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DOWN IS UP, UP IS DOWN – CARMELO, DOLAN, SILVER

Kallas Remarks by Steve Kallas – Hard to believe what has happened to the Knicks and the NBA in New York City: CARMELO ANTHONY Whether you think Carmelo is a selfish athlete or not, this All-Star weekend took the cake.  After … Continue reading

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MIKE D’ANTONI NOT THE CHAMPIONSHIP ANSWER FOR THE KNICKS

                               Kallas Remarks by Steve Kallas

    

Much was expected when Donnie Walsh hired Mike D’Antoni this past off-season to coach the Knicks.  Whether he really wanted to come to New York (or not), whether the Knicks were his second (to Chicago?) choice (or not), whether he could adjust to the rigors of coaching in New York (or not) are all irrelevant to the bigger, down the road, most important question:  Can he lead the Knicks to a championship?

    

The answer here, unfortunately, is no.

    

Are the Knicks improved this year?  Yes.  Are they more “fun to watch?”  Yes.  Is it easier to root for them today than it has been in a few years?  Yes. 

     

BUT HERE’S THE PROBLEM

     

The problem lies in the notion that a team with this up-tempo, at times averse-to-defense attitude can win an NBA Championship.  A comparison with the recent (and very successful) Phoenix teams coached by D’Antoni is instructive here.

    

D’Antoni took over in Phoenix in 2003-04 and, after a 21-40 record in his first season there, he was able to turn it all around and make Steve Nash an MVP in 2004-05 with a stunning 62-20 record.  That team had the “Big Three” of Nash, Amar’e Stoudemire and Shawn Marion that would be the backbone of that excellent four-year run D’Antoni would have in Phoenix (few remember that D’Antoni’s first excellent Phoenix team had Joe Johnson (17 ppg, now of the Hawks) and Quentin Richardson (15 ppg, now of the Knicks)).

    

In 2005-06, the Big Three were joined by excellent athletes like Rajah Bell, Leandro Barbosa and Boris Diaw (D’Antoni’s kind of players) and this group would lead Phoenix in winning 170 regular-season games in the next three seasons (Marion would be traded 47 games into the 2007-08 season in the Shaq deal).  They had some playoff success but could never get over the hump in the very tough West and never made it to the NBA Finals.

       

WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR TODAY’S KNICKS?

     

Well, the Knicks of today have nowhere near the talent that those Phoenix teams had from 2004-08.  If you’re debating whether they should keep David Lee or Nate Robinson, you have to wonder if they should keep either (rather than one or both).  Lee, an impressive player, has huge trouble defending big men or quick men and that’s a problem from a win-the-championship perspective.  Robinson, an enormously talented guard, loses his mind on a regular basis, be it with the refs or the opposition or a teammate.  If he doesn’t calm that down sooner rather than later, he should be gone.  But even if he does tone it down, it’s hard to say that you should keep the good, small player (energy and all) over the good, big player (a walking double-double).

     

WHERE DOES LEBRON AND THE CLASS OF 2010 FIT IN TO ALL OF THIS?

     

Based on reports coming out of Cleveland, it now seems less likely that Lebron James will come to the Knicks when he becomes a free agent.  If he considers it, he’s no fool – he knows he’ll need help (Shaq-Kobe, KG-Pierce-Allen, Shaq-Wade, Duncan-Robinson, Duncan-Parker-Ginobili – you get the point).

    

Frankly, the Knicks will need two in 2010.  It says here that one, even if it’s Lebron, won’t be enough.  If they get two stars (Lebron, Wade, Bosh, fill in the blank), the coach becomes much less important.  Which brings us back to whether the up-tempo style with ultra-talented players can win a title?  Which brings us back to the Phoenix teams that D’Antoni coached – the answer, for those teams, was a resounding no.

      

WHAT ABOUT THE OTHER KNICK PLAYERS TODAY?

     

Well, what about the other Knick players on the team today?  Waiting for Eddy Curry is like waiting for Godot.  Some people thought Scott Skiles, then-coach of the Bulls when Curry was sent to the Knicks, was too harsh in his assessment of Curry (essentially, that he wouldn’t amount to much).  To date, he’s totally right (Curry now will apparently “try to play” when the Knicks are eliminated from the playoff race).

    

Larry Hughes?  He can play, but is he a long-term championship player?  Unlikely.  Q Richarsdon?  In and out of D’Antoni’s doghouse, it seems.  Maybe Danilo Gallinari?  He can shoot it, but he’s got so far to go defensively he may never get there.  And that assumes he’s healthy, a big assumption.  Chris Duhon?  Better this year with some upside, but he wore down and got hurt playing all those minutes (compared to what he was doing in Chicago).

    

Jared Jeffries?  Chris Wilcox?  Come on.

    

The main guy with upside for the future is Wilson Chandler, who has really come on this year.  Al Harrington?  Maybe, but he’s another up-and-down guy.

    

The problem for today’s Knicks isn’t the loss to good teams like Orlando, who turned a 10-point deficit in the fourth quarter into a five-point lead and a win in the blink of an eye on Monday.  The problem is losses to teams like woeful Sacramento and the Nets (without the best New York-area player, Devin Harris).    

    

Frankly, when the season opens and the conversation immediately turns to whether the Knicks can make the eighth seed, that’s a big problem.  And with so many teams making the playoffs (hey, even now, the Knicks are only four games out in the loss column), the “hope” of the playoffs is even watered down and sold to foolish fans.

         

SO, WHERE DO THEY GO FROM HERE?

     

Well, after two horrific seasons, 2008-09 is certainly an improvement.  The only number many New York fans who like to gamble care about is 33, which will let them cash their “over” bets on how many games the Knicks will win this year.  But, as for the playoffs, PLAYOFFS (where’s Jim Mora when you need him), well, absent a miracle, that’s become a pipedream this year.

