As a head coach, D'Antoni publicly exhibits an identifiable management style with a specific personal code. D'Antoni tends to manage his men, at least publicly, in an autocratically-paternalistic kinda way; sorta like a parent who makes stubbornly makes with bad reasoning, but with the child's best interest at heart. Coach D'Antoni exhibits a personal code through which he engenders loyalty (and attempts to manage the team psyche) by trying to maintain some consistency in how he treats a certain manufactured class of individuals. For example, with playing time and the opportunity to contribute as the most important carrot on the stick D'Antoni gives veterans preferential treatment and the benefit of the doubt before making an obviously necessary roster decision. Players in the class of "starters with seniority" get even more benefit of the doubt. Players in the doghouse, sleep, eat and rollover in the doghouse.
His management style is not necessarily a negative coming from a coach who was a player and realizes that players need to work through errors and a variety of situations in order to learn, adapt and become better. But this style becomes counterproductive when perpetual, clear and convincing evidence shows that a particular situation is not working and will not ever work.
This style and code are particularly evident in how long it is taking D'Antoni to put rookie Iman Shumpert into the starter lineup to replace vet Toney Douglas or Landry Fields. To most of us, it had been evident since pre-season that Shump was going to crack the opening lineup before the end of the season. It was simply a matter of when and who he would replace. Yesterday, six games into the season and after the cries of "We want Shumpert" from an arena of not-so-in-the-closet manager-fans, D'Antoni was rumored to have put Shumpert in the starting line-up against the Wizards. He did not, although he used Shump to start the second half. After the game in which Shumpert played 37 minutes, had five steals, 7 assists, 3 boards and 10 points on 4 for 11 shooting while leading the team on a comeback from a double digit deficit, D'Antoni remained unwilling to commit to starting Shump for fear of "losing" Douglas. D'Antoni said “I still want to think about it. We don’t want to lose Toney, but we’ll do what we have to do.’
How do you lose Toney if you start Shump? Is the underlying assumption from manager D'Antoni that to strip Douglas of starting status in favor of Shumpert could bruise his ego and "lose" his tenacity and leadership. Would Toney fall into the black hole of the reserve bench next to Renaldo Balkman? Is D'Antoni protecting Douglas' confidence because he believes that it is that fragile, so fragile that Toney can't overcome being replaced after the fans booed him in favor of Shump? Does D'Antoni believe that his child, I mean player, is that thin-skinned that he is unable to overcome the adversity of losing his starting position?
If so, that would sound kinda silly to you, wouldn't it? First of all Toney Douglas is a man, a professional baller. Of course professional ballers, like all others, may lose confidence after facing some adversity, however the strength and growth of a player comes from handling adversity. If Douglas ultimately cannot handle adversity, then he needs to sit in favor of the very confident and skilled Shumpert. Second, why is sitting Toney the main option? Because Field's ego is more fragile? Isn't it clear that right now, Toney, Balkman and Walker are worthy replacements at the 2 guard for Fields?
IT'S NOT TONEY'S FAULT
Folks want to blame Toney Douglas, but it's not totally his fault. The problem starts higher up, even higher than D'Antoni, but the biggest problem is the way this collection of players is being managed and coached. Almost everybody in New York can see it, even the folks who are watching something else, like Criminal Minds or Millionaire Matchmaker, instead. I bet James Dolan sees it.
Our current back-court led by Toney Douglas as the starting point guard just will not cut it in this system, with these players. Remember, winning basketball is as much about matchups as anything else. I don't remember seeing this the past two years, but Douglas is too slow and his defensive technique too porous to guard most of the quick premier guards for extended minutes. He is simply over-matched. He doesn't get through or around the screens, the guards are shooting over him, he is almost flat-footed as he urges the guards to one side on iso's and they blow right by him. After he gets beat, he is not quick to recover and when he doubles down he is ineffective in the land of towers with the ball above their heads.
