How The Knicks Can Effectively Use Amar’e Stoudemire

It’s impossible to avoid the positivity regarding the potential resurgence of Amar’e Stoudemire these days as the New York Knicks get set for the 2014-2015 season.Before their fifth preseason game against the Milwaukee Bucks Monday night — one in which Stoudemire got his first start of the preseason at center — studio analyst Wally Szczerbiak, filling in for Walt Frazier as MSG’s color commentator, opened up the broadcast discussing what STAT can bring to the team this year.

On October 7th, Amar’e talked about getting back to his “dominant self.” A few weeks, later, on October 20th, he upped the ante, saying, “I feel like I’m 19 again.” He’s talked about playing better defense and how much he can help the roster, and the bulk of the sporting press has gobbled up these tasty, sound bite-ready quotes, typically buttressing them with his at times still-impressive offensive box score numbers.

But it’s not just columnists needing to fill space; the idea that Amar’e is heading for a resurgent year is also coming from the organization itself. Head coach Derek Fisher has indicated (and this is a reminder that it’s not always wise to take pre- and post-game coach-speak as the gospel truth) that STAT will have a big role on the team, and president of basketball operations Phil Jackson had this to stay in a player-by-player scouting report for ESPN.com:

“One of the keys to the season will be the play of Amar’e Stoudemire. Although his tender knee will require his playing time and practice time to be carefully monitored, we hope he’ll be able to play four rotations of eight minutes per game.”

I’m no math wiz(ard), but eight times four is (checks abacus) 32, which is just way too many minutes for this year’s model of Amar’e Stoudemire, sad to say. This is his fifth and most likely final year with the team, but let’s take a gander at his on/off court numbers through the first four:

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Soooooo…yeah. That’s what we call “Slightly not good to awful.”

This next chart might be the most damaging to the idea/fantasy that Stoudemire can be an integral cog to this year’s geometric machine. He was barely even a positive during the 54 game, pre-Melo portion of the 10-11 season that has become arguably the most romanticized 28-26 stretch in Knick history.

Snip20141022_13

Yep, you read that correctly. During those 54 games the Knicks were only .1 points better with STAT playing when chants of “MVP, MVP!” were echoing through the upper levels of Madison Square Garden. (As a side note, can we please come up with a better chant? It’s tired and old, even if the receiver of said exhortation is a legit candidate. We can? Thanks.)

Anyway, the reason for this icky data isn’t because Stoudemire isn’t a talented individual offensive player; he is. it’s because he’s extremely hard to construct a quality five-man groups around his particular skill-set.

Take a look at these two man groups from last year:

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The way the Knicks are constructed they don’t have enough good defensive players to hide Amar’e especially when Anthony will be on the court for 34 to 36 minutes and the starting point guard is Jose Calderon. That’s two negative defenders you have to cover up for. Adding Stoudemire to the mix is too much bad defense to make it all work.

This is why Stoudemire can’t start and he needs to be limited to 18 to 20 minutes a night at most and truthfully that’s probably even too much. It’s a tough quandary, but here is how I would handle it. He can’t be on the court when Bargs or Hardaway Jr. are playing — that’s completely, 100% off limits if the goal is to win basketball games. Playing Stoudemire at center is a no go. We saw the destruction when he played center with Quincy Acy at power forward during the preseason game against the Bucks, and again last night against the Raptors. The evidence goes back longer than a preseason game or two. Via 82games.com:

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Since 2010-2011, lineups involving Stoudemire have been better with him at center versus power forward. In the last three years the Knicks had more success when he was playing PF. This leaves you with three choices of who to play Stoudemire with – Aldrich, Samuel Dalembert and Jason Smith. I don’t see Dalembert working. He gets flashy blocks, but he’s an inconsistent, poor positional defender. He’s not going to be able to cover up for STAT’s flaws. You have to play him with either Aldrich or Smith and I learn towards more with Cole because of his rebounding.

No matter whom you play at PG between Calderon, Prigioni or Shane Larkin, you’re not getting strong defense from that position. Since we’re talking about the second unit it will most likely be Prigs and Larkin getting the run with STAT. Shumpert has to be on the court and it makes the most sense to play him with J.R. Smith. In 213 minutes Stoudemire, Shump and J.R. played together last season the Knicks were a +18.4 net rating.

