March 27, 2011
Dear Coach D’Antoni:
Were it left to my decision, this would be your last season as Knicks coach.
Last night, the Knicks lost to Charlotte Bobcats 114-106. This, after losing the previous night to the Milwaukee Bucks by the score of 102-96. This loss is the 6th loss in a row for the Knicks and 9th loss in their last 10 games. The Knicks record is currently 35-38. This team will likely get to the playoffs and be promptly and systematically demolished by their first round opponent, be it Boston or Chicago.
So how did this happen? How can a team that played so well early in the year play so poorly now? Sure, you’ll point to the Anthony trade and say that you’ve only had 18 games with him in the lineup and have a bunch of new players to work into your system. I’ll point to the fact that you have the second highest scoring team in the league (106.31 per game) and then tell you that your team gives up the 3rd most points in the NBA (105.6 per game). Were the lack of commitment to defense your biggest transgression, I could live with that as I’m sure most of the fan base could. However, that is not your biggest failure.
I very much understand that stars are stars. Melo didn’t play a ton of defense before he got here. Frankly, neither did Amar’e. I understand that you are not a miracle worker. Your first two seasons in New York have demonstrated that and it’s ok. No one seriously expected you to win with a roster of guys like Chris Duhon, Larry Hughes and Nate Robinson. As a fan, I would be a fool to suddenly expect Melo and Amar’e to change and suddenly begin playing elite defense. Larry Brown tried for years to change Allen Iverson to no avail. Phil Jackson still tries to get Kobe not to play 1 on 5 when things get messy. It is almost impossible to change star players that have been coddled and enabled for the duration of their careers. This does not fall entirely on you. What does fall on you and is your biggest transgression, is your failure to prepare your team to win.
Like most fans, I’m tired of stupid turnovers at key moments late in the game. I’m sick of the lack of aggressive play when Knicks work the ball around the perimeter late in games instead of trying to work the ball inside for better shots. I’m tired of watching a different team make uncontested passes into the lane for easy lay-ups every night. Consider that last night, the lowest scoring team in the NBA (91 per game) hung 102 on your squad on Friday night. Last night, the second worst scoring team in the NBA dropped 116 on the Knicks.
I am especially tired of this team playing incomplete games. Usually, they will play 2 and a half or so quarters of quality basketball only to watch a lead slip away with poor play down the stretch. Although, lately it has also been some poor first quarters as well. Over the last ten games, your team has scored 22.9 points per game in the fourth quarter (and less than 20 3 times) and given up 27.0 in the fourth over that same stretch(and more than 30 3 times). Is it the lack of focus and attention to detail that we see late in games? Is it fatigue? Perhaps, it is the fact that your starters amass obscene amounts of minutes over the course of the season. Serviceable bench players don’t see the floor for any extended period of time for reasons that are only known to you. More on that later, though.
The other night in Orlando, Dwight Howard and Hedo Turkoglu combined for 22 of the Magic’s 49 rebounds. This would be less alarming if Turkoglu did not have half of those 22 rebounds. Hedo Turklgolu is known for several things as an NBA player. Rebounding is not one of those things. You’ll tell me that the team lacks size. I’ll ask you why the size that you do have isn’t playing. You’ll say your big men aren’t always effective and I’ll tell you that it is what you have, use it.
You have 2 guys on your roster that are 6-10 or taller. Yet, in Orlando, Ronny Turiaf only saw 19 minutes on the floor. 6-11 Jared Jeffries only saw 13 minutes on the floor. Friday night, Turiaf and Jeffries saw 15 minutes and 2 minutes on the floor, respectively. Meanwhile, Andrew Bogut looked like a superstar tonight, scoring 21 and posting 17 rebounds, 5 of which were offensive. Last night, Jeffries played all of 5 minutes and your team was out rebounded. I’m dumbfounded when the Knicks lose to teams with size and your size never leaves the bench.
I don’t consider myself to be a dumb individual, yet I can’t seem to bring myself to understand your rotation. Certain guys wind up in the doghouse for reasons that are not immediately evident. Anthony Randolph could very well have become a serviceable big man for the Knicks. Yet, while here, he seldom left the bench. He appears to be doing just fine though in Minnesota, he had 31 and 11 the other night in Dallas. Last night, he had 24 points and 15 rebounds. In the month of March, Randolph has played over 24 minutes 4 times. He is averaging 19 points and 6.7 rebounds in those games. Amazingly, he could not crack your rotation similar to how Turiaf and Jeffries seem to go missing at times.
In summation, Coach, I’m not asking you to change your spots. You clearly don’t emphasize defense. However, that is a tough sell for those of us that remember the Riley and Van Gundy eras where defense was not an option, but a requirement. Defense isn’t always about ability. In fact, most times it is about effort. Your team is outscoring almost every other in the NBA and yet they still are below .500 as the playoffs draw near. Even a minor effort at defense over the course of the season could have changed the outcome of numerous games. Just look at what your team accomplished when they decided to start playing defense.
I am hoping that this team turns it around but given the same repeated mistakes over and over again, I am skeptical. You’ve clearly shown the ability to win in Phoenix but never to bring a team to an NBA Finals. Unfortunately, without more than a fleeting commitment to the big men you have and to defense, you may never get that opportunity.
A Fed Up Knick Fan