The bigger problem is that the defense breaks down after he gets beat -- either his bigs don't rotate fast enough or they don't rotate at all. In the Wizards game, the Knicks were losing early because of the front court D which was terrible, not because Wall was running amuck and around Toney. The bigs were getting beat by the Wiz shooters and fast breaking act. So it's not all Douglas' fault, but he can't be the lead one, the point, on this team especially since he is not a one. (As he is playing now, he would probably do a stellar job guarding most twos except for Ray Allen and Rick Hamilton).
The challenge with Toney Douglas as the point guard on offense is as much the offense as it is him. Why do people continue to front as though D'Antoni is running HIS preferred offense. Coach IS NOT running an uptempo, fastbreak offense, although on occassion we will see the ball fly up the court and to the rim faster than the in-bounder and the defense. That effort ended in total by the time "Half-court Melo" arrived. Douglas would probably perform better in an uptempo offense where he could use his speed (yes, speed) and youth to his advantage. In an uptempo scenario, he won't give up his dribble so quickly and he would get more open looks with the defense on it's heels and fewer tall defenders in the paint. The Knicks were more easily able to score when the ball was pushed up the court via pass from a big before the defense could set. Thereby, the Knicks players, such as Stat and Fields, would also have more room to attack the basket to their advantage. (Note: Fields is not a jump shooter. He is a scorer who relys on being able to work around the rim and loose balls. He benefits from movement and room on the floor.)
Instead, Toney has been asked to walk the ball up (like Chauncey could and did) and give it to Melo in the post or at the top of the arc or pass it laterally around the arc so everyone on the arc gets feel of the ball. With the defense set, it is almost impossible for him to drive successfully. Toney has a quick first step and is able to get into the lane, but he has difficulty finishing at the rim and making accurate passes on the drive. Against the Wizards' bigs in the paint, his shot was often blocked or he forced up a wild shot or a bad pass resulting in a turnover or bad shot attempt by a teammate. He rarely forces physical contact on his drives and does not regularly get foul calls. He is not Isiah Thomas or Raymond Felton, or Jamal Crawford for that matter, on the drive.
As a Knick fan, I am really pissed. I am not a coach. I don't pretend to be a great analyst but basketball doesn't require a genius to understand how to get a doggone ball into a basket with greater frequency. This is not a game of great strategy but one of simple principles that reveal themselves every year, in almost every game on almost every level of competition. You don't have to lose Toney. Just use him properly and put him in a situation where he can win.
Shumpert increases the possibilities on offense and defense. He is not a great shooter and he is not a point guard either. However, he is an athletic and tenacious all-round baller with serviceable and improvable skills in every area. He loves to defend and does not regularly get beat laterally. When he gets beat, he recovers very quickly and his 6' 10" wingspan (compared to Douglas' 6'6" one) benefit him when he fronts or trails whoever he defends. He's hard to get by and when you do he can strip you easily. And he has the heart and tenacity to do it. On offense, he is not afraid to drive; he draws attention and can pass the ball with accuracy off the dribble. His 42" max vertical is self-evident and most important he is smart and hungry (although I saw a scouting report question is Basketball IQ, whatever the hell that means). This youngster makes good decisions and knows how to use his gifts.
That said, Shumpert would do well teamed with Toney until Baron Davis got into shape. Such a pairing would allow him, Melo and Douglas to alternate sharing point duties and pushing the tempo on offense. It would make the offense less predictable and put Toney in the position to hit those tres which he can do as well, if not better, than Bibby. Douglas would not then have the pressure of running the offense all the time. Furthermore, putting the longer Shumpert on the opposing point on defense is smarter and allows Toney to hound the bigger and slower two guard. However, Toney still needs to learn how to fight the screens or he will get burned by the jump shooters off the curl. But better to get burned by the jumpshooters than guard penetration, right?
Bottom line: The Knicks would easily do better to start Shumpert at the one and Toney at the two; run the break to keep the d on it's heels and minimize Shump's weakness in the half-court offense; let Toeny guard the two so he can play the player and gamble on the lnes and let the longer, quicker Shumpert guard the 1. EASY! EASY! EASY! (Then sub Balkman in before Walker)
Lives, great article and analysis! Couldn't agree more about Antoni and Shumpert. Besides coaching flaws Antoni has serious personality flaws od pettiness that affect his reasoning.
