I wasn’t in attendance last night, but rumor has it that by the end of the Knicks’ latest debacle – this time against the previously winless-on-the-road Milwaukee Bucks – the audible groans from the MSG-faithful had morphed into full blown “FIRE D’ANTONI!” chants.
Now, far be it from me to tell long-suffering Knicks fans what to yell from the relative comfort of their own high-priced seats, but is there no sense of fairness in this town? I thought this was the “Mecca of Basketball.” Aren’t New Yorkers supposed to be the most legitimate and knowledgeable fans around?
Let’s at least feign fairness when discussing the state of affairs, shall we? What, exactly, is Mike D’Antoni working with here? The Knick roster is a virtual who’s who of hand-me-downs, has-beens, never-weres, and might-still-bes.
Landry Fields, Toney Douglas, Jared Jefferies, Bill Walker, Steve Novak, Mike Bibby, and Renaldo Balkman would have trouble competing with the WNBA’s New York Liberty.
Knicks rookies Iman Shumpert and Josh Harrellson have each shown great promise and the ability to contribute at the NBA level right now, but neither can be relied upon to deliver with any degree of consistency.
Tyson Chandler would fit seamlessly as a valuable piece to any team’s championship-puzzle – he’s done it before, and the Knicks are beyond lucky to have him – but his game relies upon a skill set that’s complimentary to superstars around him, preferably one of whom is a point guard.
Which brings us to Gotham’s dynamic-duo du jour, Carmelo Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire, whose pairing together is starting to look a lot like Riggs and Murtaugh’s in Lethal Weapon. It isn’t much of a stretch, either. Anthony stars nightly on Broadway as Detective Sargent Martin Riggs, a hair-triggered shooter who likes to go it alone. You remember Riggs, right? No one wants to work with him. He plays by his own rules. His superiors can’t get through to him. Riggs’ reluctant sidekick, STAT, plays Detective Sargent Roger Murtaugh, an overworked veteran on the apparent downside of his distinguished career. Sometimes it seems like Murtaugh is just mailing it in, just counting the days until
free agency retirement. Heck, I keep waiting for Stoudemire to mumble during the post-game that he’s “too old for this sh*t.”
The striking difference between these on-screen and on-court partnerships? At the end of the day, Mel Gibson shooting people in the face tends to guarantee victory over the bad guys.
Look, D’Antoni deserves to be judged, but any evaluation of his performance needs to account for those more-than-just-ancillary factors that are contributing to the current Knick-malaise. Despite a roster that’s been flipped more often than Mitt Romney at a GOP Debate, despite an abbreviated training camp and exhibition season, despite not having a point guard, and despite the reliance on two not-quite-superstar players, New York fans and media alike inexplicably want the coach’s head on a platter and his heart on a plate.
There is no denying that New York’s offense has been putrid, and yes, D’Antoni is ultimately going to be held responsible for that, but anyone watching the Knicks since they acquired ‘Melo can plainly see that his and Amar’e games are not built to co-exist. Clearly, the two did not attend Summer School – as I called for last June – and I dare anyone to explain how changing coaches will suddenly alter their bad habits and selfish tendencies.
So please, let’s put away the pitchforks, and holster those sidearms. For now, anyway.
Leo Getz Baron Davis comes back – and hopefully brings facilitation and ball movement with him – the Knicks fortunes will either improve drastically or they won’t. Then, and only then, will we know if New York’s answer to LeBron and Wade are here to win or if they’re content to let their “players’ coach” take the fall.
If that happens, and D’Antoni is unceremoniously dismissed, good luck convincing Steve Nash to play the role of savior in next year’s sequel.