By John Schmeelk
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You might as well plop down Mike D’Antoni and the rest of the Knicks down on the island with Jack, Sawyer, Hurley, Ben, Locke and the rest of the crew. They are LOST. Donnie Walsh would make a fine Jacob with James Dolan as the perfect smoke monster. He would fly around in the shape of Isiah Thomas scaring the heck out of everyone affiliated with the Knicks. And you know what, the way the Knicks are playing right now they need a good scare.
So many things are going wrong with the Knicks now that it’s impossible to finger a common thread. Here’s a short list:
– The defense continues to be poor and inconsistent. There’s mass confusion with opponents getting into the lane with no help defense. The rebounding is also poor.
– The offense is stagnant. The pace hasn’t been good and when in the half court the ball and player movement isn’t there. There’s way too much one on one.
– There’s mass confusion with both the offensive and defensive game plans.
– The team’s effort and enthusiasm against the lower echelon teams has been lacking. If the Knicks played as hard against teams like the Bucks and Pacers as they did against the Celtics, they would have a few more wins.
– Rotations keep changing. You get the feeling D’Antoni is closing his eyes and picking random people to play. This can’t help getting everyone on the same page.
– The team has fallen apart in close games. 4th quarters have been a disaster both offensively and defensively. The Knicks can’t get stops down the stretch and their offense reverts to a slow it down, sloppy and isolation prone game.
– There doesn’t seem to be a lot of enthusiasm and camaraderie on the floor. Guys aren’t showing a lot of emotion, and doing things like helping teammates off the floor. Guys look tight. The bench is never hyped. The losing is affecting them.
– The Knicks lack any effective size. Jared Jeffries, Shelden Williams and Ronny Turiaf aren’t the answer. Unfortunately, there’s no other choice. (Don’t get started with Earl Barron.)
– Amar’e Stoudemire looks tired and is in a funk. Chauncey Billups is struggling with D’Antoni’s system. Carmelo Anthony is struggling to get points in non-isolation situations.
– No one has stepped up as the leader of the team.
I could keep going but I think that’s a nice cross-section. No one thought it would be easy to integrate so many new players, but it shouldn’t be this hard either. There’s plenty of blame to go around. Carmelo and Billups should be able to play in a fast paced, ball movement based system better than they are. Both ran it at the Olympics. Both also need to give a better and more consistent effort on defense. D’Antoni has done a poor job of simplifying things to integrate these new players more quickly. Walsh (or was it Dolan/Isiah?) can get some blame for giving up too much in the trade to bring in these two players. Stoudemire plays no defense either, and has not shown the leadership I thought he would. He hasn’t taken control of this terrible situation.
There doesn’t seem to be much fracturing right now, but this team might be getting close to a breaking point which could cause fissures that would reverberate past this season. If the team falls apart does Dolan make the final decision to dump Walsh? Do the players totally turn on the coach, forcing the Knicks to make a change? Does discord and distrust form between Stoudemire and Anthony making their future success a question? Will Billups’ contract extension not be picked up?
A championship team this year was never a realistic goal but being a dangerous team in the 1st round was. Now, there is a slight, but not completely unrealistic chance of not making the playoffs. Even if the Knicks get in, if they don’t play better it will be an embarrassing four and you’re out sweep. With current expectations, it would be ugly.
Knicks fans deserve better. Everyone from the head coach to the last man on the bench needs to do better, and do it fast. The Knicks need to get off the island. Let’s hope it takes less than the six seasons it took for Jack, Sawyer and their crew.
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