Generally, if a basketball team is in absolutely horrific shape, I tend to think that you have to build back up by starting with commitment on the defensive end, creating offense through turnovers, etc. Then again, I am a yahoo who watches sports on TV and types about that, so the grain of salt principle applies. Despite not being as hardcore an Isiah Thomas slammer as others (James Dolan is just as responsible for the mess, and Zeke should have been fired after the Anucha Browne Sanders settlement), the Knicks as currently composed are a wreck with a few bright spots, and short of a roster overhaul, they’re not going to be any good for a couple more years.
So, why bring in Mike D’Antoni to run his Seven Seconds or less system with a roster that’s totally unsuited to run it? I’ll hazard a guess as to why D’Antoni took the offer (or, well, several guesses):
- Better money than Chicago would be able to offer
- Anything he accomplishes in the Garden will be a severe improvement, so there will be kid gloves for the first year, even for the NYC media
- Donnie Walsh won’t intrude on D’Antoni’s basketball principles as much as Bulls GM John Paxson would have (Paxson seems to like coaches who emphasize defense; I expect Avery Johnson to wind up in Chicago now)
This still doesn’t mesh to me. Unless D’Antoni is going to coax something out of Stephon Marbury or convert Jamal Crawford or Nate Robinson into something useful on the O-end, he won’t have the guard play and it’s safe to assume that Eddy Curry and Zach Randolph are both ill-suited for his game plan (Randolph more so than Curry; D’Antoni could probably find a way to work Curry into the system.)
On instant assessment I suspect the Knicks would have been better off with the Little General or his successor in Dallas, Rick Carlisle. Carlisle seems a sensible hire in the sense that he is able to get a lot out of players, motivate them up, get them to play hard — and he’ll have to try something with a team that never should have traded away first-rounders and its young point guard to the Nets in a desperation trade after Memphis gift-wrapped Pau Gasol for the Lakers.
Carlisle may struggle more than D’Antoni because it will be his first head coaching gig in the tougher conference, and the Mavericks may get worse before they get better with Jason Kidd inching ever closer to 40 and Josh Howard disappearing.