Photo: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images
Mike D’Antoni resigned last March, his tenure as Knicks coach ending with a 121-167 record and a flurry of rumours about tension with star Carmelo Anthony.In an ironic twist, the Knicks have used the offensive philosophy D’Antoni was never able to implement, and the type of personnel D’Antoni never had, to sprint out to a conference-best 16-5 record nine months later.
Here’s what we mean:
The Knicks are winning with a ton of pick-and-roll and three-point shooting right now, just like D’Antoni’s teams. First thing’s first, the 2012-13 Knicks don’t run even close to as much as D’Antoni likes to run (they play the 7th-slowest pace in the league). But the core of their offence is this:
- Pick and roll between Raymond Felton and Tyson Chandler
- Carmelo Anthony isolations
- Three-point shooting when Carmelo is doubled
The Knicks are spreading teams out, breaking down the defence on pick and roll, and whipping the ball around the perimeter to find the open shooter. They’re leading the league in 3-pointers made per game, just like D’Antoni’s Suns teams did between 2005 and 2007.
The Knicks are playing small. D’Antoni popularised the concept of a “stretch 4” (a traditional small forward playing power forward) in Phoenix, and now a ton of NBA teams are doing it, including the Heat with LeBron James and the Knicks with Carmelo Anthony.
Playing Carmelo at power forward has created all sorts of space on the floor, and is the biggest single reason why the Knicks have the 2nd-best offence in the league. For whatever reason, D’Antoni was unable to get ‘Melo to buy in to playing in the post while he was coach. But he’s doing it now.
The Knicks brought in a true point guard and shooters. This is the thing that must annoy D’Antoni the most.
His four-year tenure was plagued by an ever-changing roster that never seemed to have the right mix of players to make his offence work. He never had a true point guard to run the pick-and-rolls that make his system effective, and he never had the three-point shooters to give all that ball movement a consistent payoff.
And then, the summer after he left the team, the Knicks went out and signed those type of guys.
They traded for Felton, a true point guard who previously thrived under D’Antoni in his brief 2010 spell with NY.
They signed Steve Novak, Jason Kidd, JR Smith, and even Rasheed Wallace, all capable 3-point shooters.
As D’Antoni returns to MSG tonight as coach of the Lakers, his old team is 16-5 — a mutant, albeit slower version of a prototypical D’Antoni squad that plays small, hits a ton of threes, and creates mismatches off pick-and-roll.
All it took, apparently, was his resignation.
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