After Monday evening’s disappointing 96-86 loss to the Boston Celtics at Madison Square Garden, the New York Knicks dropped to 7-9 and 35-35 overall since the acquisition of Carmelo Anthony.
During this span, the Knicks have fallen to vastly inferior teams, including the Cleveland Cavaliers (twice), the worst team in the NBA, the Indiana Pacers (twice), the Detroit Pistons and the Milwaukee Bucks.
New York’s latest defeat came at the hands of a team tied for the best record in the Eastern Conference, who overcame a nine-point deficit with seven minutes left in the game to deal the Knicks their third consecutive loss.
In the aftermath, as is always the case in the Big Apple pressure cooker, fans, reporters and talk show radio hosts alike have congregated to commence a witch hunt, with head coach Mike D’Antoni winning by a landslide as the object of their contempt.
This is the same Mike D’Antoni who was asked to take over the reins of a team expected to be cellar dwellers, until the salary cap mess created by the previous regime was cleaned up. Now that he’s just been given some of the tools he needs to succeed, there are already calls for his job.
Can it be called justice when D’Antoni is being labeled the scapegoat for the slow adjustment to a blockbuster trade that shook up the majority of his starting rotation? Likewise, can a guilty verdict has been rendered when he’s had less than a quarter of a season to have everything running like a well-oiled machine?
The answers to these questions should be a resounding “No,” but the New York sports arena can oftentimes be an unforgiving place.
So instead of excitement building for the Knicks’ first playoff appearance in six years, the focus has become whether D’Antoni is the right man for the job.
With 12 games left in the season, New York has more victories than the team has averaged in the last nine (31) and are on the cusp of their first non-losing season since 2001.
Nevertheless, all that can be heard is grumbling and murmuring throughout the city about D’Antoni, whose first two seasons should really be considered a wash for all intents and purposes.
Championships aren’t won, and dynasties aren’t built, in 16 games.
Patrick Ewing’s great run with the Knicks didn’t begin until his third season, Kobe Bryant didn’t win his first ring until his fourth and it took Michael Jordan seven seasons before he could finally wrap his arms around the Larry O’Brien Championship Trophy.
By all accounts, the Knicks are still an unfinished project because, although Amar’e Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony form a superlative foundation, even more pieces need to be added before the team truly becomes a viable championship contender.
Until they do, anyone clamoring for D’Antoni’s firing at the end of the season should be ashamed.
The Knicks are in a state of flux, and D’Antoni deserves a stable nucleus to work with, for a significant period of time, before any aspersions are cast.