Posts Tagged ‘New York Knicks’

Mike D'Antoni failed the New York Knicks - which actually shouldn't surprise anyone.

So here we are – in the aftermath of the resignation of Mike D’Antoni, the now former coach of the New York Knicks. I’ve pretty much railed against the man and his “coaching” for years, especially after the Knicks hired him. I have a great many Knicks fans that I know, so it’s been interesting to watch most of them go from excited when he was first hired to fed up leading up to him quitting this week (while I shouldn’t say I told you so, every thing I said would happen when this guy took over DID happen…so to some of my friends reading this, I TOLD YOU SO).

But the D’Antoni fiasco highlights exactly how important having a good coach is in the NBA. Because, as much as some people may think teams like the Charlotte Bobcats, Washington Wizards and New Orleans Hornets stink – it really comes down to coaching moreso than personnel. Because – and I think people in all sports forget this – these people are pros. They are, for the most part, the best of the best at what they do. Which is why a guy like Shannon Brown can go from not ever playing in Charlotte to being a major contributor to a championship team in L.A. – system and coaching.

Oh, don’t get it twisted. There ARE players who are crappier than others in this league. And it’s true, a coach will have a hard time showing how good he is with crappier players to work with (look at Avery Johnson in New Jersey). But the D’Antoni situation in particular just goes to show how many people really don’t understand the NBA game at all, in my opinion. Because this season, I’ve read everything from the Knicks have too much talent (there’s no such thing, people), to it’s all Carmelo Anthony’s fault (hardly), to Jeremy Lin can’t handle the pressure any more (Oh? But he inexplicably could for a full month and then got scared when Deron Williams came back to town??) to it’s all J.R. Smith/Amar’e Stoudemire’s fault for not playing better defense (um – when did either one of those guys present themselves as lockdown defenders? EVER??).

I’m sorry – all those excuses are just lazy thinking. Especially in terms of blaming the players – that’s the laziest thing I see fans do. Team loses or isn’t doing good, it’s the players’ fault. Especially the star. Look – there are indeed times when it’s a star’s fault (LeChoke’s performance in the 4th quarters of the last 3 games of the NBA Finals last year comes to mind). But I’m sorry – it’s simply NOT on Lamar Odom for why the Dallas Mavericks aren’t playing that well. It’s not on Rajon Rondo or Kevin Garnett for the reasons the Boston Celtics are struggling (it’s not Doc Rivers’ fault either – I’m looking at you, Danny Ainge).

Even the usually affable Derek Fisher had tuned coach Mike Brown out at times this season in L.A.

Coaching plays a major part. For example – I’ve been crying all season about Mike Brown’s “coaching” of the Los Angeles Lakers. The situation in L.A. is just as bad as NY, but one thing masks everything – the Lakers are winning. This is in large part due to a half-mutiny Kobe Bryant and Derek Fisher had orchestrated there. Which, if people had been paying attention (which most haven’t), has the support of all the players.

Granted, I probably watch sports and follow the ins and outs better than most people who don’t actually work at ESPN or something similar – but the info is readily available. The players holding meetings to figure out how to deal with the coaching staff. The veterans running the triangle (at different points) for most of the first part of the season, even though the current coach and his staff have no triangle plays in their book. The frequent disinterest of certain players in huddles on nationally televised games. Players going to Kobe Bryant to know what to do on offense. And the kicker – the worst thing I’ve seen in years – the star player (Bryant) brazenly admitting  in an on-court interview after beating the Celtics recently that he literally vetoed the called play by the coach and called his own play for center Andrew Bynum.

And Bynum excitedly talking about it for 2 days after the fact, all in the sports media.

Now, you can blame Kobe and the players for this lack of respect. But just know – in the entire history of the Lakers since I’ve been watching, I’ve never heard of these things. Not from Kobe. Not from Shaq. Not from Kareem. Not from anyone, no matter what shenanigans were going on. No matter WHO the coach was. And, taking a look at Mike Brown’s coaching history…this is actually par for the course. The same type of things went on in Cleveland. It’s just happened quicker than I thought in L.A.

