The New York Knicks: Where Instability Happens

A Sports Scribe, Basketball — By on March 15, 2012 at 9:25 am


Change was gon’ come; short season or not.

Mike D’Antoni essentially had a season; maybe less, to take the New York Knicks to the next level. Though Donnie Walsh, the architect of the NBA’s biggest reclamation project in years, was shuttered out, three years of D’Antoni’s free movement offensive system were to finally come to fruition.

And then, they didn’t.

It’s easy to lament D’Antoni’s resignation or light a pitchfork to chase Carmelo Anthony with. One can go on the bend about Amar’e Stoudemire being a 6-foot-9 shooting guard playing power forward or wonder when Jeremy Lin is going to work on his handle. It’s tempting to work that trade machine, because it’s as easy as ‘point, drag and save’ to create a title-winning team.

However, Knicks fans have been here before. Too many times before.

When you change parts every half-year, as most of the New York-based teams seem to do, it’s extremely difficult to field a perennial contending team, let alone a championship one. Even the franchise that seemed to have invented that style of management – the New York Yankees – figured out that relative stability breeds success.

Why haven’t the Knicks?

It all starts, swings back around, and ends with James Dolan.

Let’s not get this twisted; Dolan wants to win. Badly. In a city that wears its basketball heritage like a faded, but dear pair of jeans, Dolan is the owner of the one team that brings the Five Boroughs together. If some of these changes in previous seasons worked as planned, he probably wouldn’t be as demonized as he is around here. The problem is that when he became the point man for both the Knicks and Rangers in 1999, he didn’t exactly adapt his management style to the sports world.

Sports franchises are the most famous small businesses on Earth. Yet, unlike the Cablevision empire James and father Charles lord over, there isn’t a large pool of employable talent that can replace ineffective staff members. Few can perform well enough to be called professionals in their field, and even fewer can stay around to make a career of the craft. So, in this highly specialized world of sports, any and all shifts in personnel over a certain period of time will affect performance – for better or worse. The more turnover there is in an organization, the more losses are to come.

D’Antoni didn’t have the opportunity to coach one group of players for a full season. While there were changes to the roster during his Phoenix years, at least he was given a core of players to rely on to run “Seven Seconds or Less.” The revolving door of players is something he could talk to Don Nelson, Jeff Van Gundy, Don Chaney, Lenny Wilkens, Isiah Thomas (yeah, I know), and Larry Brown about.

Of course, some changes were necessary as moving bad contracts were paramount to the team’s resurgence. More importantly, prior to the D’Antoni & Walsh era, the Knicks hadn’t been a young team since the franchise began. Now, Mike Woodson is charged to salvage this season; six more weeks of questions, rumors, and a lack of certainty going forward.

Naturally, there should be pressure on athletes, coaches, and executives, because they’re in professional sports; market size, franchise history, and media attention be damned. Yet, what doesn’t help is having an owner who seems to ignore that so few can succeed if they don’t have the opportunity to build.

J. Clinkscales

Jason is the co-host of The Exchange on BlogTalkRadio with Sumit Dasgupta (@skd_thExchange) and the New York Beacon's beat writer for the New York Giants. Also a vastly undersized PF.

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    6 Comments

  • Joe Simmons says:

    Good post. Here is how I see it. The D’Antoni system will never win a championship because it doesn’t instill defense. Steve Kerr basically got rid of him because he knows that you can’t win with that style and D’Antoni chose to come to the Eastern conference instead of change.(Steve Kerr has enough rings to know what it takes)..

    Now everyone is pointing to who is the blame and Carmello is going to wear most of the blame for being what they already knew he was. You knew what you were getting and that is what you wanted so why complain. He has even changed the way he plays to accommodate the system which is foolishness in my opinion.

    Quite simply if you have two mega stars on your team, the offense should evolve around them. Win or lose because they are having a good or bad day. Every one two punch in the league is that way. Role players need to be ready to execute their roles when called upon. Defense should be the number one priority.

    The other thing that bothers me is how Amare got a pass for all this. He has been less than stellar and doesn’t play like a power forward. He gets out rebounded every game and is a liability on defense. Just my .02

    • Garrett says:

      Joe, I agree with every letter you typed!

      • The Knicks seem to have an identity crisis. When Carmelo/Amare were there, they were forcing Dantoni’s system without a floor general. When Amare and Melo was out, with Lin in….the system worked well, and they were a running, gunning and defending team. Then Melo/Amare returned and there was the clash. This isn’t all D’Antoni’s fault, but the talent and his voice not being worth a damn cost NYK in the long run. Now they start over.

  • As much as I loathed the Bulls, there was no NBA team outside of the Knicks that made me stand up and salute like those ’96-’97 72-10 Bulls. To borrow from Bret “The Hitman” Hart, they were “the excellence of execution”. Everyone knew their roles, and performed them with brilliance. Heck, even John Salley sat on that bench with aplomb.

    That all came back to one thing; stability. Even in the two seasons before Jordan’s first unretirement, the Bulls were in the mix because of relatively level hands from ownership, mangement, and the coaching staff.

    I can go on about this team on its own, or many of the great teams of the era that came up short – New York, Portland, Utah, Seattle, Indiana, etc. – but you don’t have that type of sustained success if ownership keeps shaking up things.

  • Jason Henderson says:

    Great article Jason, I agree there is major instability. But I think the instability began with the decision of one person (James Dolan), and is now being shouldered by another (Carmelo Anthony) and rightfully so. Here is my take…

    Once upon a time in the great city of New York, a man named Amar’e Stoudemire was a leading MVP candidate and the Knicks first dominant center since a legend named Patrick Ewing. Why did he suddenly fade into the abyss? What happened? Two words; Carmelo Anthony.

    Ironically, during Black History month a Vietnamese-American named Jeremy Lin reinvigorated every nook and cranny of NYC with his Harvardesque acrobatic play. How and why did it suddenly stop? Two words six syllables; Carmelo Anthony.

    Steve Novak, Landry Fields, Tyson Chandler, and Iman Shumpert (to name a few) embraced their supporting roles with a zeal I haven’t seen since the late 80′s. What happened to those grade school high-fives and youthful mid-air chest bumps? One man happened; Carmelo Anthony.

    Sure, management is to blame for gutting their roster for this shoot-first-defend-never kind of athlete, but I only want to focus on the court action.

    I feel sorry for the Knicks, I really do. The Knicks traded the real Jamal Crawford a few years ago, and later gave up their entire team for Jamal Crawford on steroids, you may know him as CARMELO ANTHONY. As bad as it would make Dolan look right now (not like his approval rating is better than Bush in office), I would ship Carmelo today! Just my opinion…

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