Is It Time For D'An To Go?
IT'S TOO LATE
Mike D'Antoni has to go.
The New York Knicks coach has lost the locker room, sources told ESPN The Magazine's Chris Broussard, and it's in the best interest of the organization to dismiss him and move in another direction.
D'Antoni's contract is up at the end of the season, but the Knicks have been in freefall ever since Carmelo Anthony returned from injury -- going 2-8 -- and they need a new voice if they're going to right the ship and make the playoffs. They've lost six in a row and are tied for eighth place in the Eastern Conference -- for now.
D'Antoni deserves a better fate. He and former GM Donnie Walsh were doing just fine before hated owner James Dolan overruled them and Melo came along. And they played their best basketball in 2011-12 when the high-volume scoring small forward was out, riding the "Linsanity" wave for two weeks.
D'Antoni is revered for his high-octane pick-and-roll offense, which was run to perfection by Steve Nash and Amare Stoudemire in Phoenix. But the coach could never get the Suns over the hump.
The Knicks can't even be mentioned in the breath as those teams. In fact, they're an absolute mess.
Melo's ball-stopping isolations are counterproductive, STAT is playing the worst basketball of his career with Tyson Chandler as the primary screener and Jeremy Lin merchandise is selling for half-price in Times Square.
Defensively, the Knicks have given up an average of 109.5 points per game over the course of their six-game skid. And despite having a roster laden with talent, D'Antoni has failed to define a rotation. A lack of energy has proved to be a consistent problem.
D'Antoni needed to do something drastic like bench Melo or bring STAT or Lin off the bench. He didn't. And even if he does now, it's probably too late.
Defensive-minded assistant Mike Woodson should take over the reigns and finish out the season. Then Dolan and Co. can either pray that they can convince Phil Jackson to come out of retirement or chase someone like John Calipari.
It may not be fair to D'Antoni given all he's had to endure, but something has to change -- and the players and owner aren't going to be the ones taking the fall.
DON'T MAKE MATTERS WORSE
The Knicks' extreme highs and lows this season, headlined by the sudden rise of Jeremy Lin and reported sudden trade demand from Carmelo Anthony this week, have the makings of a top-rated TV drama.
One of the episodes would feature Mike D'Antoni's future with the team this season.
While the Knicks are currently struggling, having lost six straight games, the organization shouldn't cause more disruption by firing their head coach with only 24 games left on the schedule. True, it's the worst time for growing pains, as the Knicks are losing their grip on a playoff seed. Those aches have to expected with Carmelo Anthony and Amare Stoudemire working with a new point guard, Jeremy Lin, and with a developing bunch off the bench.
It's also simply too late in the season for a change at the top, and history shows that if Mike Woodson took over, for example, he wouldn't make much of a difference. In fact, in the last 30 years, an interim head coach led his team to a championship only twice. Guess who? Pat Riley did it in 1981-82 with the Lakers and in 2005-06 with the Heat. And, keep this in mind: Riley replaced Paul Westhead after 11 games and Stan Van Gundy after 21 games, respectively. Woodson would come in after 42 games or so.
The Knicks' losses to the Mavericks, Spurs, Bucks and Sixers last week were too consistent, especially with the third-quarter. But, they nearly came around to beat the East's best team, the Bulls, Monday night. They showed more fight, sustained effort and energy. They didn't collapse in the third quarter, even though the Bulls scored more than 30 points in the period. In the end, while offensive rebounding doomed them, there were more positive coaching signs coming out of the game in Chicago.
ESPN NBA analyst Chris Broussard reported early Wednesday morning, quoting a source, that D'Antoni "doesn't have the respect of the anymore." But after Wednesday's practice at the Knicks' training facility, D'Antoni was confident he has the support of the locker room.
Also, Anthony, who denied any trade rumors on Wednesday, said he backed D'Antoni "100 percent." Having the team's best player say that is reassuring for the Knicks, who need to tie up a few loose ends on offense (less isolation) and defense (guarding the pick-and-roll) to move up the standings.