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Knicks won't contend for title like this
The math of the New York Knicks doesn’t add up. You take a bunch of star players, throw them together with a modern star coach, join the trend, walk and talk like the elite, and what do you get? Mush.
With four seconds left against the Boston Celtics on Friday night, the Knicks, down two points, put journeyman 3-point shooter Steve Novak into the game for the first time. Cold, he chucked up an air ball at the buzzer while the team’s stars watched. Celtics, 91-89.
“They were triple-teaming me,” Carmelo Anthony said.
“They denied myself the ball,” Amar’e Stoudemire said, talking about a double-team.
See what I mean about math? If three guys were on 'Melo and two on Stoudemire, then the other three Knicks were completely uncovered, right? Yet they heaved up a 3-pointer.
The Knicks are done. They haven’t won a championship in nearly 40 years, and this slapped-together attempt has failed miserably. Mike D’Antoni is done, too. Who knows when he’ll be fired. But it will be soon. Maybe weeks, maybe days. What time is it now?
His theories don’t work. His team doesn’t play together. He doesn’t believe in defense.
The lesson is that maybe the NBA championship doesn’t just automatically go to the team with the most stars after all. Stars help, of course. But is it possible that on top of that, it takes coaching, teamwork and defense? The Knicks don’t have any of those things. They just have star power. And an 8-15 record. The Philadelphia Eagles learned the same lesson this year.
To be fair, it’s impossible to pass up superstars when you have the chance to get them. But you need more. And maybe our definition of superstar should include defense.
It’s just not easy to discard stars. There is a certain skill, or maybe even an art, to dealing with them. Garnett, who played well Friday, is playing old. He and Allen aren’t going to be main pieces in a championship team anymore.
So if the Celtics want to get real value back to start to rebuild, they have to get rid of their best player, Pierce.
Same with the Knicks. Stoudemire has lost his explosiveness and cannot just drive and dunk on anyone at any time anymore. He is becoming a jump shooter. He’s a good one, but not great. He and Anthony do not mix well together. But Stoudemire is untradeable. Like the Celtics, then, if the Knicks want to start building again, they are going to have to get rid of their best player. Yes, that would be Anthony.
And you can’t do that.
Of course, this is just a theory. If the Knicks all play as well as they possibly can, then there is still zero chance that they can beat the Chicago Bulls in a seven-game playoff series. The Bulls have Derrick Rose, yes, but they built their team on defense, depth and teamwork. Meanwhile, the Denver Nuggets took the pieces they got for Anthony, and now are far better than they were with him. And far better than the Knicks.
So are the Bulls and Nuggets examples that the classic fundamentals of basketball still matter? Maybe. But neither of those teams has won a championship lately, either. It is possible that a team based on classic fundamentals is great for the regular season, but not the postseason, when rotations are shortened and games are turned over to the best players.
Well, first things first with the Knicks: D’Antoni. His theory that you can win a championship without defense is a failure. Phoenix wanted him out because of it. And the Knicks insisted on hiring, basically, a defensive coordinator, Mike Woodson, to work with D’Antoni. At this point, it’s hard to remember what was appealing about D’Antoni in the first place.
In contrast, Boston coach Doc Rivers talked about how his team wasn’t playing well Friday, and why it managed to come back anyway: “We never established rhythm on either end. . . . It was frustrating. Guys were missing shots, turning the ball over. And I just said, ‘Guys, our defense is bailing us out. This is going to be a defensive win. We’re just going to hang in there, and somehow we’re going to steal this.’ ”
After the game, D’Antoni tried to explain his strange move at the end, going to Novak, by saying he was trying to get a shot. He said something or other about having great looks at the basket, two minutes of rebounding the Knicks didn’t do and having a thin margin of error.
Anthony, who had 26 points, seemed to think the problem was the other guys, not the stars.
“I told my teammates every time I catch it, they were sending two, three guys at me. ‘Just be open; I’ll find you.’ I found Shump (Iman Shumpert) for a wide-open 3. . . . He missed it. The other time down the court, I found Landry (Fields) in the corner. He had a great look. He missed it.
“I really couldn’t plan against three guys. It’s tough out there. The only thing I can do when someone double-teams or triple-teams me is to find the open man. That’s what I did tonight.”
After he finished blaming his teammates, I asked him if chemistry matters in basketball and if the Knicks have any.
“It means a lot,” he said. “I can feel the chemistry coming.”
Wrong. He and Stoudemire are just a terrible combo. They don’t add up, not with this coach and this mess. They are just bad math.