GIVE THE MAN SOME TIME, AND SOME MORE TALENTBy Jared Zwerling
It's been exactly one month since Carmelo Anthony made his debut with the Knicks, and the team is still the second-best offensive team in the league. That's a credit to Mike D'Antoni being able to inject a flow into the new-look offense this late in the season with several new players, and getting his superstars touches in their sweet spots. Both Amare Stoudemire and Melo haven't had a major drop-off in scoring.
Even better, D'Antoni has them playing improved defense. While this might not say much: they've gone from second-worst to ninth-worst in points allowed since Melo arrived; this does: in the past four games, they've held their opponents to 100 or fewer points.
Despite the Knicks' ugly loss, the Celtics game on Monday proved the Knicks are one of the best teams through three quarters in the league, offensively and defensively. D'Antoni has a balanced foundation in place; he just needs to get his guys to carry that over to the final period.
Teams' abilities to close out opponents in the fourth quarter are a reflection of their experience and having the right pieces in place. Despite playing just 16 games together, D'Antoni's squad is competing against the East's premier teams. He has the team just inches away from making a strong first-round playoff push. Even Paul Pierce, after the Knicks-Celtics bloodbath, tweeted "Knicks r gonna b good."
Beyond that, it'll take a few roster upgrades for D'Antoni to show that he has what it takes to get these Knicks back to the conference finals, where he was with the Suns.
D'ANTONI HASN'T BEEN ABLE TO ADJUSTBy Ian Begley
The Knicks are a lock to make the postseason. But as currently constituted, they won't pose a threat to their first-round foe. And the blame for that will fall mainly with D'Antoni. The Knicks' current pieces don't fit into D'Antoni's up-tempo offense and he hasn't done enough to adjust to New York's new personnel.
The ball stops too frequently with Carmelo Anthony, and that's not something D'Antoni can fix in the final 12 games of the regular season. Ball movement was mostly fluid in the weeks before the Carmelo trade with Danilo Gallinari, Raymond Felton and Wilson Chandler in the fold. Now, it falls into a virtual black hole in Anthony's hands. D'Antoni has mentioned the need to make changes on offense to suit Anthony's game, but that hasn't happened yet. New York was 7-9 since Anthony's arrival and had lost six of seven entering play on Wednesday.
Another issue working against D'Antoni is the health of Chauncey Billups. The Knicks guard hasn't been the same since going down with a deep thigh bruise on March 1. He missed six games in early March; the Knicks are just 1-5 since his return. Historically, D'Antoni needs a top-notch floor general to run his offense efficiently (see Nash, Steve). And with Billups, a 34-year-old veteran, admittedly playing in pain for the rest of the year, the Knicks may not have one.
Those are just the offensive issues. Don't get me started on the defense under D'Antoni. That's a whole other Hot Button issue entirely.