Judging by this current pre-season and NBA history, fans of the New Knicks have reason to be excited heading into the 2009 season. They have a new coach, have made a few roster changes and most importantly, they have hope.
Mike D’Antoni wasted no time putting his stamp on the team. The biggest areas of concern for the Knicks last year were the point guard and center positions. I was always an Isiah Thomas fan because I thought he could get the best out of his players, coached the game the right way and was very loyal to his players. It was his loyalty at the end of the day was his demise. Let’s begin with the way he handled the center position. For some reason, Isiah felt inclined to start underachieving Eddie Curry at center. Curry did take a step forward during the 2006- 07 when averaged 19.5 ppg and 7.0 rebounds, but a blind man could see what Isiah couldn’t. Curry wasn’t looking to earn his spot in the 2007-08 season; he felt he was entitled to it. The effort wasn’t there on a nightly basis but Isiah never benched him. As a former coach, I know first hand that is the first step in getting the team to tune you out.
Isiah sealed the deal though when he refused to suspend or even bench Stephon Marbury for his actions after Isiah advised him he would no longer be starting. Stephon left the team, and threatened to “out” Isiah during a very controversial sexual harassment suit. Reportedly the team unanimously voted on a Marbury suspension, and when Coach Thomas did not suspend him, the season was essentially over.
The first New York Knick preseason game I watched was against the defending NBA Champions, the Boston Celtics. The two positions that caused the most frustration for Knicks fans, was clearly addressed by D’Antoni. David Lee, one of my favorites, started at center and the pass first Chris Duhon was signed to take over the starting point guard duties. It was definitely a different Knicks team from the jump, a team that long suffering Knick fans could get excited about. The passing was so fluid even Legendary Celtic announcer Tommy Heinsohn mentioned he hadn’t seen that many passes in a half court set from the Knicks in 5 to 6 years.
In D’Antoni’s system, Jamal Crawford and Nate Robinson should excel offensively. But the player that will benefit most is second year swingman Wilson Chandler. D’Antoni will use Chandler at both forward spots similar to the way Shawn Marion was utilized with the Suns. Chandler has shown he can rebound and flashes that he can be a better offensive player then the Matrix ever was.
It would appear with the addition of D’Antoni better days are ahead for the New York Knicks. If I was Donnie Walsh, I would look for any takers for Q-Dawg and Marbury. I doubt Stephon will put the team first and sacrifice his minutes for wins and I also don’t think in this day and age a player like Quinton Richardson should be starting on any team. He may be a favorite of D’Antoni’s from his Suns days, but the league has moved into a more athletic game and I don’t see Q-Dawg’s career adjusting to that. The success of the Knicks will rest on Lee, Crawford, Robinson, Duhon, Chandler, and Zach Randolph. Yes Zach Randolph. He is not stopper, but he is a legitimate post-up go to guy that rebounds on both ends. Also with D’Antoni’s system, these guys are going to put a up a ton of points and will compete every night. Finally there is some hope in the air at Madison Square Garden.