On a buzzer beater by Carmelo Anthony, the Knicks salvaged a win last night in Memphis after blowing another ten point lead, this time with 3:37 to play. Melo, after popping the jumper, had some interesting interplay with the Grizzlies’ bench. Defensive “stopper” Tony Allen, did little to contain Anthony overall, who put together another great stat line (31 pts, 5 reb., 6 assts). Anthony, who an excited Memphis bench regaled with sentiments his game winning shot was off when it left his hands, went back at the Memphis sideline and said simply, “I do this” when the shot fell.
Exciting times for the Knicks indeed. Don’t mistake our silence on the Carmelo saga and on the beginning of this era as a lack of excitement for what’s going on. We stated here months ago that Gallinari, probably Chandler, and a pick swung from Minny for Anthony Randolph was going to Denver. We wrote–months ago–that Melo was engineering a trade to NY and that privately he had shot down the Nets. Even publicly, he couldn’t even fake being lukewarm toward the proposition of NJ. He could’ve had a deal to the Nets at any point since June. Instead, when Denver obviously begged their disgruntled star to thow them a bone in the form of some leverage, Anthony spoke not of New Jersey but of perhaps signing the extension with Denver.
We’ve had a big picture view on the Knicks dating back about 6 years now. The Anthony acquisition is a major step, but part of a much larger long term process. First, we rooted for Thomas to do enough damage to get himself fired, which finally happened with an assist from Stephon Marbury who testified about pressuring a young female Garden employee into giving him a blowjob. Then, Thomas had to be replaced with a quality hire. Sure, we’ve made fun of Donnie Wheelchair, and we hate his draft acumen, but he is a pro. He had a plan and stuck to it, giving the Knicks the chance to slot in stars the magnitude and calibre of the ones now on board.
These exciting times and last second wins? Great to be excited, but putting teams away when up 10 or 12 in the 4th quarter is a lot more gratifying in our minds. Still, it’s a long view. You know our feeling on Mike D’antoni. We’d never hire him. Ever. Not for the Knicks, not for a Division III school, not for an AAU gig, not even to mop up court sweat. We’ve never seen any facsimile of speedball win big on any level. Showtime out in LA and all fast break basketball is predicated on stops, rebounds, and turnovers that lead to easy scores. Remember the Riley credo: “No rebounds, no rings.”
The next step in the Knicks progression is probably going to be growth from within. Fields and Douglass have upside and are improving. We expect 7 or 8 guys from this squad to return next year and that they’ll improve as a group. Seven foot pivot Jerome Jordan, a 2nd round pick last year, will probably be imported from Europe. He’s a big who showed polish and promise in college, and who is currently showing a knack for scoring down low overseas. The Knicks must draft wisely in round 1 this year (BTW, did anyone hear Kemba Walker lobbying this week to come to NY?), and may be served to buy another pick, ala the Toney D. selection, which they acquired for cash from the Lakers.
But Mike D.? If we could only sell him off. Short practices, disinterested walkthroughs and shoot arounds. Mishandled player relations (Nate Robinson, Jordan Hill, etc.) We guess Walsh can live with it so far. But all the late blown leads and not running plays late in the games? Our media is already tiring of this act. The Post this week had a snappy headline in which they referred to him as “Done-toni.”
If Garden management is so slow to take care of Walsh, who always represents the team in a respectful fashion, why would they be in a rush to extend the coach? Especially one whose rationale for not calling a timeout to set up a play at the end of games is along the lines of ‘we basically know what to do.’ Really? Did they know what to do in Phily weeks back when they blew another double digit lead in the 4th, went down 10, and cut it to 2 in the closing seconds? D’antoni didn’t call for a timeout, the Knicks had no play, ran something we’d describe as chaos, and watched Shawne Williams, fresh off the scrap heap, force a drive when the Stoudemires, Chandlers, Gallos, and Feltons of the world watched.
We will suggest right here that D’antoni is also mishandling Chauncey Billups and his injury situation. Billups hurt his quad 6 games ago. D’antoni has termed him day to day the whole while. How is a guy not named John Abraham day to day for 2 full weeks? Not only do we not think D’antoni is being honest, we also don’t feel he and Billups are on the same page. Billups said of a Sunday return, “not looking good.” D’antoni said Billups is “coming back Sunday.” We think D’antoni is afraid to tell the media the truth about Billups, in part. The guy is a self preservationist, and he must know that a 3rd free pass in a row, at $6M per, is unlikely, even from the imminently wasteful Madison Square Garden Co.
And here’s what a good coach says: ‘So and so’s not playing. Injuries are part of the game. Out of sight, out of mind. We’re gonna play without him and we’ll be ready.’ A good coach doesn’t clutch at excuses. A good coach wouldn’t be afraid to go up to the 5 seed and face Orlando. He wouldn’t be making excuses about how hard it is to lose Billups, or how unrealistic it is to think the Knicks are more on a level with Atlanta than Charlotte. The Knicks took it to the Magic for a chunk of their last meeting in Orlando, in what was another second half debacle. A very quick Jameer Nelson killed them off the dribble and with the shot. How about at least pretending you have a shred of confidence in Toney Douglass as another option against Nelson?
Another local beat guy, Alan Hahn of Newsday, has been maligning the Knicks execution, an obvious shot at D’antoni. Hahn’s a guy you should pay particular attention to. Why? Because the Garden owns Newsday, and MSG Network has been giving Hahn lots of air time of late, featuring him on Knicks broadcasts in a prominent role.
BTW, be sure to tune in tonight when the Knicks face the Mavs wearing their “Nueva York” jerseys for some NBA Spanish night nonsense. The Knicks have the worst winning percentage of any club over the last 9 seasons. But something about these Nueva York jerseys might bother us even more than that.
Are we critical much? Crack do this!