A lot of the numbers here are small sample sizes, yet despite the extremes, there’s a basic logic at play that makes sense. Giving Amar’e a strong wing defender to help cut off dribble penetration and a basket protector to cover up his poor team defense is what’s needed to help minimize the damage.

So, Stoudemire’s time on the court should always Aldrich/Smith at center, STAT at PF, J.R. and Shump at the wings and Larkin or Prigs at point guard. Now, that’s a very limited scope, probably not more than 15-20 mpg. But honestly, that’s fine. There’s enough evidence to suggest that the team didn’t need a “second scorer” i.e., someone that’s not Melo in order to succeed. What they needed was a balanced lineup, and when they had one, the points somehow, someway managed to arrive. Shocker, right?

It’s all fine and good for Fisher to talk about putting an emphasis on defense, but if his rotations and lineup choices don’t reflect those words… well, then it’s just talk. Amar’e is going to be the biggest early test of Fisher’s stated credo. Because if he is playing center surrounded by equally poor defenders for long stretches, then Fish’s blather doesn’t really have much value than when Woodson said it, or every other coach in the NBA says it. Not to throw STAT under the bus/kick him to the curb, but if he is going to be a big part of what we do/a piece of the puzzle, at the end of the day, less is more.

Raptors 83, Knicks Fake Basketball Comes to a Close

The Knicks preseason came to a conclusion and the winner of their final game against the Raptors was… the crowd at the Bell Centre in Montreal. Those crazy Francophilic Canadians brought it like it was Game Seven of a playoff series. Zut alors!

As for the preseason tilt, Toronto won 83-80, riding an absolute blowout of a third quarter where they outscored New York 25-11. For a while there, it seemed unlikely that the ‘Bockers would crack double digits. They netted a grand total of two through the first none minutes, shooting 1-12 and coughing up the ball four times. When the bloody mess of a stanza finally came to an end, they’d shot a grotesque 3-19 out of…something that didn’t resemble any sort of triangular shape at all, but rather a muddled, hurried mess, filled with sloppy passes and a low-bore simmer of dissatisfaction. We even got to see JR try to get Melo to skedaddle out of the post at one point. I may have strained a cornea throwing so much side-eye. I’m day-to-day, but I think I’ll be ready for opening night. Just keep me the heck away from Roger “Dr. Nick” Hinds.

To their credit, the Knicks scrapped and clawed their way back in the fourth,  behind the shrieks and yells of Quincy Acy plus a few nifty moves from the Sophomore backcourt of Tim Hardaway Jr. and Shane Larkin.

Speaking of Acy… the hard fouls are kind of fun, and yes, hustling is a skill. Without a doubt, the overall experience of watching him play is a treat. That said, I just don’t know how he is. Of course, a dude that plays his ass off is certainly a welcome sight. Especially, you know, if you’ve watched the Knicks over the past 15 or so. Kinda understandable that this rare species might be a tad overrated.

Timmy Jr. had a strong couple of minutes – he had an impressive drive to the rim, a solid pass (IT HAPPENED IT’S ON THE TAPE) and even made a defensive play forcing DeMar DeRozan into an airball (CHECK THE TAPE AGAIN I’M NOT LYING).

With Larkin, how effective he is pretty darn dependent on his comfort level and decisiveness. He brings qualities the Knicks don’t get from any of their other points, just because of his speed and quickness. I mean, a footrace between him and either of Prigs/Jose might look like a contest between The Flash and in Inanimate Carbon Rod. The second-year pro can use the bounce to break down a defense plus get out on the break, but as both Clyde and Wally have mentioned on the TV machine, he doesn’t always know whether to hit the nitrous or pump the brakes. Also, at times, he seems to make a pass a second too late or hesitate the split second that takes him out of an open shot.

Some swell first half things: Carmelo Anthony’s jumper was sopping wet and he didn’t miss. One of my concerns about the new offense New York is installing was that it might cause a decline in his three point attempts from the previous two seasons. Well look-y here! Melo took eight tonight and 22 total the last three games in total. I am no longer worried. [EDITOR’S NOTE: I’m still slightly worried. The total attempts were a little beefed up tonight during a stretch in which he just said, “Eff this ish, I’m shooting,” and launched pull-up threes as soon as he got the rock.]

