NEW YORK KNICKS: I Blame James Dolan For Everything Wrong With the Knicks. Period!
We are going to take this slowly and methodically making sure we give proper credit where it's due, and making sure the blame for this disaster which is the Knicks falls on the proper head.
Consider this. Without Commissioner Stern interceding, and based on the relationship between Dolan and Thomas as we knew it then and still understand it today, there's a distinct possibility Isiah Thomas could still very well be in charge of James Dolan's organization today. Commissioner Stern practically forced James Dolan to hire Donnie Walsh as the team's General Manager and Team President. In addition to doing miraculous things to change over the roster and get the Knicks back under the cap, Donnie Walsh also hired Mike D'Antoni to be the Knicks' Head Coach.
With the Nets representing direct competition within the city limits starting this coming Fall, Madison Square Garden needed stars on its' roster again. Donnie Walsh positioned the Knicks in time to partake in the LeBron James sweepstakes. But LeBron took his talents to Miami, so the Knicks settled, and took a chance on Amare even without being able to insure his contract. The supporting cast Donnie Walsh put around Amare Stoudemire prior to the Melo trade was a breath of fresh air; the freshest air to blow through the Garden in ten years. At a minimum, they made Knicks Basketball fun, and the Garden a hot place to be again.
With Donnie Walsh already having put the Knicks back in salary cap order again, opportunity struck the New York area when Carmelo Anthony became available during last season's trade deadline. And that's where everything went awry for the Knicks all over again. There were strong indications Melo was about to accept a trade to the Nets before the Lock-Out changed the terms of potential contract value. When Carmelo Anthony became available, the Billboard Wars against the Nets were already at a fever pitch. Mikhail Provhorov's highly aggressive ad campaign was clearly having it's affect on their future cross-city rivals. James Dolan had a hard time keeping up with the Nets' tactics, and so the Knicks hastened some of their own newspaper pullouts, and billboards of their own. But the Nets won those battle most decisively, and still are.
Now consider that at the same time, James Dolan never wanted Donnie Walsh here. Dolan couldn't and wouldn't deal with any Commissioner appointed executive running his team. He still wanted Zeke, and even had Thomas lurking in the halls behind Donnie's back, and also kept a direct line of communication between the two open at all times. Thomas even played a part in the failed courtship of LeBron James. What was always clear, Dolan never hesitated to overstep Donnie Walsh, when for the ten years prior, James Dolan never meddled in Isiah Thomas' affairs even once. As a matter of fact, James Dolan never had to worry about his empire until threatened by the proposed West Side Stadium. It was Dolan who took the lead and successfully opposed that project.
James Dolan knew the Garden needed stars again because the Nets were coming. With little respect for Donnie Walsh's appointment in the first place, James Dolan trampled over his de-facto General Manager, and gave Denver everything they wanted in return for Carmelo Anthony. It was clear the owner wanted the deal done post-haste. But it's well believed Donnie Walsh would have negotiated a better deal than Dolan brokered, and would have not left the remaining roster depleted of talent and depth.
James Dolan took the lead in that deal from start to finish. Donnie Walsh was made to obediently agree with everything Dolan said at the press conference to announce the trade. And just a few chairs down, the look on Mike D'Antoni's face was that of incredulity. Coach's face screamed - Lord Help UsMe with Carmelo Anthony. It was plainly evident, D'Antoni's body language was not in agreement with the deal. I myself have never been a Carmelo Anthony fan, and was never in favor of the trade. You can look it up. My position has always been - putting this team into the hands of Carmelo Anthony was a huge mistake. But right now, why, is not important.
Coach D'Antoni was made to take on the Stephon Marbury era head on, and by benching him, end it. He did that, to the joy of many Knick Fans. But he was also forced to coach an under-staffed team, and a roster undergoing complete renovations. None of that should be put on Mike D'Antoni. But the team's performance with Amare Stoudemire, Carmelo Anthony, and Tyson Chandler on the floor, should.
