Tuesday , Nov , 04 , 2008 Christopher Sells

Let D’Antoni Coach

Let D'Antoni CoachIf you take a look at the Knicks’ season stats page, you’ll find only 11 players listed. No big deal right? It just means that Mike D’Antoni just hasn’t gotten around to playing that 12th man yet. It is pretty early in the season after all. New York has only played three games this season. That unlucky player has 79 more chances to feel like a real NBA player.

A closer look reveals this, however. The players on New York’s roster who haven’t seen the court outside of practice and warmups are Jerome James, Eddy Curry, Jared Jeffries and Stephon Marbury. Those players will earn a combined $42.8 million this year. Yes, really.

To be clear, Jeffries is out with a broken leg suffered in a preseason practice but should return near the end of the month. Curry is listed with a bruised knee, though he was never in the Knicks’ rotation in the first place. James took Curry’s spot on the roster but is unlikely to get any playing time. And Marbury’s saga has been well-chronicled by much of the local, and even national, media.

Here’s my point though: Why does it matter? Who cares? Joey Dorsey hasn’t seen a minute in his young career with the Rockets and no one seems to have noticed. Sure it’s because he’s a relatively unknown rookie and plays behind an established froncourt. But the coach is the person who has decided that he hasn’t deserved time just yet.

This brings me back to D’Antoni. When he was hired last year, it was very clear that changes would be made on the team. So in the cases of Curry, James and Marbury, it’s not completely surprising that they haven’t played. D’Antoni-coached teams play uptempo, which requires a great deal of conditioning and a point guard who can push the ball and make good decisions.

Those three players, at least according to D’Antoni, don’t fit his plans. It’s his team and he’s allowed to make those decisions, right? He is the guy who has been watching them play and judging their abilities since he took the job. If anyone should know, it would be him.

However, there have been differing opinions from fans and even from the front office. Donnie Walsh has been interviewed and is expressing that there needs to be some sort of compromise in the Marbury situation and the NBA Players Association is rumored to be involved. Sure, he’s probably a better player than Chris Duhon and Nate Robinson. Yes, he’s currently making nearly $21 million to sit on the bench in street clothes. But that’s the coach’s decision right?

Clearly coaching isn’t what it used to be. In the NBA, the head coach is expected to manage players’ egos and situations while still putting forth a quality on-court product. When the team doesn’t perform as expected, the coach is typically the first person to take the blame. Never mind that he isn’t the person lacing up his sneakers and playing, he’s going to get canned most times because it’s easier to replace a coach than to overhaul your roster.

In the case of the Knicks, people should really let D’Antoni do this his way. He’s only been at this for three regular-season games. What he’s doing might just work out, but even if it doesn’t, let him have some time to implement his system. He has already been yanked from his Corvette and forced to drive a Hyundai. Give him some time to get used to driving a four cylinder and make some upgrades where he feels they are necessary.

In the meantime, everyone should let the Knicks be the Knicks. They are what they have been in the past and what most logical minds expected they would be so far this year. But it’s still early. When things turn around, everyone will know it. Until then, let D’Antoni do his job his way.