Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes to weigh in on the three most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.
Carmelo says it might be his fault the Knicks are so terrible. Agree? Explain.
Steve Aschburner: Yes. And no. Anthony is partly to blame for the Knicks’ struggles and, as the club’s top-paid player, he owns a little more of the responsibility than his teammates, coaches or front office. He’s shooting horribly and in my view rarely has helped his teams much defensively or within an overall concept. But there’s plenty of blame to spread around here. (Funny day to ask this queston, BTW, with ‘Melo as the only player on his team not to score a field goal – when’s the last time that happened? – in the 33-point blowout of Charlotte Tuesday. He played nearly 30 minutes, scored one point on 0-of-7 from the floor but grabbed 11 boards and was plus-13.)
Fran Blinebury: It’s only “Carmelo’s fault” in that he, like Amar’e, isn’t playing up to his potential on a team that isn’t good or deep enough. It’s actually Jim Dolan’s fault for giving up too many complementary pieces in the trade to get Carmelo instead of waiting to sign him as a free agent. He should have listened to Donnie Walsh.
Scott Howard-Cooper: Unless Carmelo made the trade – as opposed to forcing the trade – and gave Amar’e Stoudemire the keys to the bank vault, it’s not Melo’s fault. He is part of the problem, for sure, because this is not the offensive weapon the Knicks envisioned. But this is about a lot more than Carmelo Anthony. (more…)
There are impatient rumblings at Madison Square Garden, where the “deeee-fense” chant originated, because the Knicks under coach Mike D’Antoni are simply not deee-livering as they should.
Well, let’s just examine that statement a bit further. Especially the part about “as they should.”
Really, now: Should they? This is a team that hired a coach in D’Antoni who specialized in a quick-strike offense while in Phoenix, which won a lot of games but no championships. And this is a team that broke the Brinks for Amar’e Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony, a pair of hired guns who can score a bunch but often give up a bunch, too. And finally, this is a team that surrendered some decent defenders in the trade to get ‘Melo last season, a trade that never should’ve been made in the first place.
So yeah, that’s why we must ask: Should they? Or rather, can they?
The Knicks surrendered 118 points last night to the Bobcats, a team that usually needs two games to reach 118. It was surreal, seeing the offensively-challenged Bobcats shoot 55 percent, to see burly “center” Boris Diaw looking svelte as he tore through the Knicks for 12 of 15 shooting and 27 points, to see Gerald Henderson torch the Knicks’ backcourt for 24 points.
“We didn’t defend enough,” said D’Antoni, stating the obvious.
But how well can the Knicks defend, anyway?
With the exception of Tyson Chandler, there’s nobody on the roster who made their reputation with terrific D. Therefore, it’s hard to be a great defensive team when you lack great defensive players. Yes, the Knicks looked fine the previous game against the Raptors. And yes, defense is more an effort than an art form, and professional basketball players should at least give that effort on the other end. However, the Knicks as constituted paint a worrisome picture for New Yorkers, who see solid defense being played in Chicago, Boston and Miami, places where the Knicks must travel through to have any chance of reaching the NBA Finals anytime soon. The Knicks are giving up 99 a game, fourth-worst in the league, this early in the season.
When the chant of de-fense, de-fense fell on deaf ears, the Garden crowd began calling for Iman Shumpert, who has instantly become a fan favorite. And if you listened closely enough there was a brief Phil Jackson chant before the mass exodus began. So for Mike D’Antoni perhaps the only positive thing to come out of Wednesday’s embarrassing 118-110 loss to the Charlotte Bobcats is that no one was calling for his head. but if the Knicks continue to perform poorly at home, that derisive chant is coming soon. And it will be loud.
The Knicks don’t have a playmaker, and D’Antoni still doesn’t have a team that can defend consistently. D’Antoni has also come to the final year of his contract, the $24 million free-agent booty the Knicks gave him to escape a frugal owner and a GM, Steve Kerr, who tried to tell D’Antoni something he never wanted to hear: Defense mattered, and eventually it had to be important to him.
Back-to-back losses to the Toronto Raptors and Bobcats at the Garden dropped the Knicks to 2-4. It didn’t matter that the Bobcats had been obliterated by 74 points in three straight losses, that 24 hours earlier Cleveland had blown them out and Diaw had gone scoreless and owner Michael Jordan had one more mess on his hands.
“You’re talking about an NBA team,” D’Antoni said. “They’re good.”
Come on, Mike. Stop it. The Knicks will get over these losses, but this isn’t the way a lame-duck coach needed to start the season in New York. Bad week for the Knicks, but worse in the long run for the coach’s staying power on the job. This is a no-excuse season for the Knicks, and D’Antoni won’t be negotiating a contract extension without winning a round of the Eastern Conference playoffs.
This isn’t simply D’Antoni’s fault. There are too many holes, and maybe too many parts that don’t fit together. The Knicks are counting on Baron Davis’ back to heal, Anthony and Stoudemire to learn to play together, and a Spartan bench to make serious contributions.
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – In a matter of hours Monday, the NBA’s labor impasse went from maddening to certifiably ridiculous thanks to raging emotions on both sides of a nasty fight.
What’s that phrase Kobe Bryant uttered a few weeks ago? It’s the same one NBA Commissioner David Stern used yesterday in the aftermath of the union rejecting the league’s proposal for a new collective bargaining agreement and disbanding (read up on the details here), the first step in an anti-trust lawsuit being filed by the trade association formerly known as the union.
“The union decided in its infinite wisdom that the proposal would not be presented to membership,” Stern said. “Obviously, Mr. [union attorney Jeffrey] Kessler got his way and we are about to go into the nuclear winter of the NBA.”
Raise your hand if you’ve had enough of this already.
We spent 137 days waiting for something that could have come July 1. If this affair was going to end up in the courts with one side suing the other, we only wish it had come right away instead of months later, when it seemed the sides might be working their way to an uneasy alliance for the greater good of the game.
Instead, we’re left with the prospect of that aforementioned nuclear winter.