In both cases, Brown won tons of games. Mike Brown and Mike D’Antoni are prime examples of bad coaches who have players that mask their inability to be good head coaches. Both are good at what they do – Brown at instilling defensive principles, D’Antoni on the offensive end – but they’re both no better than assistant coaches. Head coaches? Nope.

The opposite of guys like Brown and D’Antoni? Monty Williams and Rick Adelman. Both guys have lesser rosters, and have to squeeze out the absolute best of their players. In Williams’ case, the NBA (in particular David Stern) has completely hamstrung the team in terms of talent and being competitive. Yet, even though they’re the third-worst team in the league, missing their biggest scoring option in Eric Gordon – they play hard, and boast victories over a number of good teams. There is no surprise in watching them beat a team with a winning record.

Adelman has taken a supposedly awful Minnesota Timberwolves team and put them in contention for a playoff spot, with 2 rookies (Ricky Rubio, Derrick Williams) being incorporated into the mix. I actually wish my Lakers had hired Adelman. The man can win with almost any roster. He won’t be at the top of the standings, because roster limitations DO have an effect – but he won’t ever be at the very bottom, either.

In fact – let me give you a list of who I think are good coaches: Adelman, Williams, Jerry Sloan (currently not coaching), Rick Carlisle, George Karl, Doc Rivers, Tom Thibodeau, Greg Popovich, Doug Collins, Lionel Hollins, Frank Vogel, Kevin McHale, Scott Brooks, Alvin Gentry and Erik Spoelstra. Yes, THAT Erik Spoelstra. The one people like to throw under the bus any time the Miami Heat lose. I definitely contend he’s a good coach. Not the best – but good? Yes.

That’s a lot of coaches. And not everyone I named are on the same level (no one on that list matches Popovich to me). But what of the coaches I didn’t

Stan Van Gundy is yet another coach with a good record and reputation - but is completely overrated (in my opinion).

name? That means, in my opinion – they’re either average or less than average. That includes a guy like Stan Van Gundy, who always has teams that win, but in terms of coaching? Put it this way – when he has talent, the guy will always get you a good regular season record. In the playoffs? I can almost always predict how he will lose and how he will be out-coached. Seriously. Any time he goes up against a good coach with a healthy team, he’s gonna get knocked out in the playoffs.

Now a coach like that is good if your team simply wants to sell tickets and put out the facade of being a top-notch team. But as Shaquille O’Neal once stated, Van Gundy is “the master of panic”. Put him in a rough spot – the Magic are going down. His adjustments – or lack thereof – are pathetic. I’ll take his brother Jeff Van Gundy any day of the week over him (Jeff is a bit of an imbecile on TV, but he’s a hell of a coach).

What it comes down to – a good coach is not always in control of a winning record. And a bad coach can win with the right talent. Don’t forget – Mike D’Antoni was once Coach of The Year. Yet he was run out of Phoenix, and quit on NY. And even good coaches can be run out of town – look at Phil Jackson in Chicago. I guess what I’m trying to say, one needs to really play attention to a team, it’s issues, it’s players – and how it’s growing or faltering. Because many times in this league, it truly does come down to the coaching.

That’s not to say it’s always the coach’s fault. I don’t put the blame for Cleveland’s struggles on Byron Scott at all. On the other side, I don’t think Vinnie Del Negro is an upper echelon coach simply because the NBA gave him Chris Paul. To be honest, I think both of those men are average coaches of the same level. Management is a big part of the overall picture, and they need to be in sync with any coach. In this regard, you really can’t completely fault D’Antoni in New York – he was never in sync with Knicks management (who essentially forced Carmelo Anthony on the man).

Still – with a roster of Lin, ‘Melo, Amar’e, Tyson Chandler, J.R. Smith and tons of great role players – there’s no excuse for failing this badly. The silly excuse some have used of “too many stars” or the “hard to mesh” excuse fails when you look at the Lakers winning a championship after adding Pau Gasol midseason; the Boston Celtics having FOUR all-star players and winning, the Miami Heat, the Dallas Mavericks, the San Antonio Spurs – all teams with tons of stars that made it work pretty easily. And what do all of those teams have in common?

You guessed it – good coaching.

