Twelve games into this hectic, compressed 66-game NBA season and alarm bells are ringing in New York.
Mike D’Antoni, once the NBA’s anointed modern-day Guru of Go thanks to the Steve Nash-powered ‘Seven Seconds or Less’ product he oversaw in Phoenix, is left to reflect on what must be some of the most turgid, stagnant displays of offence for which he has ever been responsible.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like Knicks fans haven’t seen 30+ three-pointers jacked up before. That’s been a staple of the Knicks offence since D’Antoni took charge.
The difference now is that the ball has stopped moving.
The Knicks rank 25th in the league in assists per game with a meagre 18.33.
D’Antoni, whose stubborn streak and resistance to change are well known, must be dying inside as he witnesses game after game of his players standing around witnessing Carmelo Anthony’s brand of hero-ball (admittedly the main reason the Knicks have eked out the majority of their six wins to date) and Toney Douglas jacking three ball after ill-advised three ball.
The fact that the Knicks have struggled isn’t surprising. D’Antoni’s offence requires a point guard – and the Knicks don’t have one. Douglas, the at-times impressive Iman Shumpert and the corpse of Mike Bibby have platooned at the point to date. Melo has run the offence at times.
None of them are able consistently move the ball and feed Amare Stoudemire and, less frequently, Tyson Chandler in the style to which they are accustomed. STAT has failed to make an impact in many games, his shooting percentage is in the gutter and he looks utterly bereft of belief and confidence.
The addition of Chandler and his imposing presence at the rim has contributed to the Knicks giving up 12 fewer points per game than last season. Unfortunately, loading the frontcourt (and amnestying floor general Chauncey Billups to do so) means the Knicks now score 12 fewer points per game too.
So the net gain is nothing. And watching the offence is now frequently as much fun as repeatedly hitting yourself in the face with a brick.
You’ve got to love the Knicks front office. Historical personnel decisions caused salary cap hell that meant D’Antoni, in terms of talent, worked with scraps for his first two seasons in charge. Now the roster has been overhauled, he’s left with better players completely unsuitable for the offence he wants to run.
A lot of the time the offence looks eerily similar to the unwatchable one-on-one ball perpetrated by new Knicks defensive coach Mike Woodson when he was head coach in Atlanta. This style will let you beat the league’s bad teams and tired squads at the end of back-to-back-to-backs. It will fail miserably against the +500 teams, especially on the road.
The departure of Billups to make room for Chandler has also left a gargantuan void in terms of leadership. With no veteran vocal presence on the floor, it seems the Knicks are ultra-aware of when they are beaten. They threw the towel in halfway through the second quarter in Oklahoma last night. They arguably gave up even earlier in Memphis last Thursday on national TV.
All of the above places enormous pressure on Baron Davis when he is finally healthy to play. If the inspired Golden State-era B Diddy shows up, he’ll be the antidote to many of the Knicks’ ills. But, given Baron’s history of up-and-down effort, it’s far from a guarantee.
Unless and in-shape and inspired Davis shows up the end of the month, this short season is going to feel like a very long one.