Alright, look: I’m not defending the Knicks’ performance the last two nights. The team played rudderless ball, too often characterized by a pass and a heave. Very ugly. Reggie Miller caustically commented last night, “What kind of basketball is this?” I felt the same way. Pretty gross.
Twitter has just been ablaze with fans calling for D’Antoni’s head. I can’t say D’Antoni didn’t bring this on himself. From the moment he proclaimed the Knicks championship tinder, I felt uncomfortable. Whether the Knicks are ready for such proclamations, what ever happened to under-promising and over-delivering. Jamie O’Grady was prescient in this regard:
For better or worse, Gothamites tend to take each and every comment literally, and although the gist of D’Antoni’s point is valid – that this team has championship pieces, championship goals, and a championship price tag – he’s opened himself up to what will be scathing criticism and unrelenting pressure come June if the Knicks fail to deliver.
Well, forget about June. Fans were apparently willing to give D’Antoni no more than two losses before the Tweets and emails started rolling in begging for Phil Jackson (let’s make a deal: I’ll support the Phil/D’Antoni switcheroo after 3 games if you just get on the horn and make sure Phil’s on board before we ice D’Antoni, just in case) or Mike Woodson (…if you think the Knicks run too much ISO now…).
Yeesh. Sports fandom is an emotional pursuit, so often people don’t care for perspective, but as I mentioned on Twitter [1 (yea my numbers were wrong, it was late)], , , and as Dan Miranda nicely points out, this isn’t the first time the Knicks in general and D’Antoni Knicks specifically started out slowly:
The Knicks are not new to slow starts though. Last season, New York finished the first 11 games with a 3-8 record, then rattled off the next 13 of 14 wins. In the shortened 1999 season, the Knicks started 1-2 as well, then ended up in the NBA Finals against the Spurs in June.
Historically, Mike D’Antoni’s teams have gotten off to slow starts as well. In the 2006-07 season, the Phoenix Suns started 1-5 before they won 15 in a row. That team finished with 61 wins. In 2005-06, the Suns started 2-3, then looked back at their record in 15 games.
O’Grady hit the nail on the head again today:
Here’s the thing, though; a basketball team is only as good as its personnel, and until the Knicks’ “installation” is complete, blaming MDA for standard-definition performance on a high-definition set is as misguided as it is unfair.
At present, the Knicks have no point guard. Their PG-savior-in-waiting is weeks, perhaps more, away from beginning to learn the team’s offense.
New York’s second and third best on-the-ball defenders are injured.
We are only three games into the season. A season, mind you, that has seen an abbreviated training camp and just two preseason games, thanks to the lockout. Oh, and there’s that 50% roster-turnover since the 2010-11 campaign.
These incontrovertible facts would seem to suggest that D’Antoni deserves, like, more than one week before the apoplectic – in some cases politically motivated – media and fans scream for his deportation.
And despite the New York fan’s disdain for perspective, I thought I’d pile on a bit with some help from the trusty Basketball Reference. Here are some bad streaks (losses by 10 or more points) past Knicks teams have suffered:
- In 1971 (under Red Holzman – look him up) the Knicks made it to the finals against the Los Angeles Lakers (and lost), but on the way to the forum, they suffered a streak of three losses in a row by ten or more points. (1971-01-07 – 1971-01-14)
- The 1992-’93 Knicks, who won 60 games under Pat Riley, but lost to the Bulls in the Eastern Conference Finals suffered this exact fate, losing to the Blazers by 15, and then the Sonics and the Clippers by 10 each. (1992-11-16 – 1992-11-19)
- Your World Champion 1972-’73 New York Knicks shockingly lost two games in a row by 10 or more points as well. (1973-03-01 – 1973-03-03)
- And then, under Riley and TV announcer Jeff Van Gundy, it happened all these times:
So what’s the point? It’s chill, or as A-Z might say, “Sit back, relax, catchin’ contacts, sip your cog-nac”.
I’m not an old man, but I’ve been watching this team for two decades now, and I’m finding it amazing how worked up fans can get after two bad losses.
Get more great Knicks recaps and analysis over at KnicksFan.