D'antoni Postmortem

Well, uh, post-resignem. Mike D'antoni's still alive and no doubt relaxing comfortably in luxury, catching up on his re-runs of Battlestar Galactica or something. 1978 version or 2004 version? That would be speculation.

Speaking of speculation, and such practices, I'm going to encapsulate some of my thoughts on all the goings-on of the last couple of days.

The fact that D'antoni resigned, or left by mutual agreement, lends credence to the gossip slung forth by Berman and legitimized by Beck and other journalists. It seems likely that at least Melo, and quite possibly several other Knicks, were having a problem with Mike D. Maybe they thought he was the same guy from the Beastie Boys and they didn't know why he didn't rap his instructions to the team. I don't know.

In any case, I liked D'antoni. I have to say that l of all the coaches I have seen fired or resigned during my 40 odd years of being a New York sports fan, this is the only one that I can remember where I wasn't on the 'fire' bandwagon.

Yeah. I didn't want them to fire D'antoni - I wanted them to trade Carmelo Anthony for picks and expiring contracts.

The reason is that D'antoni, to me, is refreshing in the way he talks about basketball. I like how he sees basketball - as something to be improvised by smart players, not as something to be orchestrated by micromanaging head coaches. Also, despite the insistence by many that D'antoni doesn't care about defense, I felt that he cared about defense a lot when he was here. I feel like Steve Nash's lack of defensive skill and/or commitment was unfairly transferred to D'antoni.

That said, I'm optimistic that this can be a good move for the Knicks. I'm optimistic that Amar'e isn't a fatally flawed player. I'm optimistic that Carmelo isn't an uncoachable too cool for school loser.

Here's the reason for my optimism: Some things I've observed about this team under D'antoni that hopefully can clear up now that he's gone.

1. Guys tend to launch out of rhythm three point shots when he's coach. I know he loves the three and I appreciate that way of thinking. But it seems that, from Al Harrington to Danilo Gallinari to Toney Douglas to Baron Davis, guys seem to take threes at the wrong time and in the wrong rhythmical cadence. Sometimes they are great when they first get here, and then things devolve from there.

Also, when those threes fall and they win a game, D'antoni seems to be happy with that. When they don't, he says, "We have to hit our shots". True, but if they're not good shots...

2. The guy does that thing coaches do where instead of calling a timeout and reminding his team of certain things to interrupt the other teams run, he waits until they get rolling and completely erase a lead or build up a big one and then calls timeouts out of anger. I think this makes a team tense, and it shows in the form of tentative shots that don't fall and tentative passes that get picked off. I think Toney was particularly affected by this.

3. His late game management never seemed to be particularly good. I wouldn't say the Knicks were uniformly terrible in the end of games, but he didn't seem to help as much as some coaches help.

All in all, I thought D'antoni was better than advertised as a defensive coach. I also think he surprisingly showed quite a bit of flexibility in his gameplanning with different types of rosters. I also think he had a good general philosophy on the offensive end - he just wasn't so good at getting his team to enact it. And I think all of this has a lot to do with not having Steve Nash. Nash was the offensive genius that didn't care about defense much. That's what we thought we were getting, but what we got was something different. Both Felton and Lin showed some semblance of leadership and brought the Nashian offense to the table for short periods, but neither is Nash and both were exposed by opposing defenses' preparation. Bottom line, I don't think D'antoni actually knew how to coach offense. Woodson, on the other hand, won a lot of games with Bibby, a combo-guardy, non-Nashian sort, as his point guard. I don't think Mike D'antoni could have ever done that.

So.... I think we will see a renaissance in the Knicks' shooting percentages. I think Lin will settle in as a good point guard, and will improve over the course of his career to become very tough. I think the Knicks will still have defensive/rebounding deficiencies utilizing the Amar'e / Melo tandem, but I think at least those guys will score. And, he may not get a chance with the Knicks, but I think Toney Douglas will be back as a useful player. Some guys may not play as well, and the Knicks may not do as many weird and innovative things, and I'll miss that, but overall, I think the results may be better. I hope that Melo's disgruntlement was genuine and born of intelligence rather than just pissiness. I guess the answer to that question will determine whether or not we are headed toward 3 years of multi-round playoff runs or just.. the runs.

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