Posted Jan 27 2012 9:00AM - Updated Jan 27 2012 10:45AM
Is it time already for the Knicks to admit a mistake, blow up the team and start over again?
Could be, judging from the results, the spotty chemistry, the limitations of their superstars, the alarming lack of depth and the look on coach Mike D'Antoni's face.
This would be a sucker punch to New Yorkers who endured a lost decade of basketball, believing the Knicks were finally done with drama and bad basketball.
Well, look what the Knicks just found again.
Yes, you could say the sooner the Knicks realize they're hardly a team on the road to a championship, and the quicker they pull the cord on this failing experiment, the better off they'll be. Or should they proceed and run the risk of going through another skid like the last several years?
On Friday night, the Knicks will venture into Miami not that much better record-wise than a few years ago, when they were building for the future. Except the future is here, the Knicks are 7-11 and they're fading fast.
"I can't figure it out," Carmelo Anthony said.
They have a coach whose system appears to be a bad fit, a pair of stars who aren't compatible, a one-dimensional center and role players filling out most of the rotation. Wasn't this supposed to be the year of big and noticeable change at the Garden? The year the Knicks left all the trouble behind? When they distanced themselves from the Isiah Thomas era and brought back excitement and hope? When they finally cashed in after wasting at least three years dumping dead weight and salary off a sinking ship?
Well ... what happened?
We can start with the 'Melo trade. Knicks owner Jim Dolan gets blamed for a lot of things, but "interfering" was never one of them. He was no George Steinbrenner, who overruled Yankee general managers for years and yet won championships anyway. Dolan hired GMs and let them do their job, which is fine, except the GMs he hired were bad.
When he finally landed a competent one in Donnie Walsh, Dolan picked a fine time to get involved.
Walsh argued against giving up starters and a first-rounder for 'Melo. The package was too steep, and besides, reasoned Walsh, the Knicks could simply sign 'Melo in the offseason and keep most of their team intact. 'Melo wanted a max contract under the old labor deal, and therefore threatened to force a trade to the Nets instead, but Walsh wanted to take that risk. Dolan evidently didn't. And so 'Melo became a Knick, at the expense of Danilo Gallinari, Wilson Chandler and Ray Felton, players who started and filled significant roles.
After the Knicks' embarrassing and ironic loss to the Nuggets, 'Melo's old team, last weekend, they fell to 20-24 since the trade, Denver rose to 30-12. Does anything else need to be said?
Well, yes. 'Melo is a lethal scorer, and when he's feeling frisky, few can guard him or match his flow. But he also needs plenty of shots and assumes a major role on the offensive end. And that reduces the touches for Amar'e Stoudemire who, like 'Melo, needs the ball.
If the Knicks had a point guard skilled enough to control the ball and decide who gets it, that would help. But good luck trying to squeeze life out of Baron Davis when he returns. With no other such player on the roster, 'Melo often takes it upon himself to make something happen, and even he wondered aloud recently: "Maybe I'm shooting too much."
When he's making shots or not -- and 'Melo is hitting 39 percent, hurt by a 35-for-105 stretch over four games and a nicked-up body -- the Knicks are troubled. That's because, aside from Stoudemire, there's no other scoring threat. Those players are in Denver.
"We've got to find a way to score," D'Antoni moaned after the Knicks rolled up 81 points on the Cavs.
Suddenly, the Knicks seem all wrong for D'Antoni, whose teams in Phoenix had multiple weapons and used them to run up the score. His fast-paced offense also had Steve Nash, who might cure the Knicks in the short-term if they trade for him by March (they're short on tradeable assets, though) or sign him this summer through free agency. But let's emphasize "short term" because Nash turns 39 next season.
So what can the Knicks do? Their (protected) first-rounder belongs to the Rockets. They can write a hefty luxury tax check by getting Nash and/or another free agent, but the A-listers -- Deron Williams and Dwight Howard -- are likely headed elsewhere. Mainly, the Knicks are all but stuck with 'Melo and Stoudemire because of their massive salaries. Even if the Knicks found a taker for Stoudemire, his knees can't be insured because of a pre-existing injury (he's playing now thanks to microfracture surgery) and they wouldn't get much in return.
"Expectations are still high," 'Melo said. "Things will still be great."
Of immediate concern is the future of D'Antoni, especially if the Knicks suffer an early playoff exit or miss the postseason completely. Fans at the Garden chanted for Phil Jackson last week, but although Jackson might be intrigued about working in New York, he's a finisher -- meaning, he coaches teams that are ready to win championships. That's not the Knicks, not in their current state. Besides, coaching is a young man's game.
So here the Knicks are, again. The next move really belongs to Dolan. You know, the person who already has made one too many.
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