I thought this excerpt in the NYT on Keith Smart was appropriate:
Among the lessons Smart said he learned from the coaches he has worked under is managing relationships with players.
“They tell you sometimes when you come into the N.B.A., that you can’t be close with the players,” Smart said. “But John Lucas proved that you can do that. He showed me how you can have a strong personal relationship with players around the league.”
Smart said he learned a number of things working with Nelson, but most important the value of “putting your best players in their best positions so they can make plays.”
In that vein, he said that he did not intend to force Cousins into a low-post game that he was not yet comfortable with, and that he would try to take some of the play-calling burden off of Evans.
“I think trying to let him run a team right now, he doesn’t have that ability yet,” Smart said. “But while I was managing the game with calls, he picked up a few and he called them, which I felt was some tremendous growth. That’s the next stage of his game.”
Smart is a coach who has always emphasized defense, but the Kings have personnel more suited to running the floor. Based on Smart’s time playing for Bob Knight at Indiana, however, he does not see those things as conflicting.
“Playing at Indiana, defense was going to be your calling card to stay in games, but you also wanted to run and you tried to focus on balance,” Smart said. “Coach Knight never said we had to be a defensive team or we had to be an offensive team, he just preached balance.”
He reiterated, when discussing his personnel, “I’m looking for balance.”
I agree Toney Douglas is not to blame. It's not his fault that he has been forced to play a position that he is not accustomed to playing. Shumpert and Davis will be the starting back court when healthy that will allow everyone on the team to play their proper position and play loose.
'Lives' your expertise in psycho-analyasis is unmatched. The drylongso appreciates your talent.
The Knicks do not play as a team that hates losing. The body language during the course of the game, the lack of defensive intensit,y and lack of spirits
ends the message that" we are here to do what we do, and if we win that would be nice". I don't see Kobe's killa instinct, or Chris Paul's" I'm going to go all out to win". Melo is mellow, and Stats is silent, (I see the George McGinnis shell after J arrived to steal his team and thunder). The only time they take things personally is when they are not getting their shots. The bottom line is that the Knicks lack a leader.
Backcourt--Can't get away from Chemistr. Omitting the front-court and focusing on the backcourt, the Knick starters lack Chemistry. The Knicks are attempting to play a guy that was a 2 in college(Douglass) & another guy that was a 3(Fields) together. Neither of these guys are leaders or alpha males(Rondo) which is what you need in the backcourt. These guys are deferring to the front-court at all times. Name a team that has won the title in the last 30 years that did not have at least one leader or alpha male in the backcourt. Magic, Cheeks/Toney, DJ & Ainge, Isiah, MJ,etc..
Peace & Blessings
Lives: Good piece on D'Antoni's interaction with his players. I am not sure if D'Antoni is being concerned about bruising ego's and showing sensitivity toward TD or has another agenda in mind. TD has had considerable time to make the transition from shooting guard to point guard, including over 2 years to learn D'Antoni's system as well as tutelage from Ray Felton and Chauncey Billups. TD just doesn't cut it in that role. He is at his best as a shooting guard coming off the bench when his energy provides a spark to the 2nd unit and is given more license to shoot a 3 ball without concern about orchestrating the team.
I doubt that D'Antoni sincerely cares about bruising ego's or sensibilities with regard to certain players--ex: Stephon Marbury. Nate Robinson, or Darko Milicec. Perhaps management is hoping for a good showcase game from TD to enhance his trade value. At any rate, balancing Shump with TD and Bibby at point guard is a pragmatic approach at this stage of the season, staying with the players or combinations that are most productive on the floor.
