After watching the Knicks get as far without him this year as they did last year, their former head coach, in his estimation, calls a spade a spade.
by Mike D’Antoni (or a facsimile thereof)
First of all, shout out to the good people at seveneighteen for allowing me to write this piece. I know I’ve been pretty tight-lipped since I left the Knicks, but when William offers you a bottle of Hennessy Pure White AND a two-for-one coupon at Applebee’s for a piece, you have to take it.
You’re probably thinking that I’ve been laughing at my old team from afar after their performance against the Heat, enjoying every minute of it. Well, that’s not true. Well, not entirely true.
Watching Shumpert get hurt like that in Game 1 really bothered me. I really like the kid and I think he’s gonna be a fine player in this league. Watching Baron Davis being carried out on a stretcher was a terrible sight. And hearing about Amar’e playing Punch Out with the glass door to a fire extinguisher – and losing badly – struck a chord with me. I agree, doing that was stupid… but at the same time, I know exactly how he feels. Because there were days I wanted to punch anything within arm’s reach after some nights at MSG.
See, after Game 2, Amar’e realized what I realized back in March when I “tendered my resignation.”
The New York Knicks are a mess… and there’s nothing either he nor I could, can or will do about it.
Think about it.
In 2008, they ask me to be their head coach, which I accepted. I knew the plan would be to set up for the free agency bonanza in the summer of 2010, and that we’d probably stink for the next two seasons. Fine.
I also told them, I have a system, and if you’re going to hire me, you have to give me the players who can run it. (If you want a chef to make French toast, you don’t give him hamburger buns and say go to work). They said fine. (That was my first mistake, but c’est la vie).
2010 comes around, we don’t get LeBron but we get Amar’e. Immediately the team makes him the centerpiece of the franchise. He’s on posters, billboards, tv spots, everywhere. And rightfully so. He was going to make New York basketball relevant again. And, he was comfortable playing for me.
Then, all of a sudden, this guy in Denver who’s won two playoff series in his entire life says, “I want to play for New York and no one else.” And all of a sudden, EVERYONE in the metro area gets a little moist in their underwear and thinks we HAVE to get this guy at all cost (including the owner, who was born on third base and thought he hit a triple).
So we get him… and all of a sudden, Carmelo Anthony is the man in New York and Amar’e is pushed aside. And I don’t think Melo minded it at all… he loved being on the right side of the spotlight… until he saw what it was like to be on the other side of it (remember Linsanity?).
Now, Carmelo is arguably the most talented offensive player I’ve ever seen. But, as Lorenzo said in A Bronx Tale, “The saddest thing in life is wasted talent.” He has the talent to be one of the five best players in the league, if not THE best. But the best guys in the league make their teammates better. Him? Ehhh…
You’re never winning a title with that guy as your best player.* Yes, I said it.
And I think the players in that locker room believe that. I think Amar’e believes that. I am sure that his left hand believes that.
Now, don’t get me wrong, Amar’e isn’t the same guy he was even the first half of last season, much less throughout his career. He’s relied on his quick first step most of his career, and he clearly doesn’t have that anymore.
So let’s see… you have a “franchise” player that just wants to run isolation and jack up shots… a power forward whose knees are on empty whose contract makes him nearly untradeable… no healthy point guard… two guys out of fifteen who give a crap about defense… and J.R. Smith.
What’s that team winning? How’s that team getting better? What moves can they make?
(And before you start running off who the Knicks can sign or trade for, click here.)
And the answer was to… fire me?
I have nothing against Mike Woodson, even though I didn’t ask for him to be on my staff. I think he’s a good coach, especially after the job he did with those circus animals down in Atlanta for years. And his record as head coach speaks for itself since he took over for me (18-6 is, after all, 18-6).
What happens, though, next year, when the Knicks are is 17-19 after losing at home to the Bucks for their fourth straight loss, with Melo going 5-19, with Amar’e scoring 9 points and 4 rebounds and J.R. Smith having more fouls than field goals made?
I don’t know what the fans will say. But I know two words they won’t be saying.