Iman Shumpert positvely pwned DeMar DeRozan in the final couple minutes of the second quarter. He stole his lunch money, shorts, pride and also the basketball. Like, again and again. That was my favorite part. On offense, he was really chucking, especially after his first couple of heaves caught iron. 0-6 is bad, no matter what Common Core/fancy math you use.

That leads quite nicely to another SG, J.R. Smith. Yeah, he is still a fucking mess. Some of it is not being able to figure out the offense and, not to suggest that the Knicks’ FO isn’t completely transparent when it comes to injuries (faints while clutching pearls), the reports of back spasms that keep cropping up at the end of articles can’t be helping. He just doesn’t look fluid out there, which yes, is partially due to his lack of cerebral comfort, but he’s got zero pop in his step when he does decide to break an offensive set. .

Still, I like that on the final possession with the Knicks trailing by three Fisher drew up a play for Smith. It was a savvy move in a meaningless game, tossing a confidence bone to a player that he’s gonna need if they want to have a shot at making the playoffs. I didn’t like that Fisher drew up a play that put the ball in Cole Aldrich’s hands with six seconds left with his back to the basket, practically taping a giant “foul me” sign on his back. This too, is a question of learning the league, but Fish is going to figure out which teams foul in those situations, which teams don’t, and plan accordingly.

I was ordered by boss man Robert Silverman to use these pictures in the story. I’m not exactly sure what I’m looking at. Bob is more culturally diverse than me. He’ll do that editing thing here and add in some snarky funny stuff.

[Bobsplainer. The basketblogging dude Corbin Smith and I were chatting about JR and this here RINGZZ-approved offensive system. I twat that this is actually the Triangle JR sees. 

He replied with this:

Followed hard upon by something even awesome-r, this:

Then things got a tad dark…

Screen Shot 2014-10-24 at 11.39.00 PM

If you’ve never read Corbin’s stuff, check it out now. Well, right after you finish this recap.]

Thanks for…er…that, Bob. Hey NBA Perd Hapley, what did you think of the game? “Amar’e Stoudemire played center way too much for a person that is Amar’e Stoudemire who cannot play center.” Thanks, Perd! Seriously, though, It’s a complete dumpster fire out there with STAT at the five, because he’s no longer even close to being good enough a bucket-maker to make up for his refuse-covered defense. In a related story, I have a story coming out tomorrow AM explaining how Fish can transform Stoudemire from dumpster fire into a nice, cozy campfire. It does not in any way involve wine.

Cole Aldrich’s old-timey artisanal hook shots weren’t falling at all, but we still saw the value he brings to the court. In the fourth, when he drew a foul on Jonas Valanciunas battling on the defensive glass and creating a steal. This man has to play despite his flaws. Also, we at Knickerblogger have been shoveling COLE into the engine of this steampunk TRAIN since last October. Any and all bandwagon-jumpers or hoboes sleeping in unoccupied cars should at least buy a nice t-shirt.

Those are my streaming thoughts. The reliever was brought in for the final preseason games. I’m sure the starting rotation will be back when the regular season kicks off on Wednesday. The World Series was tonight and I haven’t watched any of it so I had to get a baseball reference in. I’m off the Vegas for the weekend everyone. If you don’t hear from me in 48 hours, please send money and/or money. Enjoy the last couple down days before the craziness begins. Go Knicks!

Summer League Recap: Knicks 71, Blazers 69

Despite shooting paltry 34.3 percent from the field and 27.8 percent from three, but the New York SummerKnicks eked out a less-than-pretty 71-69 victory over a Portland SummerBlazers squad that featured a lot of guys that will be in their regular season rotation.

The Good:

Tim Hardaway Jr. is a 3-point gunner, we know that, but Summer League Hardaway Jr. is a totally different beast. The former Michigan Wolverine scored a game-high 20 points including 3-of-8 from beyond the arc. Hardaway took a lot of shots, but the leading gunner of the day was Brandon Triche, a former Syracuse guard, who jacked up five 3s in just 11 minutes of action, and connected on zero of them.

I really liked what I saw out of the Knicks’ two second-round picks, Cleanthony Early and Thanasis Antetokounmpo, but for very different reasons.

Early shot the ball with a lot of confidence in the first half. You could tell Early is used to being the guy on a team, and that should help ease his transition into the League. He went 3-of-8 from the field and 1-of-2 from beyond the arc while doing a nice, active job on the boards, grabbing six rebounds. I can’t say what exactly it is, but he just gives off that “I’m going to be a rotation player for the next ten years” vibe.

