Coming into the shortened 2011-12 NBA season, most had the New York Knicks as one of the top three to five teams in the East. Despite an undeniable lack of depth, the defensive and rebounding boost believed to have been added with the signing of Tyson Chandler seemed to be enough to put New York a notch below the Miami Heat and Chicago Bulls, but above just everyone else in the conference.
It wasn’t. And following an impressive victory over the aging Boston Celtics to kick the year off, the Knicks quickly devolved into a miserable, sputtering losing team with zero in the way of championship prospects. Outside of a brief ray of hope when Jeremy Lin led a Carmelo Anthony-less version of this group on an extended winning streak against lousy teams, non-stop disappointment has been the story of the season for New York.
As you would expect, all the losing seems to have taken a toll on everyone involved with the organization. A mere two wins in the last ten games has done more than just reaffirm that head coach Mike D’Antoni is a goner sooner rather than later, though, it’s also supposedly put Anthony’s future with the team in jeopardy.
According to a report by the New York Daily News:
…at least one member of James Dolan's inner circle wants to trade Anthony for the same reason the Knicks acquired him 13 months ago: money.
There is a feeling inside the organization that it makes business, and to a lesser degree basketball sense, to sever ties with Anthony, the perennial All Star who has struggled since returning from a groin injury. The Knicks are 2-8 with Anthony back in the lineup including a six game losing streak.
For what it’s worth, the same article notes that James Dolan and MSG President Scott O’Neil remain in Anthony’s corner. Neither man, apparently, is ready to give up on the superstar just yet.
Unfortunately, D’Antoni doesn’t seem to be getting the same benefit of the doubt from anyone. Even though he famously never really wanted Anthony in the first place, he's the one shouldering the blame for the oil and water combination that the pair seems to be.
Dolan created a leadership void by removing Donnie Walsh and leaving D'Antoni, who has a 121-167 record, as a lame duck coach. The Knicks idea of a shadow front office isn't working. It contributes to the confusion in the locker room and in turn that's made Anthony the convenient scapegoat.
Another report by Chris Broussard of ESPN noted that Knicks players, as a result of this ongoing soap opera, are completely tuning out D’Antoni’s attempts to lead this team out of the pits. Per the story:
D'Antoni, hailed as an offensive genius during his successful tenure in Phoenix, has lost the Knicks' locker room, the sources say.
"The players like Mike as a person," one source said. "They think he's a good guy. But he doesn't have the respect of the team anymore."
In addition to questioning D'Antoni, players are complaining about playing time, and confused about the offensive and defensive schemes.
At this point it seems to be a matter of when and not if D’Antoni gets the boot. Whereas Anthony may not be making himself any friends with his refusal to mesh into the offense and buy into the current system -- to say nothing of his reported lack of leadership -- moving him in a trade a.) would be really hard and b.) doesn’t make much sense.
Because the Knicks aren’t actually in position to make trades before the deadline outside of possibly moving Toney Douglas, this unit that will play out the season as is. Come the offseason, though, it looks like major changes from the top all the way down are inevitable.
Update: Mike D'Antoni has quit.