Well, at least the NBA stole some attention from March Madness.
For a long time, we’ve known that the New York Knicks were a dysfunctional organization. Over the last decade, they’ve churned through coach after coach, made bad players very rich, and kept Isaiah Thomas around as general manager even though they lost year after year. Now, just a few weeks after New York’s blissful, and it turns out brief, return to glory — in the form of a seven-game winning steak engineered by the most surprising player the NBA has seen in years, Jeremy Lin — the Knicks are a disaster once again. The team’s coach, Mike D’Antoni, has resigned.
It appears that D’Antoni would rather leave behind the paychecks from his last year of a four-year, $24 million contract he signed in 2008, rather than continue to coach Carmelo Anthony, whose selfish and sulking play has helped cause New York’s current six-game losing streak. D’Antoni’s system, in which Lin thrived before Anthony returned from injury, is based on screens for guards, who have the option to shoot, drive, or pass to scorers like Anthony. But as the last few games have proven, Anthony has a compelling need to have the ball in his hands. For proof, just look at the little fit he threw in Chicago Monday night, when Landry Fields failed to throw it to Anthony in the post.
(MORE: Jeremy Lin’s Rough New Reality)
True, D’Antoni, whose resignation was first reported by Yahoo! Sports, is no Hall of Fame coach. The Knicks still seem to think that defense is optional; throughout his career, D’Antoni’s teams have failed to guard. Many fans wanted him fired. The man who will replace him, defensive specialist Mike Woodson, who was assisting D’Antoni, might offer a tonic of toughness that cures the team’s problems. And Phil Jackson, owner of 11 championship rings as an NBA coach, and two more as a Knicks player, is not working right now. If anything, he’s a master at massaging Carmelo-sized egos.
But D’Antoni was never supposed to just walk out the door. D’Antoni leaves behind a toxic locker room whose players offer barely-coded criticism of Anthony’s selfish attitude. Unless they pull of a stunning trade at tomorrow’s 3 p.m. deadline – at this point, nothing will surprise us with the Knicks – they’re stuck with a star that the old general manager, respected basketball man Donnie Walsh, never wanted, but who owner James Dolan, a basketball laughingstock, coveted. The Knicks are worse off since they got Anthony, while the team that traded him, Denver, is better.
I can’t help but think back to mid-February, the Friday night at Madison Square Garden when Lin scored 38 points against the L.A. Lakers in a 92-85 win. Lin heaped effusive praise on his coach, calling him an offensive genius. Now the coach who bred Linsanity by putting his point guard in a position to thrive, is gone. Knicks fans that night were so hopeful. Imagine how good the team going to be when we add Carmelo to the mix? (Anthony sat out that game with a groin injury). Just like no one saw Lin’s rise, no one expected a disaster barely a month later. The NBA has a thriving product. But when the team in your biggest market is a consistent joke, it’s nothing short of a stain on pro basketball.
And oh yeah — Anthony and D’Antoni will likely be reunited this summer, at the London Olympics, Anthony as Team USA forward, D’Antoni as an assistant coach. Those team meals should be a hoot.