With the Knicks in free-fall and Linsanity feeling like an afterthought, it might be time for head coach Mike D’Antoni to clear his office.
But did New York legitimately think that they had a shot at contending with D’Antoni at the helm this season in the first place? In hindsight, it’s easy to say that D’Antoni was doomed from the start.
In fact, it was the beginning of the end for D’Antoni when team landed Carmelo Anthony at the trade deadline last season. D’Antoni essentially had his legs cut out from under him.
The Knicks were thriving in D’Antoni’s “seven seconds or less” offense with then-point guard Raymond Felton at the helm. Players like lanky sharpshooter like Danilo Gallinari and pick-and-roll specialist Wilson Chandler were vital role players for D’Antoni, but Felton, Chandler and Gallinari were dealt away for Anthony and Chauncey Billups.
Anthony is a bona-fide NBA superstar and one of the best pure-scorers in the league, but simply can’t run D’Antoni’s system well enough for he and the Knicks to thrive. Anthony is an isolation player which doesn’t abode well in a system that run through the point.
If Anthony could play the point-forward (like Scottie Pippen did with the Bulls) he would have a chance to mesh with D’Antoni. But Anthony doesn’t have the passing ability or court vision to do so.
The most important part of any D’Antoni system is the point guard and dealing Felton last year quintessentially the reason why the team flopped in the second half of the season in the Melodrama aftermath. Billups is a scoring point guard and, while talented, didn’t have the right skill set for D’Antoni's offense.
So when D’Antoni entered the season with the only floor admiral capable of running his offense (Baron Davis) sidelined until February, the team was essentially destined to flop despite the talent of Anthony, Amare Stoudemire and free-agent signing Tyson Chandler on the roster. Many said the Knicks were underachieving when they piled up losses earlier this season, but in actuality, they were playing as expected.
The emergence of Jeremy Lin must be attributed directly to D’Antoni. His blockbuster breakout showcased the potency of the offense with the right personal in place. With Lin inserted and Anthony sidelined, the Knicks were able to compile a string of wins together to bring the team back into contention.
However, Anthony’s return has brought the Knicks back to earth and has many questioning Anthony and D’Antoni’s futures in the Big Apple. It might come down to the franchise having to choose one or the other.
Moves might be made or the Knicks might give Anthony and D’Antoni one more run. The lockout forced the team to miss all of training camp and should Anthony master the offense of the summer, the Knicks ideally would like to keep both in place.
But the trade deadline is always full of surprises, Anthony might go or D’Antoni might be axed. The New York media will find some fuss to stir-up should the Knicks turn their losing trend around.