Slumping Knicks Make Mike D'Antoni the Giants Biggest Fan

Ben ShapiroAnalyst IIIJanuary 22, 2012

Knicks coach Mike D'Antonio is on the hot seat.
Knicks coach Mike D'Antonio is on the hot seat.Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

Later today the New York Giants will take on the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC Championship Game with a birth in the Super Bowl on the line. 

Millions of fans will tune in to cheer on "Big Blue."

The Giants have been the story in New York sports for the better part of the past month. Sure, the Jets stole some thunder by imploding on the field as well as in the locker room, and yes, the Yankees grabbed a few headlines last week when they made a trade involving Jesus Montero—one of the team's most prized prospects. 

It's been the Giants city though. That's been a nice distraction for Mike D'Antoni.

D'Antoni is of course the head coach of the New York Knicks, and as far as he's concerned, he'd probably love a Giants win, the resulting Super Bowl trip and the media attention the team would command.

That's because the Knicks are currently sporting a 6-10 record. They're in the midst of a six-game losing streak and the last four losses have come at home.

For the Knicks and their embattled head coach Mike D'Antoni, a Giant loss in San Francisco tonight would only intensify the harsh glare of the already critical New York press corp.

Put simply, D'Antoni could use any and all the help he can get, and a win by the Giants tonight would set off two weeks of non-stop Super Bowl Giants hype which might just be enough to distract Knicks fans until the team starts to play a little better.

The current Knicks seem to encompass just about everything that could possibly be wrong about a given NBA team.

Carmelo Anthony is one of the league's best scorers but that has not meant wins for the Knicks.
Carmelo Anthony is one of the league's best scorers but that has not meant wins for the Knicks.Chris Trotman/Getty Images

While their regional and divisional rivals the Boston Celtics are merely just too old, the Knicks are a potent mix of conflicting skill sets that all seem to result in an oil-and-water type of blend on the court.

Their coach favors playing a ball-movement based offense in which a skilled point guard and multiple offensive threats are a necessity.

The Knicks instead have a player in Carmelo Anthony who is at his best a dominating scorer and at his worst a black hole that constantly shoots regardless of whether or not he's hitting his mark.

That mix creates a downward spiral offensively whereby the team is forced into watching Anthony on offense rather than running the offense favored by the coach.

Since there are very few players in the league capable of creating as many scoring opportunities for themselves as Anthony can, the lack of a point guard only magnifies the rest of the team's offensive limitations.

The team must lean on Anthony more and more frequently, which of course places an added amount of pressure on other players—not just to occasionally take shots, but to make them as well. 

This Knicks team rarely looks comfortable on offense with almost the entire team pressing or Anthony just continually chucking up shots.

That's just the start of the problem though.

While Coach D'Antoni does have a reputation for teams that score, he doesn't have a reputation as a coach whose teams play tough defense. The current Knicks team lacks a lot of players with reputations for being self-motivated strong defenders.

D'Antoni's solution to this problem is to play a form of defense that relies on hoping to confuse the opposition via an endless string of defensive switches.

Baron Davis will return from injury and assume the starting point guard position.
Baron Davis will return from injury and assume the starting point guard position.Marc Serota/Getty Images

The results have confused the Knicks far more often than their opponents.

The constant switches create mismatches which place Knick opponents on the free-throw line all too often. In addition, those switches often end up putting the one above-average natural defender in the Knicks starting lineup, Tyson Chandler, in foul trouble.

That's why an inconsistent offensive player like Milwaukee's Brandon Jennings—who has a bit of a Carmelo-like reputation for hoisting up too many shots—can run wild on the Knicks and drop 36 points on them as he did on Friday night.

It's why a player such as former Knick Danilo Gallinarri—who was routinely criticized as "soft" when he was a member of the Knicks less than a year ago—can torch the Knicks for 37 points as he did in last night's contest.

Looking back on the trade that brought Carmelo Anthony to New York less than one year ago, it's clear that under the current coach and the system he employs, the Knicks gave up far too much.

Yes, Anthony is a better player than anyone the Knicks parted with in that deal, but the loss of multi-faceted and talented young players such as Wilson Chandler and Gallinari along with a steady and solid pass-first, shoot-second point guard with a Carolina pedigree in Raymond Felton was too much for the Knicks to make up over the course of a long NBA season.

Anthony, as good as he is, can't shoot over 50 percent and drop over 30 points every night. The rapidly aging Amare Stoudemire is a player who needs a point guard to get him the ball in order to be a consistent athletic threat.

The same player who Knicks fans thought worthy of MVP consideration last spring looks like a shell of himself.

The Knicks have Baron Davis waiting in the wings once healthy to assume the point guard position, but the assumption by either the fans or the organization that a player who rarely stays healthy for a prolonged period of time will suddenly re-emerge from an injury in great shape and remain healthy to make a deep playoff run is foolhardy. 

This is a Knicks team that needs to make some decisions sooner than later. The oft-discussed rumors of bringing in Steve Nash to run the show seem like at best a temporary solution to a far greater problem.

Reuniting Nash with D'Antoni and Stoudemire won't yield the same results it did several years ago because both Nash and Stoudemire are older and slower...

That won't change regardless of the offensive system they play in.

The Knicks must make some big decisions. They can't fire the whole team, and that type of statement generally brings one to the conclusion that the coach must go. That may only be the first of several needed steps, though.

If the team chooses to keep Anthony as their star, then they absolutely must find a point guard to insure there is more than one consistently scoring threat on the floor for the Knicks.

They also must force Anthony to do something that he's been somewhat hesitant to do with consistency over the course of his career—play defense.

The Celtics may have been run off the court by the Heat in the playoffs last year, but that was after they shut down the Knicks and swept them out of the postseason. The Heat and Bulls were among the league's toughest defensive teams.

It's a daunting list of challenges, and the Knicks along with their embattled head coach Mike D'Antoni could use a little breathing room to make them.

A Giant win tonight might just afford the team a touch more space. Once the Giants run is over, the Knicks get the spotlight of New York until the Yankees take the field in Florida—whether they like it or not.