    

With slight improvement this year and even more next year, the real question is can the Knicks make this an enticing team for one or (preferably) two superstars to come to?  Well, virtually everyone seems to love to play for Mike D’Antoni and his “style.”  It remains to be seen if that style can ever win an NBA championship.

      

© Copyright 2008 by Steve Kallas.  All rights reserved.

THE MARBURY PROBLEM: IS IT MARBURY-D’ANTONI, D’ANTONI-WALSH, D’ANTONI-DOLAN, WALSH-DOLAN OR SOME COMBINATION THEREOF?

                               Kallas Remarks by Steve Kallas

 

Oh, there’s some fascinating stuff going on in the Stephon Marbury caper:  Intrigue, lying, back-door dealing, money, the whole bit.  All we’re missing is some sex, but that’s already happened in a previous caper.

    

Here’s what jumps out:  How is it that head coach Mike D’Antoni “asked” Stephon to play?  How is it that D’Antoni “requested” that Marbury play?  When Marbury was in uniform, how is it that D’Antoni didn’t walk over to him and, in front of dozens (hundreds?) of witnesses, simply say, “Marbury, get in the game NOW.”?  Clearly, if the latter had happened and Marbury outrightly refused to play, he would have been properly suspended immediately.

    

So, what do we have now?  We have a he said-he said.  D’Antoni said Marbury refused to play.  Marbury said that D’Antoni never told him he had to play (indeed, Marbury said he would have played if told directly to do so) but simply asked him if he wanted to (and he didn’t).  It’s perfectly believable that Marbury, who wants to keep every nickel, would know (or have been told) not to disobey a direct order.   

    

Stunning stuff.

 

D’ANTONI-WALSH

    

When I wrote a few weeks back (see Kallas Remarks, 11/4/08) that Walsh and D’Antoni had to get on the same page, I didn’t realize there were so many pages.  Clearly, Walsh wanted Marbury to play so, at a minimum, he (Marbury) might have some trade value.  Walsh seemed stunned that D’Antoni, after giving Marbury 20 minutes a game in the exhibition season, simply shut him down (and out) once the regular season began.  What’s equally stunning is that D’Antoni told Quentin Richardson that Marbury wouldn’t play before the first game and didn’t bother to tell Marbury (and, it seems, Walsh as well).  While Walsh is looking at the long-term, big picture, he can’t be happy at the way D’Antoni’s handled this situation.

 

D’ANTONI-DOLAN

 

Another fascinating and different page.  Dolan’s page is from the Larry Brown book:  wear him down over time and he won’t need every nickel to go away.  Larry Brown, you’ll recall, was guaranteed $40 million after completing his dreadful first Knick season.  But after leaving Larry twisting in the wind, and then threatening Larry at meetings and hearings with his “breach” (what? talking to the media outside the Greenburgh facility?), somehow, Larry Brown took less than 50 cents on the dollar and walked away with $18 million of the remaining $40 million, a stunning $22 million dollar win for the Knicks (of course, others would say that Larry got $28 million to coach one terrible season, which is also true).

     

It says here that James Dolan simply doesn’t want to pay Marbury his full salary AND see him back in the league next week on another team.  And, to some degree, Dolan has, arguably, won.  In Saturday’s New York Post (via Marc Berman), Marbury is quoted as saying he’s already offered to leave one million dollars of this year’s $21.9 million salary on the table for his freedom.  That’s certainly a crack that Dolan will try and turn into five or ten million.  We’ll see.

    

So D’Antoni was in a bind.  Maybe he was told to play Marbury.  Maybe he had a change of heart.  But it says here that D’Antoni didn’t want Marbury to play, so he “asked” him, rather than “told” him, and it worked – Marbury said he didn’t want to.  However, from a legal perspective, asking and telling are two different things.  That’s the legal conundrum the Knicks are in right now.  And don’t forget, according to varied reports, D’Antoni not only didn’t want to play Marbury, he was hoping Marbury would be gone before training camp began.  

 

WALSH-DOLAN

 

These two are the closest to being on the same page.  But the sticking point might be, at this stage, Walsh wants to get rid of Marbury because of the circus atmosphere this has created in New York and around the NBA.  But Dolan, again, wants Marbury to take much less (see Larry Brown) and doesn’t mind having Marbury twist in the wind for a while longer.  Again, there’s a million-dollar crack in Marbury’s position that may increase over the next few days.

  

MARBURY-D’ANTONI

 

See the first three paragraphs of this post.  Marbury, at one point, did want to play.  D’Antoni, certainly originally, NEVER wanted him to play.  While D’Antoni might have felt pressure (injuries, trades, Walsh, Dolan or some combination thereof) to play Marbury, it certainly seemed like he wanted him gone – then and now.  But the key point still is:  why ASK a player if he wants to play; why not TELL him that he has to play?  A fascinating question.

 

WHAT HAPPENS NOW?

 

So what do we have?  We have a player who wants out with virtually all of his money (less, for now, $1 million).  We have a coach who doesn’t want to play the player and who never wanted to play the player.  We have a general manager who wanted the player to play (for trade value purposes) but never got his wish.  And we have an owner who doesn’t want to cave to a player and have him play somewhere else next week.

    

It says here that the middle ground is Marbury gives up a little more money and everyone tries to save a little face.  It also says here that everybody winds up with egg on their face.  It’s a disgrace what’s happened here and to this franchise.  There’s plenty of blame to go around.

    

Maybe Lebron was right.  Maybe we should all go to sleep and wake up on July 1, 2010.  And, yes, this is written by a life-long Knicks fan.  

© Copyright 2008 by Steve Kallas.  All rights reserved.