On a sports day where the news should be about the NBA Trade Deadline, NFL Free Agency and the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, Knicks fans woke up to news of Carmelo Anthony requesting a trade, a rift among the team’s top executives and questions about the job status of coach Mike D’Antoni. Welcome to New York City!!! First, let’s mention how we even got here:
Feb 3, 2012: Mired in a 2-10 stretch, D’Antoni uses Jeremy Lin off the bench before Toney Douglas in a game against the Celtics in Boston. Lin posts two points, two rebounds and an assist in eight minutes of the Knicks’ 91-89 loss to the Celtics.
Feb 4, 2012: The very next night, against the Nets at Madison Square Garden, D’Antoni again uses Lin first off the bench and the Harvard product responds with the game of his life. Matched up against Nets PG Deron Williams, Lin scores 25 points to go along with seven assists, five rebounds and two steals. The Knicks win the game, 99-92. Linsanity is born.
Feb 6, 2012: With Amar’e Stoudemire away from the team for personal reasons (brother’s death) and Carmelo Anthony only playing six minutes after injuring his right groin, the Knicks still manage to defeat the Jazz 99-88. In his first start, Lin scores a career high 28 points to go along with eight assists.
The Knicks would go on to win their next three games without Anthony and Stoudemire, while Lin ran the offense.
Feb 14, 2012: With Stoudemire back in the Knicks lineup, the team continues to win, with Lin hitting the game winning three-pointer against the Toronto Raptors. Lin scores 28 points with 11 assists and Stoudemire contributes with 21 points and nine rebounds.
The Knicks would extend their winning streak to seven after a win against the Kings the next night before losing to the lowly Hornets and then rebounding to defeat the defending champion Dallas Mavericks.
Feb 20, 2012: Carmelo Anthony returns to the Knicks lineup but Deron Williams is out for revenge as he scores 38 points, going 8-for-14 from behind the arc to lead the Nets to a 100-92 victory.
Since that date, the Knicks are 2-7, including the current six game losing streak they are on. Questions about whether Anthony could gel with a Lin led Knicks line up. The numbers suggest they don’t. Since that game against the Nets, the Knicks have scored 109.8 points per 100 possessions with Anthony off the court and 97.6 points with him off it. That’s over 12 points. It’s the same on defense as well. Since Feb 20, with Anthony on the court the Knicks give up 107.1 points per 100 possessions. With Anthony on the bench, they give up 95.1 points per 100 possessions. Again, a 12 point difference.
Since that date, the Knicks are just 2-7, including the current six game losing streak they are on. Questions about whether Anthony can gel with Lin to led Knicks’ line up arose, and unfortunately, the numbers suggest they don’t. Since that game against the Nets, the Knicks have scored 109.8 points per 100 possessions with Anthony off the court and 97.6 points with him on it. That’s over 12 points. It’s the same on defense as well. Since Feb 20, with Anthony on the court the Knicks give up 107.1 points, per 100 possessions. With Anthony on the bench, they give up 95.1 points per 100 possessions. Again, a 12 point differential..
Now, I am not here to lay all the blame on Anthony. Aside from maybe Kevin Durant, there isn’t a more lethal scorer in the NBA than Anthony. You don’t average nearly 25 points in your career by accident. The man has been in the playoffs every year of his career, including reaching the Western Conference Finals in 2009. He’s made countless All Star teams and twice has been named All-NBA. There are a number of players on the team (Stoudemire, Landry Fields, Toney Douglas to name a few) who can be blamed for the Knicks latest rash of losses.
However, his displays of frustration when he doesn’t get the ball, the towel over the head on the bench (you too, Amar’e) and not joining in huddles is unacceptable. The lack of effort on defense is unacceptable. Leaders lead by example. If players notice that their top gun is frustrated and upset, it trickles down to the rest of the team. If players notice their top guys aren’t playing hard on D (again, you too Amar’e!), they aren’t going to give the same effort. If Melo wants to be the true leader of this team, he needs to be the first to bring it on defense and also buy into the coach’s philosophy on offense.
Which brings me to D’Antoni. He set himself up for what’s happened this season. He didn’t want Melo last year. All Knicks fans know this. He loved what the team had going with the core of Stoudemire, Danilo Gallinari, Wilson Chandler, Landry Fields and Raymond Felton. Yet, there was D’Antoni spitting the company line last year that he was all for the trade. Why not do what Jerry Sloan did last year? Once he noticed the Jazz weren’t behind him, he left. The Jazz realized they had made a mistake, but it was too late. D’Antoni probably should’ve taken a page out of that book.
Now, let’s fast forward to the Knicks’ Linsanity streak. D’Antoni had all Knicks fans behind him. Fans saw what D’Antoni’s offense could produce with a PG who knew how to run his system. Guys like Landry Fields and Steve Novak had their games elevated by the presence of Lin. This was the time where D’Antoni should’ve told his players, “See what happens when you listen to me? The offense works, just trust me.”
Then, Anthony returned and the Knicks’ good fortunes have turned to ruin. In the moments where D’Antoni saw Anthony slowing down the offense and dogging it on defense, why not bench him? ‘Melo wouldn’t be the first star player benched by his coach for not following the X’s and O’s. Phil Jackson did it with his Bulls and Lakers teams. Gregg Popovich did it with Tony Parker. Tom Thibodeau did it to Carlos Boozer last season.
At the same time, isn’t D’Antoni supposed to be an offensive genius? He has two top scorers (Anthony and Stoudemire), two PGs (Lin and Baron Davis), a slew of outside shooters (J.R. Smith and Steve Novak to mention a few), a rebounding and alley-oop catching machine in Tyson Chandler and yet he can’t figure out how to make it work? Maybe he isn’t even the coach we think he is. All you hear about is his four year run in Phoenix with Steve Nash running the point when the Suns averaged 58 wins a season. What about his years without Nash? A record of 156-245. That’s not a small sample size. That’s almost five full, 82 game NBA schedules.
You can’t fire players in the NBA but you can fire coaches and it seems like now is the right time to get rid of Mike D’Antoni.