*to the extent that success is limited, and possible.
We now understand that the Knicks effectively fired D’Antoni the moment they shipped off a group of players well-suited to his system in exchange for a single player, Carmelo Anthony, who was uniquely unfit for his perimeter-oriented, ball-movement focused offense. No surprises here, but twelve months ago, now resigned General Manager Donnie Walsh was against the Carmelo trade.
D’Antoni resigned “on his own,” but the franchise chose incoming talent over incumbent leadership months ago.
D’Antoni cuts a charming and affable character, what with his disarming West Virginia accent and photoshoppable ‘stache. He encourages the kind of fast-paced basketball that we love to watch, and has a reputation as a players coach. We like him, so his resignation with only 25 games left on a four-year deal smells funny to some, rancid to others.
It reeks of valuing the individual superstar (no less a player we now know is undeserving of that distinction) over the team concept. Anthony, a player who contributes next to nothing on defense and has been unwilling to fit his game to his surroundings on offense, was valued above the beautiful basketball that D’Antoni philosophically represents.
We should also consider that while I’ve been a bit fatalistic so far, there were other options, even after the Carmelo trade. Howard Beck reports that D’Antoni pushed for a trade for Deron Williams, a player who would have thrived in his system and made the whole team make sense.
But it sounds like owner James Dolan never considered abandoning the prized superstars he pushed so hard to acquire. Like I said, D’Antoni was gone the minute Anthony came over.
In his place stands Mike Woodson, who is actually a great alternative on short notice. The Chandler-Stoudemire-Anthony frontline presents some serious issues for any offensive system, because none of these guys can make a 3-point shot with regularity—they are a uniquely anti-D’Antoni collection of talent.
But Woodson has proven he can hewn a passable offense from a similar collection of skill sets in Atlanta, where the Johnson-Horford-Smith triumvirate led the league’s second most efficient offense in 2009-10. Hilariously enough, the Phoenix Suns, who still employed D’Antoni’s spread pick-and-roll attack, were the No. 1 offense.
Woodson will do something to fix the Knicks at that end. Because as embarrassing as it was to see Taj Gibson and the Bulls snatch offensive rebound after offensive rebound and run out the clock in the fourth quarter like a ball-control offense in the NFL, the real problem in New York has been the offense.
D’Antoni revolutionized NBA offenses; he’s a visionary. Woodson is a pragmatist along the lines of Hubie Brown: find the mismatch and pound on it until the points come out.
As ugly, in terms of optics, as this coaching change was and the Knicks offense may be in the future, it’s quite possible that the Knicks will be significantly more cohesive offensively going forward.
On the defensive side, Woodson has, along with Tyson Chandler, already helped the Knicks claw into the top 10 in defensive efficiency (though that Anthony and Stoudemire sat out with injuries for a decent stretch probably inflates this metric a bit).
I’m not sure if this is good or bad, but the Knicks new ceiling is about what the Atlanta Hawks were over the past four seasons: good enough to win 50 games in a full season, not good enough to mount a serious run in the playoffs. He’ll make use of the players he has and they will never, ever overachieve. Boring, but functional.
And probably a little better.
- Working/Not Working: Boston-New York (2), Orlando-Atlanta (2), Dallas-Portland (2)
- Baron Davis A Questionable Fit For New York
- If at first you don’t succeed: the importance secondary action against the Bulls defense
- Zach Attacks: How to Succeed in Los Angeles Without Really Trying
- Making it all fit together can be puzzling or whatever is the best puzzle pun here