Coach Mike D’Antoni resigned his position as head coach of the New York Knicks on Wednesday. Recent reports had suggested that he had lost control over his locker room, and the Knicks were in the midst of a terrible slide. Following his resignation, the media has blamed his departure on Carmelo Anthony — “the tension between Anthony and D’Antoni — and more broadly, between Anthony and the rest of the team — was undermining the Knicks’ cohesion and morale.” The narrative has become, if only Anthony would have bought into D’Antoni’s system, the free-flowing Knicks of Linsanity would have continued and D’Antoni would still have a job. This is a terrible misrepresentation of the Knicks; D’Antoni was the wrong coach for this team and it was time for him to go.
During February, the Knicks were 7-1 without Carmelo Anthony, while Jeremy Lin led the Knicks in a prototypical, fast-paced D’Antoni-offense. Upon Anthony’s return, the Knicks went 2-8. Based on those numbers, it would appear that Carmelo Anthony destroyed the Knicks offense, but upon closer examination, a different truth emerges: The Knicks just weren’t good enough to compete with the best teams in the league under D’Antoni. While they managed to destroy lesser teams during Carmelo Anthony’s absence (Utah, Washington, Minnesota, Toronto, and Sacramento), since his return, the Knicks have faced the league’s elite (Miami, Boston, San Antonio, and Chicago). Jeremy Lin did manage to lead the Knicks to victory over two top teams while Anthony was injured — the Dallas Mavericks and the Los Angeles Lakers. However, neither of those teams featured a fast point guard who could punish Jeremy Lin for his defensive liabilities. He has struggled against teams that have the league’s top point guards, e.g., Boston’s Rajon Rondo, San Antonio’s Tony Parker, and Chicago’s Derrick Rose. This is not an indictment of Jeremy Lin; he still is a young player who should be considered a rookie due to his lack of in-game experience. But the Knicks were never going to be able to compete with the best in the NBA with an offense dedicated to Jeremy Lin.
The Knicks are now in the hands of Mike Woodson, the assistant coach who was brought in at the start of the season to improve the Knicks’ defense, something in which Mike D’Antoni never appeared interested. He has already promised to implement a slower offense featuring double picks and more isolation plays for Anthony and Stoudemire. While this will appear less entertaining than D’Antoni’s up-tempo offense, it will be more efficient and lead to a better Knicks team as their scoring will increase per possession. D’Antoni insisted on placing Anthony outside on the three point line to create spacing for Jeremy Lin to penetrate the paint. This blatantly ignored Anthony’s strengths as he is much more effective closer to the basket, hence Woodson’s switch to more plays involving Anthony posting up inside. It may not be the prettiest basketball, but it should lead to more wins than D’Antoni’s system.
It’s time to have faith in the Knicks again; now they’ll actually play to their talents, and maybe even play defense.