I did exactly what Donnie Walsh asked of us. I gladly gave the Knicks two seasons of amnesty. Starting last season, Mike D'Antoni was back on the clock again. Prior to the Melo trade, and during the stretches Melo was injured since the trade, the Knicks flourished. With him on the floor, they have struggled mightily.
Now..., I believe a coach needs to take stock of his team and coach to their strengths. If you insist on implementing a system your players can't grasp, manage, or handle, it's incumbent upon the coach to come up with another plan. Instead, Coach was pulling one way, and his stubborn players were pulling in the opposite direction. Something has to give. Clearly communication broke down.
How would you have liked to have been D'Antoni though? He had to compromise himself when Donnie Walsh gutted the team. He was tasked with ending the Reign of Starbury. He was made to sit like a stooge during the Melo press conference. He was given a player who was clearly contrary to everything D'Antoni preaches as a coach. Then he was clubbed over the head with the hiring of Mike Woodson to be THE Defensive Coach of the team. Imagine that - a two headed monster. - A monster sewn together like Frankenstein, by the hands of Dolan, and given to D'Antoni to train. I would have quit too.
But did Mike D'Antoni really quit? It's hard to say. How often to coaches quit their posts? Did Stan Van Gundy quit in Miami? No, that was a coup by Pat Riley. Pat Riley - He was the guy who quit the Knicks via fax. But he legitimately quit. Stan Van Gundy? How about his brother Jeff? Remember him? He quit the Knicks too. I didn't realize there was an abundance of coaches who quit their jobs. And somehow, many are related to the Knicks. But only two respected coaches have quit the Knicks since James Dolan assumed ownership. And that's two too many.
Take that Commissioner! If indeed Mike D'Antoni and James Dolan reached a "mutual agreement", or if Dolan did in fact fire him, the end result is still win/win for Dolan. The Knicks owner has already effectively dismissed Donnie Walsh, and now goes Mike D'Antoni; the Commissioner's Choice's appointee... James Dolan has finally freed his team of the Commissioner's influence as far as he's concerned. We should officially be afraid again.
Mike Woodson is the interim Head coach for the rest of the season and the Knicks are still without a genuine General Manager. Glen Grunwald is the make-believe GM for the moment. But we all understand, with James Dolan, he means nothing.
But at the end of the day, Mike D'Antoni was not right for this team. I would not have brought him back beyond this season. I do not even believe he was the best coach in town. I think Avery Johnson is better. And I pointed out something Coach Johnson said after Deron Williams dropped thirty-eight points against the Knicks the last time they met. In the post-game Coach Johnson said (paraphrasing):
... if the Knicks switched up and tried covering Deron Williams with a forward, that it was his (my) job to make sure he got a guard back on Williams. Coach said he was responsible for making that adjustment, and that the onus was not on Deron Williams to adjust to the defense on the floor.
Then the Knicks got blown out by the Spurs. Greg Popovich got ejected that game. I'm not sure exactly why, but Coach Popovich flipped his lid and was disgusted with his team. You can be sure it was done for a reason though. He's done that before. And when you've coached that team for as long as he has, you do that sometimes if it gets their attention. If I'm thinking like a coach, I'm a big proponent of berating your team when things are going well too.
I didn't hear or see that chess-like intricacy from Coach D'Antoni like Coach Johnson talked about. And I didn't see a Knick Coach being the alpha-male with his stars like Gregg Popovich is with his stars. On countless occasions I've seen Popovich rip into Tony Parker, and especially his big man Tim Duncan. But of course we know that Duncan is complicit in Popovich's plan to get everyone to fall in line. Avery Johnson even did it with Nowitski in Dallas. Point is, I did not see Coach D'Antoni employing such tact with his stars; namely Carmelo Anthony. Nor would Carmelo allow himself to get dragged down in some nefarious plot by the coach to motivate his players - at least not Melo and D'Antoni - not together - and certainly not now.
For the moment, James Dolan is firmly in control of his empire again. He's a capitalists, which means he's free to run his enterprise into the ground if he wants to. The Knicks are in the state of disarray they find themselves, I believe, chiefly due to the machinations of one man. That man is James Dolan.