and how Ewing really needed some help on those teams if the Knicks were going to ever beat the Bulls, and I don’t ever envision a Bosh-led team beating a LeBron James-led team in the playoffs…so why pay him the money when he’s not going to be the difference-maker the Knicks need?

  36. Ted Nelson

    “On a team with 30-win talent managing personalities is a negligible part of the job. But as the team’s talent improves, more of the coach’s job is devoted to efficiently and effectively using the whole roster, getting players to understand and execute roles.”

    You could argue that the opposite is true. The Knicks have a lot of guys who are around the same talent level. It’s easy enough to accept that you’re not playing when there are better players ahead of you. When D’Antoni was in Phoenix, for example, he usually had 8 or 9 NBA players and then some D-League players. The guys not in the rotation were either young guys who hadn’t shown anything (and largely never would) or veterans who were grateful just to have an NBA job. When you look at Duhon, Hughes, Robinson, and Douglas… who gives you a better chance to win more games throughout the season? I really don’t know. Even with Douglas, the one you could most easily dismiss, one could argue that given playing time early in the season he could climb the learning curve and be better than the others at the end of the season.
    Even Al Harrington, who I would argue is one of the best players on the Knicks, gets criticized to the point where it seems most posters here think the team would be better off without him. Darko has one of the worst attitudes in the NBA, yet many posters were outraged that he wasn’t handed minutes.

    Same thing with roles. When you’re Mo Williams and you play next to LeBron James, your role is clear. Nothing to do with him specifically, but if Mo Williams were on the Knicks he might feel like he’s the best player and try to take a bigger role than D’Antoni wants.

    Winning also soothes egos. If you’re the 12th man on a winning team, a. you’re the winning and b. it’s harder to argue you should be playing ahead of players who are winning. If you’re the 12th man on the Knicks… in the middle of a 10 game losing streak it’s hard not to think you could at least not do any worse than the guys out there.

  37. Ted Nelson

    “I think my biggest concern about Mike D. is a personnel issue – is he going to try and force round pegs into square holes? Does he prefer certain “types” to the actual best players?”

    Agree 100%. My biggest concern: adaptability. He’s been too much of a system coach too often. I can agree with trying to get the 5 best players on the court even if it’s an unconventional line-up, but at what point do you cross over into Don Nelson territory.

    If you have LeBron and good supporting talent, you can play any system you want. If the Knicks miss on LeBron (and Wade) it’s a matter of both how Walshtoni communicate on personnel issues (does Walsh go out of his way to get the guys D’Antoni likes) and then who he’ll

    cgreene re: #6,
    The Duhon example is a leading example of a lack of adaptability. I’m more worried about it with bigmen going forward (not so much so far: I’m comfortable with not playing Darko given his attitude though I can also see a minor beef given the Knicks terrible interior D, and Curry stubs his pinky toe every time he steps on a basketball court…). D’Antoni was so set in his mind that he needed a “pure PG” and/or that Duhon would rebound that he rode Duhon to the point where it probably cost the Knicks several wins. A lot of coaches do that, I just think if I built a perfect NBA coach they would not.

    D’Antoni did eventually shift away from the 7SOL, but it took a year plus, and came at a time when everyone and their mother knew the Knicks needed to do something different. It came at a time when you could literally say his job was in jeopardy if something didn’t change (Knicks were on a Nets like pace).

    “The difference is, Berman/Vescey/Isola don’t work for the Arizona Republic so the dirty laundry from 55-60 win teams wasn’t aired until well after the fact.”

    The difference is that they had a ton of talent and won a ton of games. Stoudamire came back stronger than before after his surgery and has ALWAYS been an All-Star caliber player almost since stepping into the NBA out of high school, Diaw was one of the most versatile players in the NBA and only their 4th or 5th man, Marion was an All-Star. If the Knicks were on a 60 win pace D’Antoni would be a saint in NY. Hughes would be like Jalen Rose on the Suns and no one would care what he had to say.

    “if he has the same players and was coaching w/the same results in say, Milwaukee, I don’t think this would be an issue.”

    Any team that wins under 30 games in an 82 game season is going to come under scrutiny, people will call for change. The calls will be fewer in Milwaukee, but I’m sure no one in Pittsburgh or KC is happy that the Pirates and Royals are pitiful every season.

  38. Ted Nelson

    BBA,

    No doubt Nate is not playing well for the Celtics. He did play well for the Knicks, though. He also didn’t have Rajon Rondo and Ray Allen ahead of him. Nate’s play over one month on a 50 win team justifies any decision D’Antoni made? Looking at one month of stats when he has several seasons of stats to see what kind of player he is is silly. It’s as silly as if I were to call D’Antoni an idiot because Adelman was playing Hill 17 mpg and he was playing pretty decently (and to me Adelman is 100000x the coach Rivers is, Adelman is probably my favorite coach in the NBA).

    “hell they just picked up freakin Michael Finley who is playing almost the same amount of minutes as Nate now.”

    Yeah, and putting up a TS% of .621 so far. Pretty terrible…

    “I mean thats what the Knicks were basically doing for the most part the last 2 seasons yet D’Antoni is still getting killled for not winning enough. Hell”

    Just because you’re rebuilding doesn’t mean you get an automatic free pass on your coaching. No one is saying he should win 50 games with the current Knicks.

    “criticizing a proven coach because he is losing with a roster that is not built to win.”

