Mike D’Antoni resigned earlier today as head coach of the New York Knicks. It was thought that the emergence of Jeremy Lin and the “Linsanity” that followed would ultimatley save coach D’Antoni his job, possibly returning next year. Lin aided the Knicks in winning 8 of 10, but when star forward Carmelo Anthony returned the Knicks starting slumping, going a measly 2-8 in their last 10 games. The team showed little effort on the defensive end, not getting back on defense, and their body language suggested they were not fully committed to Coach D’Antoni’s system. Earlier this week it was reported that D’Antoni had lost the respect of the locker room and it is never a good thing when that happens. The Knicks will make Mike Woodson interim head coach for the remainder of the year.
Whose really to blame? It’s any coaches job to get his team to play together and fully commit to the system that the coaching staff implements. It is the players jobs to run that system and find their niche within it. When Carmelo Anthony and A’mare Stoudemire were out of the lineup with injuries and personal matters, Jeremy Lin was moved from the end of the bench to the starting point guard. Linsanity began. When Melo and A’mare came back they would be a forced to be reckoned with right? Sadly that was not the case. Both Melo and A’mare have not been playing up to their potential this season as they were last year. It was thought that Lin could spur them into a dominant force within the Eastern Conference. It is here that the trio has not met expectations. Stoudemire flourished in the pick-and-roll under D’Antoni with Steve Nash in Phoenix. Melo, however is more of an isolation player who holds the ball and then goes up for the jump-shot. Not exactly the same playing style. Melos said that he will buy into this new system of ball movement instead of isolation, but then there’s that saying you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. Melo has had trouble adjusting and rightfully so, he hasn’t done that in his entire career.
D’Antoni has implemented his SSOL or seven seconds or less style of play which he made famous in Phoenix. Seven seconds or less, if you have the ball and are open, shoot it. Doesn’t matter who you are, shoot. A player like Stoudemire and Melo are the two highest paid players on the team for a reason, because they are the best scoring options on the team. When you take the ball out of their hands seven seconds into the possession and someone else shoots, both players lose their value a little bit. The pick-and-roll works much more effectively making defenses chase the ball around the court as it swings from player to player. This also puts them out of position for the possible rebound. It worked well with Stoudemire and Nash. It was working for Lin and whatever big he was paired with. That is until defenses got some tape on Lin and Melo came back.
Carmelo Anthony pushed for a trade to the Knicks last season and the Knicks and the Nuggets obliged. Melo did a great service to the Denver Nuggets by getting them 4 great pieces to add to their team, making them one of the deepest teams after last year’s trade deadline. Anybody who says that the Knicks should trade Melo is probably in no position to say so. Listen I get that you’re frustrated because quite frankly I am too, but there is no way that the Knicks front office can validate trading someone they gave up half their team to get last year. It would make them look terrible. Most Knicks fans lobbied for Melo to come to MSG alongside A’mare. You got what you wanted. Personally, I thought we gave up way too much especially since we had bargaining power. Melo wanted to come here and nowhere else. We could have gotten him for nothing via free agency. He did the Nuggets a favor in getting them some good pieces back. They have a better record then us since the trade! So the Melo trade talk needs to end. I wouldn’t trade him after what we did to get him.
Let’s get back to the isolation plays. ESPN magazine will feature an article in their next issue called “Hero Ball” written by Henry Abbott. I want to just share an excerpt from that article. Abbott writes, “Start with the basics. The goal of basketball, in its simplest form, is to turn possessions into points. And on that basis, when Synergy began breaking down NBA plays by type in 2004, what it found would have made Wooden smile: Plays involving off-the-ball cuts (1.18 points per possession) and transition plays (1.12 ppp) are the most efficient, followed by putbacks (1.04 ppp) and pick-and-rolls in which the ball reaches the hands of the rolling man (0.97 ppp). And the least efficient? Isolation plays, good for only 0.78 points per possession.” Those are alarming numbers to say the least. I really urge you to read that article which was written for the purpose of all the heat LeBron James, no pun intended, has been taking for not taking “clutch” shots when the game was on the line. We traded for a guy whose favorite play to run only scored and average of 0.78 points per possession. I understand that number is league-wide, but that’s not very efficient even if Melo might be one of if not the best in the business running an isolation play. Melo is a shooter and he should run some off-ball screens to get the ball and a wide open or less contested shot. Run a little. Standing at the elbow, his favorite and most comfortable spot, didn’t help the Knicks when they went 2-8 in their last 10 thats for sure. I’ll cut him some slack because he’s not used to it, but he’s a professional so there is really no excuse.
As for the interim coach, Mike Woodson, I loved it when we got him as an assistant. Woodson is almost the exact opposite of what the Knicks had in D’Antoni. He implores defense. His record speaks for itself. Woodson has coached his team to a better record every year then they had the previous season. He took an a team that was undersized at the 5 and 4 and made them contenders in the East. Al Horford was an All-Star center last year and he’s really a power forward. Josh Smith played the power forward when he’s really a small forward. He got these guys to buy into playing defense and it worked for them. I don’t know if only speaks to Woodson as a coach as much as it does for Horford and Smith as players, but something worked. I look forward to seeing what Woodson demands from this Knicks lineup. If he’ll remain head coach next season is uncertain as many rumors are circling around that owner James Dolan will pursue the likes of Phil Jackson or Kentucky coach John Calipari. I think how well Woodson has this team perform the rest of this season and if they can make it into the playoffs with a possible push when they get there, will determine if the Knicks bring him back. So Knicks fans, we all got something we wanted…a new head coach. Let’s see what happens.