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Schmeelk’s Stance: Heading West

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By John Schmeelk
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In this country’s first century, the West was the unknown. It was a wild frontier where people went to find excitement, get rich, or simply start over. It was a dangerous untamed land, where those who were brave enough to venture there were just as likely to find disaster as they were gold. Desperate men traveled west to change their fortunes, and turn their lives around.

It’s quite fitting that Mike D’Antoni takes his motley crew of Knicks on their first West Coast trip with their season on the verge of oblivion. It may seem insane that an 82 game season could be on the line after just ten games, but that’s where the Knicks are right now. Starting tonight, the Knicks have four games out west against the Nuggets, Kings, Warriors and Clippers. They aren’t top teams in the Western conference and the Knicks need to at least split to avoid pushing their season to the brink.

If the Knicks come home to play the Hornets next Tuesday at 3-11 or 4-10 they will be met by an ultra-hostile Madison Square Garden crowd that had all the hope of a good summer and new roster extinguished by a terrible start to the season. The media will be asking questions about firing the head coach, and what trades could be made before the trade deadline. It will be ugly. This Knicks team is very fragile, and there’s very little chance that they could withstand that type of hostility or controversy.

Amar’e Stoudemire’s quotes after the game on Sunday were right on the money, and refreshing to hear from a member of the Knicks. He sounded like a man that was truly in pain because the team was losing too much. He’s right that there has been a culture of losing around the Knicks the last few years and the team is far too willing to accept losing. However, these are virtually all new players, and this year should have been an opportunity to start a new culture.

The only way to do that is to win and it’s D’Antoni’s job to make that happen. There’s enough talent on this team to win games and it’s the coach’s job to get that talent to perform. The defense has been inconsistent, but that’s to be expected from a D’Antoni team. His offense is supposed to be so efficient it makes up for those deficiencies. Here’s the problem: The offense has been just as bad, if not worse than the defense.

Blaming Raymond Felton and his inability to execute the pick and roll is an easy excuse. D’Antoni and the media are making the pick and roll out to be this complicated offensive play that takes some savant to execute. It’s one of the most basic plays in basketball and was a staple of Larry Brown’s offense, which Felton ran in Charlotte. He should be better at it, but if the play isn’t working, why can’t D’Antoni try something else?

If D’Antoni is the offensive genius he’s advertised to be, shouldn’t he have a better solution than isolating Stoudemire 18 feet away from the basket or letting Wilson Chandler and Toney Douglas bomb three pointers every other possession? Ball movement and shot selection has been terrible. Turnovers are rampant. Danilo Gallinari, the team’s best shooter, has the 5th most shot attempts on the team, and has taken fewer three pointers than both Douglas and Chandler. It’s insane. There are very simply messages that need to be sent to the players that would solve a lot of these problems, and it’s either not being sent or not being received.

It’s time for the head coach to fix this offensive mess that Knicks fans have had to endure the first three weeks of the season. This is what he what he was supposed to be good at! D’Antoni got a free pass his first two years here because of the roster and salary cap situation. The free pass is expired, and no one wants to hear about how the team has only played ten games together and they need more time to develop chemistry. The time is now.

It’s time for the Knicks to circle the wagons, or this could be a season lost out in the wild west.

Up and Under

Up: Ronny Turiaf. Yes, the guy that hasn’t been playing but his value has been proven by the Knicks inability to defend and rebound in the paint during his absence. If Turiaf was playing, Kevin Love never would have dominated the glass like he did. The Knicks need him back from his sprained knee in the worst way.

Under: Anthony Randolph is a bad basketball player. He hustles for rebounds and plays decent help defense but otherwise he looks completely lost. Randolph has absolutely no offensive game, and just seems to have no idea of when to shoot and when to pass. The Knicks needed him to step in for Turiaf and he’s been terrible.

Around the World: One saving grace for the Knicks is the Rockets are also struggling. They have the opportunity to swap draft picks with the Knicks this year, but it won’t make much of a difference if their records are similar. With Yao Ming hurt (shocking) they are going to struggle to get above .500.

The Fadeaway: David Kahn guarantees Ricky Rubio will play in the NBA for the Timberwolves. No one else, including Rubio and his family, agree with him. Odds are that when the time comes for him to come to America, Kahn will be gone, and his replacement will be forced to trade his rights somewhere.

You can follow me on twitter at: http://twitter.com/#!/Schmeelk

pixy Schmeelk’s Stance: Heading West