THE STUPIDITY OF MIKE D’ANTONI AND THE NEW YORK KNICKS

                                                                                         Kallas Remarks by Steve Kallas

It’s hard to believe that the Knicks could do what they did Saturday night against the Oklahoma City Thunder. With the acquisitions of Tracy McGrady, Eddie House and Sergio Rodriguez, Donnie Walsh pumped some instant energy and scoring into the Knicks line-up. With the banishment of Nate Robinson (for obvious reasons) and Jared Jeffries (for salary cap relief), the Knicks are now a better offensive team but, due to the absence of Jeffries, a poorer defensive team. Far more important, of course, is that the Knicks now have enough cap space to sign two max free agents. Those signings (or lack thereof), more than anything else that’s being said or done now, will determine the future of the New York Knicks.

STUPIDITY, PART I: DEFENDING THE THREE

You’ve read about this in this space for years (see Kallas Remarks, 2/16/10). Late in the game up three, no NBA coach (or college coach, for that matter) has taught his team how to defend against the three-point field goal. It’s mind-boggling, and here’s the latest example:

Thunder-Knicks, under 10 seconds left in regulation, Knicks have played out of their minds to be up three against a very good Oklahoma City team. You have to think the Thunder will a) look for a three; and b) will want superstar Kevin Durant to take the three. So what happens?

Big man Nick Collison of the Thunder comes off a pick down low, with David Lee guarding him, and comes to the top of the key. Kevin Durant gets the ball up very high on the left side of the court. As Collison comes to the top of the key and moves even higher (to set a pick on Danilo Gallinari, who’s guarding Durant). David Lee inexplicably comes just above the foul line and then RETREATS below the foul line (why?).

You know what happens next: Collison sets the pick on Gallinari at the three-point line, Durant comes off the pick and, with Lee getting out way too late (why wasn’t David Lee at the three-point line when the pick was set?), Durant buries the open three to send the game into overtime.

Knick legend Walt Frazier, more than most, understands this. On MSG, Frazier explains that Lee should be guarding way out by the three-point line because a two doesn’t get Oklahoma City the tie they want in the waning seconds. But nobody on the New York Knicks’ bench (or any other bench, for that matter) ever seems to understand this.

It’s a basic truism of modern-day basketball (that is, basketball with a three-point shot). While you are taught in biddy ball to stay between your man and the basket, in today’s game, in the waning seconds of a three-point game when your team has the lead, you have to play between your man and the three-point line, NOT THE BASKET.

Somehow, nobody gets this.

If David Lee runs right up to the three-point line with Nick Collison, either Kevin Durant doesn’t even get off a shot or, if he does, it’s contested by a 6”11” guy, making it virtually impossible to make (if Durant passes off to Collison, that’s fine, because he can only make a two). David Lee pauses at the foul line because he plays defense the way that he was taught – to stay between Nick Collison and the basket. This would prove to be a mistake that cost the Knicks a win in regulation.

STUPIDITY, PART II: PLAYING TRACY MCGRADY 32 MINUTES

Everybody was tripping all over themselves commending the “new” Knicks and their contributions against the Thunder. But did anyone stop to ask the obvious: Why in the world did Tracy McGrady play 32 minutes?

An ultra-talented player who has had virtually no playoff success, McGrady has been a walking injury the last three seasons. If he wants to come to the Knicks as a third or fourth option next season, that’s something the Knicks should definitely consider. But where was the calming voice, the voice of reason , the intelligent person to greatly limit McGrady’s minutes his first eight or ten games back this season?

Well, wherever he was, he wasn’t sitting on the Knicks’ bench on Saturday night.

Let’s look at Tracy McGrady’s last few seasons. Anybody who knows anything about NBA basketball knows how talented McGrady is, even at the highest level of the NBA.

In 2007-08, Tracy McGrady played in 66 games while averaging 21.6 points per game, his lowest average in eight seasons. In 2008-09, McGrady only played in 35 games while averaging 15.6 points per game.

Now, remember, although McGrady is “only” going to be 31 this May, he is already playing in his 13th NBA season, something that can’t be good for his basketball health.

So, what happens in 2009-10? Well McGrady had only played in six games for Houston this season. He needed (and got) micro fracture surgery on his knee. He hadn’t played in an NBA game since December 23 (that’s two months between NBA games if you are keeping score at home).

So what does Mike D’Antoni do in his first start? Of course, he plays McGrady 32 minutes his first game back.

Utterly ridiculous!

Oh, did I mention how many minutes McGrady had played for Houston in his six appearances this season? Well, he never played more than EIGHT minutes in any of those games.

Unbelievable.

So, if there is one chance in a hundred that the Knicks want to bring him back as a third or fourth option next year (and it says here that they should), the worst thing you could do to McGrady is to play him too much, too soon. Just bizarre.

And if the response is McGrady said he felt good or we did keep him out at crucial times or he looked healthy on the court, the answer to all of those is: So what? It was irrelevant whether the Knicks won or lost last night (they lost). It was irrelevant, in the big picture for the New York Knicks, whether McGrady could play 32 minutes or not last night. The key thing for Tracy McGrady is to get healthy and be brought back to his past greatness (if possible) SLOWLY.

That’s not too hard to understand, is it?

© Copyright 2010 by Steve Kallas.  All rights reserved.

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