    My problem with this is that he’s not all that proven. He’s lost a lot with two NBA teams and won a lot with one. That one team happened to have great talent that was perfectly suited to . I am not saying this proves he isn’t a good or even great coach, I am just saying that it does prove he’s not unquestionably an above average NBA coach just because he took the exact same core (Nash, Marion, Amare) along with a revolving door of good supporting talent (Johnson, Diaw, Barbosa, Bell, KT, Grant Hill, etc.) to a few 60 win seasons.
    Walsh, on the other hand, did it for like 20 years in Indy. He kept talent coming and accomplished the difficult task of rebuilding a young team without missing the playoffs.
    However lucky he’s been, Jax has at least done it with 2 franchises and basically 4 different teams (first and second Bulls, Shaq and Pau Lakers). Other guys like Adelman, Larry Brown, JVG, etc. have basically just won. I am the first to say that talent is WAY more important than a coach, but my concern with D’Antoni is that we know he is good at coaching one system. We don’t know for sure he’s a great coach. That’s where adaptability comes in.

    rrude,
    “Even if it’s not shown in stats, the idea that he gets away with celebrating while he should be getting back on d, shouldn’t be tolerated.”
    This is ridiculous. The play that Breen blew out of proportion saying Nate was celebrating (while single-handedly keeping the Knicks in a game against last year’s eastern conference champs… it was a 6 pt game with 5 minutes left)… he was waiting in the back-court to pick up his man. He guards the other team’s PG most nights, you pick up the PG in the back-court. You don’t have to get all the way back into the paint and wait for the PG to walk down he court into the lane before picking him up. All-Defense Douglas literally cost the Knicks a basket the other night because he was celebrating. I have not seen posters here saying Douglas is a renegade who needs to be firmly disciplined.

  39. rrude

    Well, I remember multiple occurences not one with Nate, and I did call out Douglas for that play, although, similar to your spin on the Nate play, someone retorted ‘he was calling out the defense’ not celebrating a three.

    I’ve been watching Nate’s whole career, and he has always been a showboat. You might think he was the best guard option the Knicks had, and I might agree, but he is a me-first player. The Knicks have had a losing culture for too long and this is just the sort of thing that needs to be cut out, so kudos to MDA if that was on his mind…but getting back to the point, it’s not clear that is what’s on his mind, and that’s a problem.

  40. BigBlueAL

    Well Ted you know I had to throw a dig at Nate:-)

    My thing with Nate was that I always thought he was a nice little player whose value was overinflated by many here because Nate with the Knicks was playing on a team w/o much talent and that Nate isnt good enough to play consistant 25-30 minutes on a good team but on the Knicks he looked at times like hell he should play the full 48 because of the rest of his pretty pathetic backcourt teammates.

    Dont get me wrong I wont be surprised if come playoff time he has a big game off the bench or 2 because he is certainly capable of doing so but to me he is a player who if he is hot he is worthy of playing 25-30 minutes for that game but the majority of the time he should only be playing 10 to 15 on a really good team like whats happening to him now in Boston.

    BTW tonight in an OT loss to Houston Nate played 9 minutes and was a -13. He had 3 pts and 1 ast. Finley scored 3 pts too in only 13 minutes. I just brought up Finley because he is old and was rotting away on the Spurs bench with a PER below 9 and a TS% barely over 51% yet he joins the Celtics and is playing the same amount of minutes basically as Nate which to me doesnt speak highly of what Doc thinks of Nate at the moment.

  41. BigBlueAL

    Looks like Gallo covering Steph Curry, too bad this doesnt happen regularly in Knicks practices :-(

  42. Ted Nelson

    rrude,

    Good points.

    BBA,

    I think you have a point about the quality of the Knicks back-court. Still, D’Antoni only has the player on his roster to work with. Unless he’s high there’s no reason to fantasize about what he would do if Duhon were Rondo and Hughes were Ray Allen. No one was saying Nate Robinson was an All-NBA guard, just that he was the Knicks best offensive guard (if he wasn’t then Douglas was, and he wasn’t playing much either).

    If Nate were playing to his career numbers he’d be playing more for Boston. The last time Nate played as poorly as he is in Boston over a whole season was as a rookie. His PER has been above 15 his 3.5 other seasons as a Knick (19 last season, career 16), now he’s back down to 12.6 where he was as a rookie. Given how far under his career production he has performed in the 300 minutes he’s played for Boston, I think saying he CANNOT play 25-30 mpg on a contender is completely unfair. He has a TS% of .511 for them, but for the Knicks he was at .552 this season. D’Antoni didn’t have the foresight to say “if he were on Boston his TS% would drop by 40 basis points and, therefore, I will bench him in NY.” If he were playing the way he did last season right now for Boston, he’d be getting more minutes. His PER was 19 last season. (PER is a stat that’s well suited to Nate’s game, but that still shows that he was on his game last season and is not this season.)

    Finley is a good fit for Boston. He can shoot, he’s a veteran, and he’s motivated. Whatever you think of Doc Rivers, the fact that he never gave Bill Walker a chance at all (29 minutes played this season for Boston) despite weak depth and now Walker is doing well for the Knicks… Bill Walker barely got a chance and Glen Davis has a regular role of 17 mpg for “scoring punch” (his TS% is .490)… Doesn’t say much about Rivers’ ability as a talent evaluator. Nate is also taking over the Eddie House role for them, which was never more than an 18, 19 mpg role. He’s struggled for the Celts, but you can’t look at an 8,000 minute career and say the 300 bad minutes are a representation of how he can play rather then most of the 7700 minutes before that.

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