Currently the New York Knicks, according to their head coach Mike D'Antoni, look “awful.”
He is right. However, Coach D'Antoni conveniently and conspicuously doesn't say whose fault the Knicks' raunchy start to the 2011-2012 season is. It's like D'Antoni makes the remark in a way that tries to separate himself from his incriminating verbal condemnation of his own ballers.
But we know. Blame has to go to the leaders. In the Knicks case, the leaders' names are D'Antoni, Amare Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony.
It's only three games into the season, but the Knicks look so truly “awful” that deductions can be made. In their two losses to the Golden State Warriors and the Los Angeles Lakers, the Knicks put college numbers on the board, scoring 78 and 82 points respectively while playing their usual college-level defense.
I thought D'Antoni was an offensive guru. I thought Mike Woodson, their newly hired assistant coach, was a defensive whiz. Such thoughts of Knick fans, however—and basketball fans who want to see Madison Square Garden alive again—are but fantasies.
The New York Knicks were supposed to come out of the gate in 2011-2012 ablazing. Their two stars have now had more time to work together. Toney Douglas, their starting guard, is a year more experienced. Coach D'Antoni has more talent this year with the addition of center Tyson Chandler. And so on.
What we have seen, instead, is a rudderless, second-rate Knickerbocker squad wreaking of the same old flaws.
The Knicks infirmities are so salient that Anthony, their standout player, is calling their next game, the fourth of the season, a “must win.” In explaining, Anthony quipped: “That's the approach I'm taking.”
The Knicks display little defensive or offensive cohesiveness, their on-court decision-making is poor and their opponents can pretty much do whatever they want. Besides, the Knicks are slow, exhibiting little basketball quickness, a defect they could offset with smarts, but they don't. In the Knicks only win this year, Anthony had to pull off Herculean heroics to ensure victory. That's no way to function.
Clearly Coach D'Antoni is clueless. He only coaches the offense, anyway. And that is shapeless. How can you be an “offensive guru” yet your team can't break 80 points? Answer: D'Antoni was only a “guru” when he had hall-of-fame point guard Steve Nash on the floor. The Knicks don't have a player as good as Steve Nash in his prime. Period.
Thus, the Knicks need to fire D'Antoni. Wait-and-see timetables are over. Jettison him now before another season goes into the dustbin. He has had ample time to prove himself and he has not. The Knicks have not shown significant progress.
This is a coach who seems to think his offensive “scheme” works by osmosis. That's not basketball. Phil Jackson, for example, proved amply able to tailor his triangle offense to his personnel. Conversely, D'Antoni has not shown he can synergize his basketball philosophy in line with his present Knick cast of players.
Douglas, the Knicks' point guard, is wildly inconsistent, scoring 15 points one night and five points the next. Landry Fields, the starting shooting guard, is a shell of the player he was the first half of the 2010-2011 season. Fields is a nonfactor; he really doesn't exist right now. Further, the Knicks have not developed a productive bench. From game to game, there is no constant bench rotation.
And since the Knicks traded for Anthony, Stoudemire's game has shifted downstream. Naturally Stoudemire's point production is going to diminish with a scorer like Anthony beside him. But Stoudemire has not figured out how to blend his skills with Anthony's in any real way. Stoudemire goes long periods in a game during which he is not an effecting force. This fact belies his reputation.
No matter how they want to deny it, Stoudemire is a lower-case replica of Anthony. The Knicks need only one of them. Guess which one they are going to keep.
Moreover, Stoudemire is a finesse and fragile player. His knees are shaky since the operation several years ago, and therefore what he can do on the floor is limited from the power forward or center position. Ideally he should playing alongside a bruising rebounding force like Kevin Love, or a multi-talented big forward like Pao Gasol. He has neither with the Knicks.
In blue and orange, Stoudemire is now out of place. Give him credit for rejuvenating 34th Street. Give him accolades for an always positive perspective. But nonetheless the Knicks need to trade him.
What or who can be gotten for Stoudemire? That's the Knicks job. In trading Stoudemire the Knicks will probably have to package Douglas and others to get a substantial return.
First and foremost, though, the Knicks should acquire a new coach. Someone who is not a “guru” half-a-coach. Someone not dependent on ethereal scientific solutions like “osmosis.” Someone who can fearlessly hold players accountable and fix basketball problems as they occur.
By the way, if the Knicks are hoping injured guard Baron Davis is a “cure,” as has been broadly discussed, they need to query themselves: Didn't we say that about Amare and Carmelo?