I actually think the Knicks will make the playoffs with Mike Woodson taking over as interim coach. Is he good coach? Not in my opinion. But he’s average, and I believe the players will respect and respond to him better than they did D’Antoni. And no, I don’t believe the players had anything to do with getting him out of there – please remember, he resigned. The man quit. So that’s on him and his failures, and I’m hearing it was more of an issue with him and management for the decision to come at this point.

All one has to do is look at Portland game the day of the resignation. NY beat the brakes off that team under Woodson. They looked great. The beating was so bad, the next day Portland fired their coach, Nate McMillan. And what’s the first thing Woodson did behind closed doors? Tell the team he was changing the offense to accentuate Stoudemire and ‘Melo. Not implementing an offense they need to adjust to and fit into – but implementing one that plays to their strengths.

Coaching.

As always, most will really notice the difference in coaching when the playoffs come around. With the trade of Derek Fisher to Houston, I suspect we’ll see many of Mike Brown’s flaws blatantly come out in the playoffs when he has to match up with a top coach and their adjustments. He won’t have the on-floor leadership he’s had most of the year to get through adversity, and to be honest – as good of a leader as Kobe is, he loses patience with sub-par play and isn’t one to suffer fools. Brown starts doing his normal lack of adjusting and countering, Kobe’s liable to go rogue and tear the team in half – or take them with him (more likely). And before anyone puts that on Kobe, let me point out you’re missing the point – I wouldn’t even be talking about that if Kobe had a good coach who wouldn’t tolerate that.

D’Antoni is said to have quit because he was unwilling to reign in the half of the team who had turned against him. Brown is unwilling to reign in Kobe. And, as is the case yearly, the teams that will succeed when it matters will do so not just because of their stars and talent – they’ll win (or lose) based on coaching to a large degree.

Not every game is won or lost due to coaching, this is true. But I can’t remember a single NBA title that was won by a bad coach – or even an average one. That accentuates the point I’m trying to make.

Well, we’re about 20 games into the abbreviated post-2011 lockout season of the NBA. Thus far, ratings are up, excitement is evident and injuries are building up (they always DO after a lockout). Outside of the obvious big storylines (Miami Heat as the favorites, Lakers vs. Clippers is relevant now, where is Dwight Howard going), I figured I’d look at 10 things you may or may not have noticed, considered or thought about.

 

The Atlanta Hawks have been one of the better teams in the Eastern Conference this season.

1. Atlanta, Indiana & Philadelphia are surprise power teams in the Eastern Conference (so far) – It’s true. Take a look at the top 5 spots in the East – these team occupy spots 3-5. And if you’re telling me you thought that would be the case before the season began and you’re NOT a fan of any of those teams, I’m calling you a liar. The obvious retort anyone can offer – it’s the Eastern Conference. It’s been weak for well over a decade. This is true, but you have to still play your schedule, and thus far, these teams are winning. Atlanta has even beat Chicago, Miami and Portland; and Indiana boasts wins over the Lakers and Chicago (Philly has been beating up on weaker teams). Just under one-third of the season has been played, so there’s still time for things to getter better or worse for all 3 squads – but the fact they’re all currently doing better than New York, Boston and Orlando has to be noticed and applauded.

 

2. Kobe Bryant truly may not be human – No, really. Forget the fact that regardless of the same doubters and haters who come out the woodwork yearly, this guy proves himself to be amongst the absolute best in the game. Forget that he’s killing the league in his 16th season. I don’t think people understand how insane it is that he’s playing with his wrist injury. And doing it well. By comparison, Rajon Rondo hasn’t been able to play in 5 games, and can’t even shoot or dribble consistently. And he doesn’t have torn ligaments that should require surgery. Luol Deng has an injury like Kobe’s, but not as severe – on his left hand. His non-shooting hand. He requires surgery (as Kobe was supposed to get), and he’s been missing games too.

Kobe hasn’t missed a single game. Compare this to the injuries he’s played through over the years – he once separated his shoulder and shot left-handed for a number of games, to good effect at that – and the only thing I can come up with is this dude is one of those mutants we see in the X-Men universe. That’s the only explanation for a guy who routinely plays with injuries that sideline every other NBA player for weeks and months.

 

The common denominator in terms of all the problems with the Knicks' play? Mike D'Antoni.