Ultimately, I envision a starting lineup of B Davis, Stat, Chandler, Melo and Shump -- with Fields, Harrellson and TD off the bench. I would, however, also like to see more of Taz Balkman on a 2nd unit, especially in up-tempo games. I beieve Jerome Jordan, who has both size and strength, can enhance the team''s rebounding needs. Jordan has some talent but needs exposure to develop a flow and feel for the NBA game. LGK
I see that a writer for the Post is also urging D'Antoni to start Shumpert. I told you it was OBVIOUSLY the right thing to do.
The new coach at Penn State is done before he starts. It is pure arrogance of the Penn State administration not to handle this in concert with their partners and constituents. Perhaps a change is necessary but college ball is as much about politics as anything else. Bill O'Brien is in a very tough position. He starts with much of the community against him. He may be a good football mind but he is going to need much political support. Will winning make things better? Will a more dominant offense overcome all offenses against the alums?
I doubt it. But it can be done. Kinda like a man from a proudly Italian Family engaging a non-italian white woman before giving his mom and the other women in the family proper heads-up. The woman can make the marriage work and eventually win over some family members, but she will always meet resistance and be talked about negatively by some members.
(Yes, I could easily substitute proud Italian with "proud catholics, proud blacks, proud Dominicans, proud Koreans, etc.. The analogy is about how family works. O'Brien is not a member of the family and may never be accepted because he was forced on everybody.)
Last night's LBE was ok. For the first half it was only me, Peaceman, a sleepy Ciaran and then Prince and O&B. Jay Bee amped up the quality. A lot of our guys were actually at the game and it was on a Friday night, but it was ok. The banter was great but the energy almost matched that of our Knicks.
Looks like I'm getting that writing feeling again. D'Antoni has me boiling. He has not been dealt the best hand, but he is not playing the one he has as well as he could.
I will set up the LBE. I will not participate as much because I spent too much time writing this article and that combined with setting up the LBE, posting the post-game video and prepapring for tomorrow's radio show has me well over my Knick-time allotment v. pay attention to my kids for the weekend. LOL!!! I'm not kidding. I could give them money and the teenager would be satisfied, but that doesn't work for a 4 year old boy or his mother, yet. So, I'll see you when I can tonight.
Is someone writing a preview of tonight's game?
Congratulations to Ciaran who is now also writing for the Bleacher Report!
Wow. I didn't realize that I was that pissed until I looked at all the verbiage I vomited on Douglas and Shumpert. Really, D'Antoni is pissing me off by ignoring stuff that is so obvious everybody sees it. the above is nothing that smart; it's just so freaking obvious. Don't you think?
Nate Robinson rejoined David Lee last night as a member of the Warriors. He played well but they could not stop Kobe. Great for Nate.
Yep, George McGinnis/Dr. J comes to my mind too.
What do you think about Shump coming from Chi-town and fighting with his big brothers to develop that defensive intensity? Killer Instinct?
I tend to agree more with Prince about the role Douglas should play on the team in terms of his ability to score in bunches and provide a spark to the 2nd unit. I think a Shumpert Douglas pairing works in tandem with Melo as Lives described it as a way of providing more depth to the points of attack on offense with Douggie and Shump representing the teams initial volley on a fast tempo attempt and Melo providing the team the half court option and focus when the game slows down or gets forced into a slow down. I suppose when BDiddy returns Douglas or Shump or both can return to the pine. though Shumps length on defense makes him a more likely keeper on the starting squad to defend the bigger shooting guards. A 2n unit of Fields, Douggie, Harrellson and at times either a mixture of Walker or Balkman could proide energy and push tempo depending n which members of the team's starters the 2nd unit is paired with. Seriously the more and more I see the product ont he court, I get the feeling that the HC is a Charlatan and that the prodcut on the court being promoted is just empty sizzle w/ litte steak or if you prefer "eat and potatoes." @Post_up_Prince
@Post_up_Prince Thanks Prince. I don't know with certainty what D'Antoni's agenda is, but he has made it clear the three years he has been here that his starters will not be easily replaced and that he is concerned about their psyche. Neither Marbury, Robinson of Milicic fell into the class of preferred players. Marbury was a disgruntled employee in a fight with a disgruntled owner who refused to let him go outright, but decided to screw up D'Antoni's first pre-season by foricng D'Antoni to pretend to treat Marbury fairly. We saw how that worked. Nate wasn't a D'Antoni guy though he tried to work with him. But once he was in the doghouse, whether wrongfully, he received no favors. Who is Darko? Was he part of teh everchanging corp of centers who did not fit in D'Antoni's scheme of things.
