Of all the maddening conundrums and paradoxes surrounding the Knicks right now, the hardest one to forget is this bad knock-knock joke:
Q. You know why no one can say coach Mike D'Antoni doesn't know what he's talking about?
A. Because it appears D'Antoni saw much of this coming.
D'Antoni didn't want to trade for Carmelo Anthony in the first place last season. He talked about spelling Jeremy Lin with veteran Baron Davis even before Linsanity faded, like it was always destined to do. In short, he's been right just enough to make you wonder what else he knows -- but won't admit -- now that 54 weeks into the great Melo experiment, the beloved offensive system D'Antoni runs still creaks and wheezes and fails to work -- at least not for Anthony. The Knicks are 2-4 since he returned from a groin injury and only 32-39 since he arrived.
But at some point D'Antoni's right to say "I told you so" won't matter.
D'Antoni is paid to find answers to the Knicks' problems, not just point out when they exist, as he's continued to do after the Knicks' back-to-back road losses to Dallas and San Antonio that again left Anthony questioning his role.
The constant assurances from both he and Anthony that the answer is for Anthony to work his way into D'Antoni's offense aren't good enough anymore. The System that D'Antoni runs -- capital "T", capital "S" -- seems to have a way of making workday players look good here, but it and Anthony mix like sand and oil. Unless there's some mega-trade in the works that is going to send Anthony off to Orlando for Dwight Howard, it's hard to see how D'Antoni survives those paradoxes that the white-hot start Lin got off to only obscured.
How does a coach survive presiding over a team that has better talent but actually plays worse? How is it that a widely acclaimed offensive guru like D'Antoni can't flourish when the man who some consider the best pure scorer in the NBA drops into his lap?
So far the Knicks have taken a wait-and-see approach. And there's been more waiting than seeing. They keep flunking the eyeball test, especially when Anthony is on the court.
There's no denying D'Antoni has a hard job trying to blend 10 or 11 players into his rotation night in, night out. Having players constantly come and go as much as he has since he took over the Knicks increases the challenge exponentially. As Amare Stoudemire said not long ago, he's lost track of how many different roster incarnations he's played on in his short time as a Knick. The fact that D'Antoni has been extravagantly well-paid for the trouble doesn't change the fact the constant upheavals have been a drag on the won-lost record.
But that's not all that's going on here. The contrast between them and the Spurs on Wednesday night drove home that point. And so did when Boston beat the Knicks a few games before that. Regardless of what Anthony is doing or not, the Knicks still lack the sort of discipline that great teams have -- that bedrock understanding that every possession is important, that details matter, that there's a true art to how great teams are able to close out games, win on nights they're not at their best, or weather the vicissitudes of the schedule or injuries.
And it can't be summed up as play free, shoot 3s, the ball's gotta move.
If the ball doesn't find Anthony enough (as D'Antoni conceded might be true after a frustrated Anthony got only 12 shots against Dallas), and Anthony doesn't do much with it when it finally does, something is going to have to change.
Last season D'Antoni often used to play Anthony and Stoudemire separately, thinking it might help both of them score. Just Wednesday, he didn't disagree that the best way to up Anthony's production might be to just call more plays for him. But look at the result against the Spurs: Anthony had 27 points. No one else did squat. The Knicks were thumped by 13.
Afterward Stoudemire almost wistfully nominated the Spurs as the sort of deep and resourceful team the Knicks could be. But aren't. And D'Antoni again promised it'll come, it'll come.
Barring a trade that sends Anthony out of town, it’'s no given that ’D'Antoni survives this or -- here'’s a novel thought -- if he even wants to once his contract expires after this season.
Anthony's adjustment curve has been beyond slow. And D'Antoni's insistence on looking to his beloved system for the be-all answer has gotten old.
What if what's really happening here -- great scorer + vaunted offense = lousy results -- is not a true conundrum or paradox at all? What if 54 weeks of the same Melo-drama is really just the definition of crazy? Why keep doing the same things over and over when you get the same mediocre results?
That's what the D'Antoni/Carmelo Knicks have gotten so far together. It doesn't matter who else they've been surrounded with.
The smart thing might be to admit it's foolish to keep looking to The System for answers when, over and over thus far, The System doesn't have them.