3. Mike D’Antoni SUCKS – I’ve gotten to the point in sports where hearing certain opinions about things lets me know the difference between people who really watch the sport and those who let ESPN tell them how things are. The “Knicks/’Melo/Amar’e sucks!” opinions are an example of this. No, there’s nothing wrong with any of those players on that team. They are who they are, and WHAT they are. In particular, Carmelo Anthony, Amar’e Stoudemire and Tyson Chandler were all extremely successful for their previous teams – you’re telling me they got together and just became terrible? That they inexplicably have no idea how to play together?

All of those guys knew how to play during Olympic try-outs and on those squads. Every other superstar pairing over the past few years doesn’t seem to have issues working out the gate – Lakers, Celtics, Heat, Clippers this year, etc. What gives? It’s the coach.

It would take me too long to spell it all out – that’s an article in and of itself. If you’re interested in understanding how it’s the coach, there’s a pretty good article I’ve read that echoes what I’ve thought for a long time about D’Antoni here. But it’s NOT the players – a good coach would have this team near the top of the East, easy. And non-knowledgeable Knicks fans are running out of excuses – you can’t even say Denver is winning with the Knicks’ old players, because 2 of those players are already gone from the team (Raymond Felton, Wilson Chandler), one gets limited minutes (Timofey Mozgov) and the other is putting up Carmelo-esque numbers at times ever since he began playing for a good coach (George Karl).

And for anyone who was riding the “It’s ‘Melo’s fault” train – remind me – how have the Knicks been doing without Mr. Anthony??

Oh.

Place the blame where it belongs – coaching and inept management.

 

4. Chris Bosh and Kevin Love are under-the-radar BEASTS – Yup. They sure are. Look at their numbers – Kevin Love gives you 25 points, 14 rebounds and a steal and is shooting 41% from three – and he’s a power forward. Bosh’s numbers are 22 points, 8 rebounds, 2 assists, a steal, a block, 55% overall from the field and 33% from three – again, at the power forward position. Those numbers increased when Dwayne Wade was been out of the Heat lineup – he averaged 27 points without his all-star 2-guard.

Neither man is flashy nor do they consistently provide the ESPN Top Ten highlights casual viewers crave. They suffer from Tim Duncan syndrome – they provide steady, consistent production, and are huge assets – but get overshadowed by the highlight-driven, guard-led highlight packages. But make no mistake about it – they are playing out of this world, and are they keys to their teams success. That’s right – I just called Bosh the key to Miami’s success over LeBron AND Wade. Because if he’s a totally unstoppable beast in the playoffs with those guys doing their thing?? Who gon’ stop them?? Well – it’s possible. But not highly likely…

 

5. David Stern is completely full of hot, steaming CACA – Okay, you already knew this. I’m sure I’m surprising exactly no one with that declaration. However, I’m specifically referring to a little something the little bastard said after he traded Chauncey Billups and Chris Paul to the Clippers…wait – what’s that, you say? Chauncey Billups was picked up in free agency, not in a trade? Uh-huh – sure. YOU believe that if you want. Most NBA insiders certainly don’t – and Yahoo Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski referenced the shadiness all the way back in December (read that article here).

Back to what The Runt Who Would Be King said: “Tonight’s transaction is better

David Stern - or as Laker fans like to call him - @#$%^&*!!!

for the Hornets than the transaction that I did not sign off on four days ago.” Really? Okay – let’s look at the facts. The New Orleans Hornets are currently fighting the Charlotte Bobcats to see who can be the absolute worst team in the league. You’re telling me that the pieces they got in that trade are better than Kevin Martin (currently averaging 20 points per game), 6th Man Of The Year Lamar Odom, Luis Scola (15 points, 6 rebounds) and Goran Dragic?? In fairness, SG Eric Gordon has been hurt – but Gordon IS injury-prone. So you know that going in.

And to add to what a farce this trade was – the Hornets are currently shopping center Chris Kaman (whom was one of the players acquired) for a trade. He’s not even playing any longer.

No one who knows ball could rationally  compare the pieces in those trades and think the Hornets did better with the second one. Oh, they got the Minnesota Timberwolves’ unprotected #1 pick as well too, right? That should be worth something – except the T-Wolves are flirting with a .500 record. Oops – that supposedly valuable pick might not even wind up being a lottery pick. So Houston’s 1st round draft pick might wind up being only a few spots away from that pick. Essentially, they have the same value.

