What Will D’Antoni Do?

I have seen less than 10 minutes of Knicks basketball so far in this winless start to the 09-10 season. Just based on what I have been reading in the papers and what I have seen from the basic counting stats, I have to pose the question: is this season already over after only three games? This team seems well on its way to underperforming even my very meager expectations. A blowout where the team quickly faded and two overtime losses where the team did not bother to play until late give this early part of the season an eerily familiar feel. We have all seen where perpetually indifferent defense punctuated by hot and (mostly) cold shooting get you. Most Knick fans recognize that this team isn’t very talented, but geez guys. Give us a reason to care.

I am already wondering aloud, what will D’Antoni do, if anything? His options for finding a spark are pretty limited. He could play Darko and move Lee to the 4, but beyond that no other obvious move improves team defense.

So far in the first three games the Knicks are shooting 51.3% (TS) while giving up just under 60% (59.5)%. By contrast, Oklahama, a similarly-sized team, in their third game (vs. Portland) comes in giving up under 50% TS. Small sample size and matchup caveats notwithstanding, it’s clear that the Thunder are at least playing hard on the defensive end for at least the first week of the season. There’s plenty of time for them to become jaded and defensively indifferent.

That seems like more than the Knicks can say at this point.

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Part-time blogger on the Knicks at Knickerblogger.net and Seahawks at FieldGulls.com. In my free time I hang out at the University of South Carolina and occasionally fill thirsty young minds with knowledge about various and sundry things related to consumer behavior and marketing.

21 thoughts to “What Will D’Antoni Do?”

  1. I know it’s just 3 games, but it’s looking pretty bleak.

    From jerking around the rotation (see Lee’s minutes, Hughes) to not playing the rookies at all, it’s not clear that D’antoni knows yet, and that has to be frustrating. The coaching is redolent of Larry Brown. Will we see 25 different starting lineups?

    It’s hard to be patient when everyone has clearly given up on the year. They have nothing to win for — they are completely outclassed by the better teams — and nothing to lose for without a first round pick. Half the guys know they are gone after the season and that will affect their play throughout.

    I am starting to think last year was a bit of an outlier, where the new system had players pumped up and buying in. This year, everybody is looking around: who is supposed to save us?

    Zero leadership, zero toughness: your 2009-2010 New York Knicks!

    At least I’m a Yankee fan!

  2. The optimist would point out that they have taken two games to overtime despite shooting only 28.7% from three on nearly 40 attempts per game. They shot 36% from three last year. They could easily be 2-1 right now. I think if I were D’Antoni that is what I would be holding out for, a little reversion to the mean in the shooting dept.

  3. It is really hard to feel any optimisim right now. The Miami game, OK,home opener for the Heat, Knicks come out flat, etc. The Bobcat game was alarming based on Duhon’s comments and how they were just getting crushed by a below average team. And then in the Knicks home opener, they come out completely flat again and get run over by Philly before their big comeback. When you hear the announcer say the ____ (fill in the blank) are shooting 62% from the field in the 3rd quarter. that is a cause for serious concern.

    D”Antoni’s dilemma is that he really does have to try to win every game because a) they don’t have their draft pick and b) it’s hard to imagine big name FA coming to a team that just won 25 games. So the idea of throwing the youngsters out there and seeing what happens is risky (not to say our veterans are anything to write home about)

    By the end of this week, the Knicks could easily be 1-6 and in full panic mode.

  4. He could demand that the players actually drive to the basket occasionally and try to draw a foul – especially late in the game.

  5. I’m not off the wagon yet but I have lost any expectation of a 40 win season. I think some of the issues can be fixed in time, probably not enough time to make the season interesting.

    Reasons for joy:
    1.Gallo’s shot looks really good and he is showing a bit more confidence in areas other than from deep. 2.Lee is playing just as well as we thought he would. 3.The pick and roll works when they stick with it. 4. JJ isnt shooting 13% from deep. 5. the offense looks good when the ball is moving and the shots falling. 6. With a little more effort and a break here and there, we could be complaining about a 2-1 team.