Thanasis is like that guy in pick-up who presses all game long, jumps around and is just an all-out pest on the basketball court. He’s somebody you’d hate to be matched up against, but if he’s on your team he’s a lot of fun because of how active he is on the floor. And then, in the 3rd quarter, we got this (Via @cjzero)

Shane Larkin’s game-winning floater. It was pretty.

The Bad:

Shannon Brown 4-on-1 breaks. *Shivers*.

It would have been nice to see Jeremy Tyler have a good game with Cole Aldrich sitting out, and … he didn’t deliver. He shot 2-of-9 from the floor, had four turnovers and six personal fouls. There are just a lot of dudes on the Knicks’ roster right now. Some strong LVSL performances would go a long ways to helping the powers that be make up their minds. Like with Cole, who got a two-year deal hard on the heels of a boffo 15-rebound performance. See that, Jeremy? Do what Cole does.

Clyde Quote Of The Game:

Next game is Monday at 4:00 EST against the Charlotte Hornets on MSG. Oh yeah, Melo’s coming back. Sort of a big deal. Go SummerKnicks!

Recapping the Draft: How Did the Knicks Do?

Getty Images.

The “Knicks” and “draft picks” have been used in the same sentence as sparingly as “Knicks” and “contenders” in recent years, but Phil Jackson has already started a sea chang  thanks to the trade that sent Tyson Chandler to Dallas. In the deal, the Knicks got two second-round picks, and Phil elected to use both of those selections to upgrade the Knicks depth at small and power forward–something the Knicks are  going to need if Carmelo Anthony doesn’t re-sign .

Phil may not have been successful in finding a trade partner to get into the first round, but two second-round picks are better than zero picks, which was the expected scenario up until a week ago. No matter who the Knicks ended up with on draft night, it was nice just be included in the festivities again.

With the No.34 pick, Phil took SF/PF Cleanthony Early out of Wichita State. Early had first-round talent, but fell into the Knicks lap due to some reaches during picks 20-30 that had fans scurrying to Draft Express (Bruno Caboclo? Josh Heustis?)

Early shares an almost identical frame as former Los Angeles Laker forward Devean George — both are 6’8 and weighed in around 220 lbs entering the league. George was an important role player during Phil’s Laker years, so if Phil and Derek Fisher can mold Early into the same type of player in the Triangle, that’s a home run for an early second-round pick.

Early only played two seasons for the Shockers, but they were memorable ones for those that follow college basketball. Sure, the Shockers fell short of expectations in March, but it definitely wasn’t due to Early’s performance. Early had a very impressive 62.7 True Shooting Percentage this past season, up from 56.5 percent during his freshman season, per sports-reference.com. Early’s numbers improved in 2-point field goal percentage, 3-point field goal percentage, free throw percentage and points per game in his sophomore season, which should be a good indicator of things to come.

To be clear, Early’s not going to be an adequate replacement for Melo if he ends up signing elsewhere this summer, but Early does figure to be a solid rotation player for the Knicks for a long time regardless of what other star or stars dot the roster, and that’s all you can really hope for out of second-round picks. Getting a modern-day Devean George (or James Posey 2.0 if you’re feeling particularly optimistic) may not be the most exciting thing in the world in a vacuum, but for the Knicks and the culture Phil is trying to instill that’s more-than-solid start.

I’ll probably never be able to properly spell his name without a solid internet connection, but I can deal with that if the Greek Freek’s older brother, and New York’s other second-round pick, Thanasis Antetokounmpo, is anywhere near as exciting and electric a talent as Giannis proven to be.

The bad news? The only time Knicks fans might get to see Thanasis in a Knicks uniform this season will be during Summer League. According to Marc Berman of the New York Post, the Knicks 51st pick in the draft may play next season in Greece depending on how he plays in Las Vegas. 

Six-foot-six Thanasis Antetokounmpo, the 21-year-old defensive specialist whom the Knicks drafted with the 51st pick, may play next season in Greece, where there is interest from teams. He will play in the summer league for the Knicks in July and they will decide if he’s ready after.

The older brother of the Bucks’ Giannis, he played for the D-League’s Delaware franchise but is said to be raw offensively.