Yup. Stern is a shiester. And the excuse of not wanting Chris Paul to go to a big market – um, he still winded up in L.A., as I’ve pointed out before. That was jealous owners (Michael Jordan, Dan Gilbert and Mark Cuban, amongst others) not wanting him to go to the Lakers. And that’s just wackness. But make no mistake – Stern is full of more manure than even you possibly could imagine. He’s the Dung Beetle of sports commissioners. And that’s saying a lot.

 

Being the greatest NBA player of all time hasn't helped Jordan when it comes to running a team. At all.

6. The Charlotte Bobcats SUCK, and I love it – No offense to my North Carolina readers. But after being one of the biggest reasons FOR the lockout happening and the length of it, in addition to crying like a little b***h when the Lakers made the (rescinded) trade for Chris Paul, I’m very happy to see Michael Jordan have to watch his team stink it up every night. He had 2 top draft picks, and they’re doing absolutely nothing in terms of stopping the suckitude in Charlotte. Stephen Jackson, Emeka Okafor, Tyson Chandler, Raymond Felton and Gerald Wallace are just some of the good players that His Douchey-ness Airness couldn’t figure out how to get wins with. I’ve never really liked the guy as a person, but of course I respect him as the game’s greatest player. But after his crabbiness in the past few months…I will take great joy in seeing things he’s involved with FAIL. As I’m currently doing – happily.

 

7. Ricky Rubio Is The Real Deal – we were all waiting to see if he could live up to the hype, and most of us figured “no”. Um…have you watched this kid play?? 11 points, 8 assists, 4 rebounds and steals – off the bench?? Wow. And the questions about whether he can shoot – he sure looks like he’s shooting on an NBA level to me, seeing as his 3-point percentage is at 35% and overall FG% is 37. And he can still improve.

This kid has Steve Nash Jr. written all over him.

 

8. Injuries Are Piling Up – So far this year, Derrick Rose, Dwayne Wade, Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, Dirk Nowtizki, Carmelo Anthony, Steve Nash, LeBron James, Tim Duncan, Al Horford, Zach Randolph, Deron Williams and Stephen Curry have all missed significant time due to injuries. And that’s just the superstars’ whose names came to me off the top of the head – there’s a gazillion non-superstar players with injuries.

The lockout, outside of being completely unnecessary and idiotic, is killing players in the injury department. Nice job, owners. Putzes.

 

9. The West Is Still The Best – Don’t believe me? 10 out of 16 teams in the Western Conference have records over .500. In the East? That number dips to just 6 teams. And in the East, pretty much everyone acknowledges it comes down to Chicago and Miami for who comes out of the conference. The West? Claim can be made for OKC, San Antonio, Dallas, Portland, Denver and both L.A. teams. That’s a lot of options, and a lot of competition.

I have no idea when The East will rise again. But it hasn’t been the better conference since the 90s – and even if you go back then, both conferences were really competitive. So I actually can’t even remember when the East was demonstratively better than the West…if you’re only comparing teams and not Finals wins.

News of the Boston Celtics' demise has been greatly exaggerated.

10. The Boston Celtics can beat The Miami Heat in a 7-game playoff series – I’m just saying. I figured I’d put this here so I can be held to that…as I’ve said it and been told I’m crazy to think so. Boston got out to a slow start, but look at them lately…they’re gelling, and looking pretty damned competitive. Dare I say it – they’re starting to look good. And this isn’t a team meant to get an impressive regular season record – this is a team made to make a run in the playoffs. And that’s all they want to do – make the playoffs. When I look at the players, matchups, coaching, etc. – call it a hunch, call it intuition – I just see Boston being able to pull the upset off. I know people will disagree and call them old, etc. – remember. Boston 2 years ago made LeBron James crawl in a shell and completely give up.

All I’m saying – I can see an upset happening if a healthy Boston team faces Miami. Remember I said it.

As always, feedback is highly encouraged and sought out. What do you think? Agree or disagree? Things to add? I’d love to see it. And don’t forget to spread the word – have your friends and family add the blog on Facebook and subscribe to get e-mail updates for new posts when they go up.

As always…Shoot, Pass, Quibble!