Maybe it’s just me (I certainly hope not), but I just can’t join the big love-in that is going on with D’Antoni heading to New York. Is he a good enough coach that he can adjust his 7 seconds or less offense to suit what he has on hand or is he going to try to force what he has become known for into a team that doesn’t have the tools to handle it? You could argue that the guy who would have best fit into D’Antoni’s run and gun style is now playing for the Nuggets: Renaldo Balkman. Balkman wasn’t lighting up the scoreboard on a regular basis, but the guy could get up and down the court and showed some skills that could have turned him into an effective player given D’Antoni’s style. I guess we’ll never know.
The Knicks brought in Chris Duhon to try to shore things up on the PG front, but let’s be honest, this guy isn’t what people try to make him into. He takes 3’s when there is no need to and when you shoot 34.8% from behind the arc, you had better be getting some good looks. He’s a decent distributor of the ball, but when you have Quentin Richardson and David Lee as part of the tandem finishing for you, don’t look for your assist stats to start flying through the roof.
Speaking of David Lee, he will probably see a lot more minutes under D’Antoni, just because the guy is all about hustle. He can get up and down the court and likes to bang to grab a rebound, so you might see him getting a lot of follow up baskets. This scenario might become quite frequent: Lee gets defensive rebound, outlets to Duhon, hustles down the court, grabs the rebound off a miss and goes right back up. He’s a good free throw shooter at 81.9%, so if he can continue that trend, he might be looking at a career year.
The thing with running an offense that focuses on, well, running, is that you have to have a solid bench and this just isn’t the case in New York. The Knicks bench is a series of kicks in the balls, each one bringing more unbelievable pain than the next. Jared Jeffries. Nate Robinson. Wilson Chandler. Eddy “Pass Me The” Curry, Stephon Marbury. Ouch. If guys are going to come off the court huffing and puffing after running D’Antoni’s offense, they had better not look to the bench to get a rest. There are two guys there who can realistically run in D’Antoni’s offense. Marbury and Robinson. Marbury actually had a lot of success with it in Phoenix when he was there, but is he really interested in playing anymore? And as for Robinson, this guy is a circus act. Sure, he can run, but he’s the type of guy who is going to try to use this offense to create highlight reels for himself and that just isn’t what it is about.
Zach Randolph is likely going to have some kind of blowup at some point during the season and you might even want to keep an eye on that taking place with D’Antoni. D’Antoni wants guys who will hustle and while Randolph puts up good numbers, hustle just isn’t part of his vocab. “Confrontation” is part of his vocab, so get the extinguisher ready for the fires that are sure to come.
The Knicks are going to be better and they may get out to some early leads on teams and then fight to keep that lead come the end of the game, but in the end, they will be better. But while D’Antoni is a good coach, he isn’t a magician and he can’t turn a team half full of bums into the Phoenix Suns.
How They Match Up Against the Raptors
If the Raptors decide to actually guard Jamal Crawford this season, they will take care of the Knicks. But they can’t have episodes of those disastrous nights last season where they made Crawford look like the second coming of Michael Jordan. The good thing about the Raptors this season is that they actually might be a bit tougher, as in stronger with the addition of O’Neal. While O’Neal won’t match up directly against Crawford, don’t think that you will see him walking through the lane for his 30th point without O’Neal reminding him where he is. We have already seen this in the preseason where O’Neal has knocked a few guys around. If the Knicks want to run, they might find that the Raptors can run with them, if not better than them, so it might not work in their favour against Toronto. The key for the Raptors will be staying focused on their game and controlling the pace.