With the Knicks purchasing their own D-League team in Westchester earlier this year, one would think the better long-term solution would be for the Knicks to have Thanasis spend the 2014-15 season learning the Knicks’ system in Westchester.  Thanasis did just that last season with the Delaware 87ers. From a Knicks-centric perspective, it would seem that learning the intricacies of the offense (and Westchester will definitely be running something involving a geometric shape) would be preferable. But there’s a big difference between what New York can pay and the salaries in the top Greek Pro League. Thanasis may decide that he can have his baklava and eat it to. I.e. work on his game and get that paper at the same time.

In any case, like his brother, Thanasis is a defensive-minded forward, but he’s much more limited on the offensive end of the floor. With Delaware, Thanasis averaged 14.8 ppg per 36 minutes, but he shot 30.9 percent from 3-point land and 66.7 percent from the charity stripe. If Thanasis can develop a league-average 3-point shot, especially from the corner, along with upping his percentage at the free-throw line a bit, he could eventually be another intriguing rotation wing for the Knicks long-term.

Phil may not have been able to wiggle his way into the first round, but he still did very well by ending up with two talents bursting with athleticism and upside in Early and Antetokounmpo the Older.

Yay? Yay!

2014 NBA Draft Open Thread: The Knicks Have Picks!

Gary Dineen/NBAE via Getty Images

The 2014 NBA Draft takes place tonight at the Barclays Center at 7:30 EST. Earlier this week it appeared like a longshot the Knicks would be involved in the Draft tonight in any capacity, but the the Knicks-Mavs trade from yesterday included two second-round picks from the Mavericks at No.34 and No.51.

It’s been reported that Phil really wants to get into the first round, but we shall see if he can pull it off shortly.

Enjoy!

New York Knicks Coaching Roundup, Part 3: Brian Shaw And Friends

Juan Ocampo/Getty Images

If you looked up “Phil Jackson” in the Urban Dictionary (do not look up Phil Jackson in the Urban Dictionary) I imagine the definition would essentially read “winning.” Phil Jackson has won a lot of championships, and so he’s become synonymous with winning. Even though it’s a bit of a tautology, It’s a reputation he, himself, has earned, but one his protégés have not.

Phil’s coaching tree is more like a Whomping Willow which includes: Kurt Rambis, Jim Cleamons, Bill Cartwright, Frank Hamblen and…Brian Shaw. The jury is still out on Shaw’s coaching acumen, but turning a 50-plus-win team into a 36-win team isn’t a great first impression. But that’s what makes the Brian Shaw to New York situation so interesting. Why are the Nuggets dead-set on holding onto a Phil Jackson’s young squires when the rest of the branches the tree has a combined winning percentage of 46 percent?

Whenever a head coach or a manager is traded–which is a very rare occurrence–they’ve typically already established themselves as elite coaches or managers either by winning a championship(s) or just winning a lot of games. That is not the case here. You trade draft picks and cash for elite head coaches like Doc Rivers or Stan Van Gundy or Tom Thibodeau. But you can’t do that for somebody like Shaw, and it looks like the Knicks, outside of Phil, understand that.

Still, being able to trade coaches is weird. It’s weird because you can’t trade players for coaches, but you can trade cash and draft picks (which turn into players) for them. It’s also usually an awkward situation that is littered with organizational drama (see: Gruden, Jon and Rivers, Doc.) It’s typically not a good look for you organization if your head coach is trying to get traded to another team, which is another reason it’s such a rare occurrence.

The Knicks want Shaw, but they don’t have the assets to get him. For the Clippers to get Doc they had give up a 2015 first-round pick that was unprotected. The Orlando Magic had to give up multiple draft picks and cash to the Miami Heat for Van Gundy, and he had already been replaced in Miami. Trading for a guy with only one year of head coaching experience and sub-.500 record shouldn’t require a team to give up multiple draft picks and cash. Sure, it’s a small sample, but Shaw is not the hot commodity he once was when he was an assistant in Indiana. The Knicks would be foolish to give up anything but cash to bring him aboard (although that’s also their only option).

The Knicks aren’t the only team trying to trade for another team’s head coach, but they’re not swinging for the fences (more like just trying to get on base) like the Memphis Grizzlies and Minnesota Timberwolves are. The Grizzlies reportedly want to make a major play for Chicago Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau, while the Timberwolves are in deep discussions to trade for current Grizzlies head coach Dave Joerger. Yes, it’s as confusing as it sounds.

