The NY Knicks have agreed to terms with Mike D’Antoni to become the new head coach. This is easily the most exciting thing to happen to the Knicks in years.
Even if the Knicks don’t contend – and new GM Donnie Walsh has already said he’s willing to wait until 2010 and free cap space for LeBron James – the Knicks should be much more exciting to watch immediately. Naysayers point to the Knicks’ roster as being a “poor fit” for D’Antoni’s system because they don’t have the jump-shooters or court leader that Pheonix has. Also, they’ve mentioned that the Knicks need a defensive coach because they’ve been a poor defensive team.
Well, wouldn’t the Knicks be an even worse fit for a defensive coach, such as Avery Johnson? Bottom line, the Knicks current roster wouldn’t be good for any coach’s system because they’re terrible. Is there a coach out there who is good at winning games with a downright terrible team?
No matter who took over, the Knicks need to clean house, and now with D’Antoni on board that can begin with a plan in place. Before the season was over, everyone knew the Knicks would need to unload at least one of Curry and Randolph. Are things any different now? Robinson, Lee, Crawford, and Richardson can probably adapt to D’Antoni’s system. There could be hope for Jones and Balkman. Pretty much everyone else will likely be on the way out.
The Knicks tried bringing in a defensive “mastermind” before, in Larry Brown, and it was a failure as Brown hated all the players and didn’t agree with Isiah. Well, Donnie Walsh understands D’Antoni’s vision. According to Marc Stein at ESPN, Walsh even went through his entire roster with D’Antoni, discussing who will fit and who won’t.
Giving D’Antoni a 4-year deal hopefully means there will also be patience. In Pheonix they started by blowing up everything (and unloading their junk on Isiah). While there likely will be no Isiah out there to absorb the Knicks’ bad contracts, D’Antoni’s situation in Pheonix shows that it doesn’t always take that much to build a fun and competitive team.
The core of Pheonix was one holdover from the pre-D’Antoni days (Marion), one FA signing (Nash), and one good draft pick (Stoudemire). In his recent article, Bill Simmons goes through all the terrible moves the Suns otherwise made in the past few seasons that kept them from being a dynasty (or at least winning a championship) – and all were predicated on money.
Well money won’t be a problem anymore. The Knicks likely won’t add payroll until they’re ready to contend, since they want to develop cap space. But once they are ready, everyone knows they are willing to spend whatever it takes.
So what is the plan? Unload as many players and as much payroll as possible to start and draft wisely. I think Derrick Rose is the obvious #1 choice for the Knicks if they can be lucky enough to get a top 2 pick. So yeah, a lot of the Knicks’ current hope resides in those ping pong balls and maybe signing LeBron in a couple years. But that’s still hope- and in the meantime, at least maybe we’ll have a fast paced, likeable team to cheer for.