    Reasons for eyeing that short length of rope in the garage:
    1. the defense has been awful. 2. Lee’s defense has been really awful (yeah, yeah over matched, undersized, blah blah blah). 3. Who are you and what have you done with Nate Robinson? 4. Rookies that cant shoot or do much else (Douglas) playing before vets that can’t shoot but can do at least something else (Hughes). 5. Al Harrington is the team’s leader? 6. Wilson Chandler’s shot, and drive, and drawing fouls, and…. 7. Lee’s defense (it should be mentioned twice) 8. I cant log into wordpress to do game previews. :-( I at least deserve a pink slip, two weeks notice, a fake gold watch something.

  6. I’m with Owen here. Back-to-back overtime loses? Not bad, especially for a bad team. The one thing that ticks me off (like everyone else) is slow starts to games and long droughts of indifference, which brings back painful memories of Isiah’s fun house. As Owen points out, though, if the Knicks were shooting a reasonable % on 3s they’d be 2-1.
    They’re actually the 16th offense in the league at this early juncture despite their struggles from downtown. Slightly encouraging: if they hit 36% for downtown again this season maybe they’re a top 10 offense…
    On the other hand, defense is 28th…………….. Seems like Darko time to me. While I don’t want to see another Larry Brown, I would like to see D’Antoni call out the starters/rotation players during their long stretches of defensive indifference with a unit that includes Darko, Douglas, Hill and whatever other back-of-the-rotation guys and scrubs have some defensive skills and will give 100%. Send a message. Or just get it together and play a real C for more than 2 mpg.

    d-mar, if the team is going to lose most nights anyway I think there’s actually an argument for playing the youngsters in order to showcase the group that will actually be around once any 2010 free agents sign. If a core of Lee, Nate, Harrington, Duhon, Hughes, Darko, Jeffries, and Danilo manage to somehow win 40 games this season that’s great, but if only two of those guys are back next season how does that help the incoming free agents?
    Of course, the rookies shooting a combined 1-20 and the Knicks getting blown out by 40 every night is not attractive either.

  7. D’Antoni can play Gallo more.

    That alone will help a good deal over the course of the year.

    And if he plays him at the 3, with Lee at the 4 and Darko at the 5, then all the better, as the defense should be aided by that (I’ve seen some complaints about Gallo’s defense, but he has really not looked that bad on D) and the offense is definitely aided by Gallo’s presence.

    But man, what I wouldn’t give for a guy to play the 2 along the lines of Mobley.

    The Knicks set-up could really use someone at the 2 like that as opposed to Chandler looking like he’s playing out of position.

  8. For me the development of Gallo is it. Can anyone really get into Al Harrington? What is meh, is not just the low % on threes but how ugly a lot of those misses are, not real inspiring. Its not great that 3 games in on a lottery team from last year an dthe two first round picks are getting DNP-CDs already.

  9. If anything they look worse than the OTs suggest not better — even during the comeback against the Bobcats they looked bad, it’s just that the Bobcats were looking even worse. It was among the ugliest games I have ever seen played.

  10. “But man, what I wouldn’t give for a guy to play the 2 along the lines of Mobley.”

    Imagine how the last game could have gone…:

    “It was Game 3 of the 2009 NBA season, and everybody thought Cuttino Mobley was retired. The guard had been sidelined since his arrival one year ago with a terminal heart condition.

    When the teams took the floor for pre-game warmups, Mobley was not with his New York teammates. He remained in Westchester, icing his enlarged heart.

    “I was still on the roster,” Mobley recalls. “You don’t want to start a season 0-3, even when expectations are to only modestly challenge for the 8th seed. I didn’t want to have to look at myself in the mirror 20 years later and say I wished I had tried to play.”

    Mobley left his house at halftime, sensing where the game, and the season, was going. He took an injection to dull the pain in his left ventricle, and just moments before overtime he limped through the tunnel and onto the court. Waves of cheers cascaded down from the Garden stands as fans caught sight of the heroic warrior, a sight that was not lost on New York’s opponents.

    “I saw the whole Sixer team standing around staring at this man,” said Knicks guard Chris Duhon. “When I saw that, something told me we might have these guys!”

    Mobley scored the Knicks’ first two baskets of the extra period. Those would prove to be his only points, but his presence was more than enough to inspire the Knicks to a victory and the franchise’s first NBA win that season.”

    Source: nba.com (NBA’s Greatest Moments Series)

  11. What really bugs me is that the first week we should not be talking about defensive indifference. Everybody should be digging in during the first week.