As confusing and as crazy as those situations are, it’s still easy to see why both teams are making the choices they are. Stealing Thibodeau away from Chicago would be a major coup for Memphis. Flip Saunders needs to make a major splash to try and make a last-ditch effort to convince Kevin Love to stay — Joerger qualifies as a major splash. Giving up a couple of draft picks and cash for an elite coach(s) when your roster looks like Memphis’ or Minnesota’s that’s OK. When your roster looks like the Knicks’, it’s not OK. Shaw isn’t the answer in New York, but Thibodeau and Joerger could be in Memphis and Minnesota.

Phil appears to be dead-set on hiring a head coach that he can mentor and mold. Perhaps that potential synergy between GM and head coach is what finally turns Phil’s coaching tree around. Maybe Shaw can still be an elite head coach in this league if he has Phil around to guide him once again. It was clear that the current Nuggets roster doesn’t mesh with Shaw’s vision, but how long are the Nuggets and/or Shaw willing to wait turn that vision into reality? If Shaw doesn’t turn it around next season, would it really be that shocking if the Nuggets decided to fire him? I tend to think no, especially when you look at the Golden State situation, because head coaches in this league typically have a very small window of time to make significant progress.

Brian Shaw is probably not going to be the next head coach of the New York Knicks, and that’s OK. The Nuggets have all the leverage, and the Knicks don’t have the assets to make it happen. That’s also OK. This is perhaps the one instance that the Knicks’ lack of draft picks is a good thing because it’d be a mistake to give up multiple draft picks for a head coach with his track record.

Shaw and Phil could be great together in New York, but so could Fisher and Phil — without the cost. However, wrestling Fisher away from the Oklahoma City Thunder could also be a challenge for Phil. According to Sam Amick of USA Today, Fisher could return to the Thunder next season as a player/assistant in a role similar to Juwan Howard’s role in Miami. It’s a win-win situation for Fisher. He either stays in Oklahoma City to get some coaching experience with a franchise that adores him, or goes to New York where Phil would also love to have him. Fisher can’t lose, but the Knicks can.

Then there is Tyronn Lue, an assistant under Doc Rivers in Los Angeles, who you would think would jump at the opportunity for the Knicks’ head coaching position, if he’s offered the gig. Lue is just 37-years-old and has played and coached under Phil Jackson, Rivers, Jeff Van Gundy and other great current and former head coaches in this league. Of course, Lue, like all the other Knicks’ head-coaching candidates, is an unknown, simply because he hasn’t been a head coach in this league. If Fisher elects to return to Oklahoma City, you would expect Phil to turn Lue. It may not be a sexy hire, but you could argue Lue is the most qualified candidate of the bunch.

I have no idea which route the Knicks are ultimately going to take, but I’m going to go out on a limb and say the Knicks’ next head coach will be one of Phil’s former point guards.

The MD’A and the Thibs: A Parable

You have probably heard the  cliché “defense wins championships” more times in your sports-watching and -enjoying life than you can recall. Even though there have been a number of teams that have relied more on their offense than their defense, it’s a phrase that will bring conversations about the games we love to a shuddering halt.

But the fact that we’re calling it a cliché speaks to the fact that both causal and utterly devoted fans are starting to realize that there’s a lot more to winning than simply blurting out those three three words like slamming a concrete block on the table in the midst of a dinner party, folding one’s arms, glaring at the shocked and/or pearl-clutching fellow guests and assuming that  evening is over.

Which brings us to former Los Angeles Lakers head coach Mike D’Antoni and current Chicago Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau. For both these gents, the general assumption is that they’re fairly one-dimensional, wringing as much juice out of their innovations on one side of the floor while totally disregarding the other, while getting the most out of role players and playing guys way too many minutes. The thing is (again, we’re talking about the casual fan’s view here), Thibs is a genius and D’Antoni is a tired hack whose philosophy has been more or less incorporated by many of the teams in the league and probably should be sent out to the coach’s version of an old folks’ retirement community.

