Monday, May 12, 2008

Mike D'Antoni and Hope come to New York

I’ve been reading a ton of blogs and message boards this week and I’m really surprised about how many fans are not impressed with the New York Knicks hiring of former Phoenix Suns coach – Mike D’Antoni. Other fans are stunned that he would chose the Knicks over the Chicago Bulls, even though New York offered so much money. Well, I’m here to say that New York and D’Antoni made the right decision.

Chicago does have the better roster and are in position to compete sooner, but New York is the biggest market in American sports and the Knicks share real estate with David Stern and his co-conspirators. They are essentially the "home team" of the NBA. If D'Antoni makes the Knicks even mediocre - and remember that the Atlanta Hawks made the playoffs with just 37 wins - he will be rewarded and celebrated in Gotham. The rewards highly outweigh the risks.

I understand the concerns that Knicks fans have about D’Antoni and I’m sorry about the misery that Isiah Thomas put them through, but I believe they’ll end up liking this coaching hire more than they think they will. The fan are saying that “offense wins games, defense wins championships” and that is true, but the Knicks and their fans shouldn’t be too worried about championships right now, they need to win games first. Thusly, hiring a coach with a liberal offensive agenda will restore hope and excitement from the players, and that’s one of D’Antoni’s best skills. He’s very player-friendly, subscribes to positive reinforcement, and rewards his team for their attention with an opportunity to run and score. It’s been a long time since the Knicks players had fun, but they will be given that chance now. Of course, the Knicks roster isn’t as impressive as the Suns, but they can’t possibly be as bad as they’ve played under Thomas. We all understand that the roster is seriously flawed and won’t get better overnight, so who better than to allow mediocre players to run and gun than a nice guy that won’t terrorize them for their mistakes, as Thomas had done. Raja Bell and Boris Diaw were seldom-used reserves that became quality NBA starters under D’Antoni and a few Knicks will have the same opportunity. They won’t win a championship anytime soon with this squad, but they will be better, they will be more exciting to watch, there will be more optimism, and hiring D’Antoni will be seen as the best decision the Knicks have made in a decade.

It's true that the Knicks desperately need to reconfigure their roster, but the offense isn't talent-specific like the Triangle Offense. D'Antoni will allow the players' strengths to dictate the offense and they will love him for that. It's unlikely that these young millionaires will reject positive reinforcement after being humiliated by Thomas for so long. Optimism is infectious and the Knicks players will welcome this new philosophy. And, D'Antoni will allow his players a voice in the direction of the team. Most all players enjoy the concept of teamwork and a family atmosphere and that will happen now with this new coach. D'Antoni will be the polar opposite of what the Knicks have known for a decade and that will be welcomed. Consider this: The Knicks payroll was $88.8 million dollars this season. They won 23 games. That’s $3.8 million per victory. By comparison, the Charlotte Bobcats had the lowest payroll in the NBA at $57.7 million and they won 32 games for an average of $1.8 million per victory. The Knicks spent $31.1 million dollars more, but still lost 9 more games. That’s just terrible value. They needed a drastic change in philosophy and now they have it. The Knick have hope now.

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