Mike D’Antoni and Donnie Walsh have certainly been on the receiving end of tons of criticism over the last few years, but with the acquisition of Carmelo Anthony, a player that neither of them wanted to trade for, do you now feel bad for them?
Mike D’Antoni and Donnie Walsh both came to New York with the same goal in mind – to bring winning basketball back to Madison Square Garden. They entered a losing environment with very tough tasks ahead of them - D’Antoni had to make winners out of bad basketball players, and Walsh had to get rid of these high-priced bums to create cap room.
The first two seasons of the regime were highly unsuccessful, but both men received a free pass for several reasons. The roster was constantly changing and was not full of talented players since Walsh was making unfair trades to shed salary.
Mike D’Antoni instilled his offensive scheme on a bunch of players that he was coaching but did not want on his team. His offense, which has been labeled the “run and gun”, has been extremely successful over the years and has changed the way basketball is played. You can knock his defense all you want, or lack of defense I should say, but he is a good coach who has experienced a lot of success in the NBA, mainly with the Phoenix Suns.
Donnie Walsh got his job done - he got the New York Knicks under the salary cap and made them a player in free agency, where they signed Amare Stoudemire and Raymond Felton. Mike D’Antoni was now working with a roster full of players that he and Walsh hand-picked and agreed upon, finally.
The Knicks were 28-26 before they made the trade for Carmelo Anthony. Since the trade the Knicks have gone 7-8 and dropped to 7th in the Eastern Conference. The blockbuster trade that was pulled off by the Knicks has been rumored to have been made by James Dolan, who went over the heads of both Mike D’Antoni and Donnie Walsh. It is also rumored that Dolan was being consulted by Isiah Thomas, the former-GM of the Knicks who ruined the franchise.
It is apparent that Mike D’Antoni and Carmelo Anthony are at odds. While both are saying the right things to the public through the media, visual evidence shows that these two are not a very good match. Back in Denver, Anthony would go down court, get the ball, and do something to score. The Nuggets played a lot of isolation and 1-on-1 basketball, something that does not happen in Mike D’Antoni’s offense. The “run and gun” system is all about a fast pace, excellent court spacing, and great ball movement. Outside shooting is a plus and great physical shape is required.
Take a look at Carmelo Anthony – he does not pass the ball, he does not play a fast pace, the strength of his game is not shooting three pointers, and his physical shape is in question.
Mike D’Antoni is now coaching a handful of players that do not play his system, including Carmelo Anthony and Chauncey Billups. Billups is old, can not play a lot of minutes, and does not push the basketball up the court. When Billups is out there, the Knicks play more of a half-court game, one that D’Antoni does not like to play.
Donnie Walsh is a free agent after this season and is highly regarded throughout the media as a “lame duck”. It is expected that Walsh’s services will not be wanted by James Dolan and that Isiah Thomas could be on his way back to the Knicks’ organization. Walsh deserves all of the credit in the world for coming into this city with a plan and actually executing it – they say that you can not rebuild in New York, but Donnie Walsh just did it. He stuck to his word and cleaned up the mess that was left behind by the previous regime. Even if Walsh is wanted back next season, it is highly unlikely that he wants to be back since Dolan has gone over his head and completed a trade without his consultation.
Maybe you do not like the way D’Antoni carries himself, how he coaches, or his lack of defense. Maybe you do not like Donnie Walsh because he did not get enough back for David Lee, he made a bad trade for Tracy McGrady, or he did not bring LeBron James to New York. While all of these are valid cases, they are not in question here.
The bottom line is that D’Antoni and Walsh had finally put together a winning roster that could play the way they wanted to play and was composed of players that they wanted. Now D’Antoni is coaching a bunch of players that do not fit his system and Walsh is waiting for his contract to expire. You really do have to feel bad for them.
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