    I mean, what did these guys do in camp?

    Anywho, frustration aside, we have reason to believe the threes will start falling a bit more. Still, there’s no reason this team should be the worst defense (or close to it) in the league.

  12. Z and Brian,

    Gamecast (I think it’s Gamecast) lists the following during each game:

    “Mobley — Has not yet entered game.”

    It either startles me or makes me laugh.

  13. Some have said that our players aren’t motivated because they won’t be here next year. I agree that many won’t be here, but in the final year of their contract, I can’t imagine why Lee / Nate / Harrington / Duhon / Darko / Hughes wouldn’t be making the maximum effort. Outside of costing us this season, their lack of effort could end up costing them millions, maybe even their career.

  14. Unlike seasons prior, I actually wrote this one off before it started. I mean, I’ve been pessimistic about coming seasons before, but the actual start of the new season used to at least perk me up a bit. This year, no such luck.

    -We’ve lost a lottery pick for next year’s draft (a very high one at that),
    -This past draft was a downer (Douglas seems to get some minor praise, but Hill? well, I didn’t like the pick originally, and tho it’s early, he hasn’t done anything to help change my opinion)
    -Still have a doughy Curryboy who hasn’t played yet (not to mention JJ),
    -The salary cap is getting lowered and will further kill our free agent signing potential (as if the roster and general suckiness weren’t already hurting us enough)
    -We’re likely to lose and/or overpay to keep 2 fan favorites in D.Lee and Nate
    -The entire roster is full of holes and is in general disarray (outside of Gallo, everyone is vulnerable for a trade)

  15. Nick,

    Harrington has a .583 TS% through 3 games. I can see what turns you off about his style, but the guy can score. Chandler, Nate, and Duhon have been weighing down the Knicks scoring so far. Danilo, Lee, and Harrington carrying it (and Hughes in the Sixers game, too).
    As much as I love Nate, he has really killed the offense. If he starts the season with career average numbers the Knicks are probably 2-1. I’ve come to expect inconsistency from WC and Duhon is a low usage scorer anyway, but I was/am really hoping for another big year from Nate.
    JJ has a .464 TS% despite his 3-4 night from downtown… Hopefully most teams don’t even know what TS% is and a couple more 3-4 nights get the Knicks some more cap room.


    The Bobs game was very ugly, but I wouldn’t agree that the Knicks looked bad during their comeback. I was quite encouraged by the way they played there.

    “Still, there’s no reason this team should be the worst defense (or close to it) in the league.”

    David, I think the reason is that they don’t play a center. It’s normally the most important defensive position and D’Antoni just acts as if it doesn’t exist.
    The lack of effort is definitely a problem, but the lack of skill (and especially no center) is just as crucial in my opinion.


    Your points aren’t wrong, but paint the absolutely worst possible scenario. You’re not describing reality, but what happens if everything goes wrong. There’s a good chance everything will go wrong, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

  16. @Ted Nelson:
    I was definitely doing the doom ‘n gloom thing, but I just really needed to vent. I know it’s been a rough decade for all of us Knicks fans, so my grousing can’t possibly be helping morale. It’s just that being the only Knicks fan in my group of friends, I don’t get much opportunity to sound off on things since it usually falls on deaf ears. I’ll never stop being a fan, but geezus, the 2010 and the new decade cannot get here soon enough lol.

  17. I don’t think your points are incorrect, but just the worst case. And your pessimism is definitely not unwarranted.

  18. All,

    I’m not sure what we’ve seen in these three games that differed from what we expected before the season. If anything, the biggest surprise has been how quickly Gallo seems to have reached a new level, which is a big positive. They’ve lost these games because of sloppy defense (which we knew was coming) and cold three point shooting (which is a high variance stat). They’re two shots away from being 2-1 and, while it would have been a pretty weak 2-1, we would all be hyperbolizing about their playoff chances had they completed back to back comeback wins.

    The Knicks are who we thought they were. They give up runs and go on runs, they occasionally challenge good teams and frequently flop against bad teams, they glide through 3 quarters on defense and then turn up the (often misguided) intensity once they smell a chance to win. So it goes.

  19. haven’t seen any of the first half (DVR priorities), but loving 5 assists from Gallo at halftime. the more he touches the ball, the better.

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