My best example of keeping a starter too long is, what's his name, Chris Duhon. Now where is he a starter. Oh, he's with that other starter Larry Hughes in Orlando isn't he. Oh and what about the other person given much respect and free starter rehab time on the Knicks dime -- Tracey McGrady -- who I am very happy for right now by the way. And remember when Quentin Richardson was outta shape and stinking it up for us, before he left to workout with D-Wade and look like a different person for the Heat.
(BTW, Don't you love those Grant Hill McGrady come back stories). So I am positive that he manages folks based on his notion of what constitutes respect and instills loyalty.
@Lives Getting corroboration from the Post is hardly validation. The fans are often a better barometer and the fans clearly want more of Shump.
'Lives' you see arrogance and I see sacrifice & strategy. The administration at Penn St. realize that whomever took the job was in a no win predicament. Due to the criminal charges, NCAA & Big10(+1+1) sanctions the next coach is sure to have a losing record or not meet Penn St. standards. The next coach(O'Brien) wil be fired in 3-4 years. Penn St. administration did not want to be in position of having to fire someone in the "family", so they went outside. O'Brien's replacement will come from the "family" and will bring the different factions together. This will allow folks to recall Joe Pa in a positive light because winning is what matters.
Peace & Blessings
@Lives Agreed. Many of us were somewhat down as a reflection of how poorly the Knicks were playing against one of the weaker team in the League. I also believe I could offer more active commentary if I didn't have to toggle so much between the LBE and the First Row Sports streaming video--with periodic ads and buffering slowdowns-- of the game.
@Lives As usual I'll do some show time. Though I'm catching the Bengals v. Texans game with my dad. That's his team and I have to support the old coot.
keep in mind Nate was picked 15 spots above LEE. I hope he does well with GSW.... and rasies his stock. No way LIN makes my team over Nate .....EVEN THE FANTACY LEAGUE HAS NATE AS A RINGER ON THE CHEAP
@Orange_and_Blue@Post_up_Prince As most folks mention, I think Douglas eventually goes to the pine and brings some fire power to the second unit. He will also be helped, I think, by having better defenders than our big three, including Chandler. As someone mentioned, Davis won't be in playing shape for a long time, perhaps the end of the season since he does not have a penchant for taking care of his body. If he gets in shape and is in top bball form, I can see his work in the first unit including Shumpert and leading to lots of wins.
(I don't know but our standard for big guys is pretty lofty and Chandler is OK but he is clearly a piece and not the piece. His defensive skills must be enhanced by the team playing better defense. Otherwise he looks rather ordinary to me.)
@Post_up_Prince LOL! Yes, I agree but I was not siting the post as corroboration, just proof that any fool can figure it out. Ha Ha Ha.
@Statesman Do you really think they're that smart or that prescient? I think you are giving them more credit than they deserve.
I actually picked up the "arrogance" from the statement made by the leader of the alum lettermen organization and the responses by the former players who've met with the administration. It could be that they are just unhappy that they were not consulted. That would automatically make the AD arrogant in their eyes.
Either way, at some point they will need to deal with the family issues.
@Post_up_Prince Understood. I am trying to hook a second monitor to my computer so I can do both, but it is not working out so far.
What I do now, although I have MSG, is I have both the First Row Sports small screen and the LBE on the set with the LBE in a smaller screen over the game. It's a bit awkward but I miss less of the game while typing.
'Lives' Penn St. football is an 80mil/yr. business before the ancillary business. They know that all programs take a hit for a few years(Oklahoma, USC, Bama Michigan), all had down years and then brought in the right coach to get them back on top. It took some of the schools a few coaches , but the money is back to rolling. College sports is business