Prior to Phil Jackson’s arrival in New York, Thibodeau was the guy that many Knicks fans wanted. The ‘Bockers have been down this road before, though,  with the offensive genius that is/was D’Antoni. We know how that turned out, but there are a lot of parallels between the two situations. D’Antoni was as hot of a commodity around the league as Thibodeau is now, and left Phoenix for what he thought would be greener pastures. Thibodeau may be feeling the same sense of wanderlust, what with Derrick Rose’s injury history and his reported rift with the front office. It wouldn’t shock me if Thibodeau stayed in Chicago, but it wouldn’t shock me if he left for what he thinks might be a nicer coaching neighborhood either.

D’Antoni had a great thing going in Phoenix, but ultimately decided to cash in on his demand. That’s a decision he reportedly still regrets to this day. Thibodeau hasn’t achieved the playoff success he probably would have liked by this point in his tenure, but he still boasts former league MVP on the roster and the current Defensive Player of the Year. Thibodeau would probably be wise to ride it out in Chicago like D’Antoni should have chosen to do in Phoenix.

If you have a below-average roster, but your guys play hard and are statistically above-average on defense the team becomes a great story. Sure, they may be basically reenacting Sharknado on the offensive end of the floor, but if they’re gritty and trying hard defensively they’ll typically still be viewed as a lovable underdog. The 2013-14 Chicago Bulls fit this description for the most part, and Thibodeau is praised for it. Does Thibodeau deserve a lot of credit for getting the most out of his players he possibly can? Of course, but the team was still 28th in the league in offensive efficiency. On the flipside, the Bulls were second in the league in defensive efficiency.

Would having Derrick Rose in the lineup change things significantly for the Bulls offensive efficiency? Of course, the 2010-11 Bulls team was top-5 in both categories. So, Thibodeau has shown he can craft an effective stratagem on both sides of the floor when Rose is around to run it.

Like Thibodeau, D’Antoni has had the misfortune of not having an elite point guard for a long time dating all the way back to his Phoenix Suns days with Steve Nash. He didn’t win a championship, but he came pretty close in a much more competitive conference. With Nash, the Suns had seasons where they were the most efficient team in the league offensively, and still fell in the top half of the league in defensive efficiency. Just because he didn’t win a title doesn’t mean D’Antoni’s time in Phoenix wasn’t a huge success. It was.

At the time, fans and analysts loved the Suns, and more importantly D’Antoni’s style, but time went on and he was never able to win a title. He never got the Suns to the NBA Finals, but neither has Thibodeau. The former has seen his reputation become increasingly diminished because of how his tenure in New York and Los Angeles turned out. The latter has seen his reputation continue to rise and could possibly replace the former in Los Angeles. Why? Because defense and grit is an easier sell to the fans.

Thibodeau is praised for winning almost 50 games with D.J. Augustine at point guard, while D’Antoni got just the same production out of lottery bust Kendall Marshall, if not more. But narratives you see. The reason being the Lakers were a dumpster fire this season with all of their injuries, while the Bulls played an Eastern Conference schedule and weren’t decimated to the extent of the Lakers. It’s just the nature of the beast.

D’Antoni isn’t an elite NBA head coach, but he’s a really good one who can win a lot of games when he has an above-average point guard and a roster that fits his style. Same can said for Thibodeau, and that’s perfectly fine.

Thibodeau hasn’t been a head coach in the league as long as D’Antoni, and his teams are easy to cheer for, much like D’Antoni’s Suns teams. That’s not something he can control, obviously, but if things go sour in Chicago and Rose never returns to his MVP form the Bulls fan base will get more seasons highlighted by one-dimensional play. The big question will be how long they’ll put up with it.  If Thibodeau goes to Los Angeles or anywhere else and gets saddled with the roster and injury concerns D’Antoni’s last two coaching jobs have had he too may suffer the same unfair scrutiny D’Antoni has undergone in recent years. Again, that just seems to be the nature of the beast.

Granted, there is fact-based underpinning with regards to the defense/offense schism. As Chris Herring of the Wall Street Journal wrote today:

Since the NBA’s first season in 1946-47, only 10 teams that led the league in scoring went on to win the title. Just two of those have been since the 1970s, none since 1998. And statistically speaking, there has been a slightly negative correlation between a fast-paced team’s number of possessions a game in the regular season and winning in the postseason, according to Stats LLC.

Or maybe the narrative will always be different for coaches like Thibodeau. Perhaps no matter how similar D’Antoni and Thibodeau are as head coaches, being known as the defensive-minded coach will always trump the offensive-minded coach in the national spotlight.