There are critics of President Obama that often accuse him of using George W. Bush as a scapegoat for everything that's wrong with the country. Those critics wonder when Obama will stop looking back to the previous administration and take ownership of the situation without removing himself from the equation.
It's starting to feel a lot like that around the Knicks. Donnie Walsh and Mike D'Antoni got a lot of love and a lot of leeway during their first season simply because they weren't Isiah Thomas. They came in with big talk about change, plans for the future and forward progress, but seven games into Year Two we're beginning to wonder if they actually can accomplish anything more than simply not being Thomas.
This team is moving backward right now and both men deserve some share of the blame. D'Antoni talks a lot about stressing defense, and then he plays guys big minutes when they clearly have no interest in actually playing any of it when they're on the court. No one outside of Danilo Gallinari can make a jump shot, yet there's never any response to players launching brick after brick and players who are supposed to be part of the future, i.e. Jordan Hill, are buried for guys who don't care because they know they are just placeholders.
Worst of all, Wilson Chandler has regressed terribly through the early part of this season. He's one of the few guys that the Knicks have to use as a foundation for the future, and his play this season makes you wonder why, if he's such a great coach, D'Antoni can't get something more out of his athletic ability.
It's hard to kill D'Antoni too much, however, because he's simply playing the cards he's been dealt by Walsh. All praise will go to him if he actually pulls off the LeBron James signing, but it's hard to see that he's aware of the job that needs to get done before next offseason. The Knicks got crushed by the Bucks on Saturday night, and it was hard to ignore the fact that some of the players doing the crushing had names like Charlie Bell, Ersan Ilyasova and Jodie Meeks.
Bell wasn't drafted, while Ilyasova and Meeks were second-round picks. All over the NBA, similarly unheralded players are playing big roles on teams better than the Knicks. Since taking over the Knicks, Walsh has shown no creativity in player acquisitions, he's shown no affinity for uncovering other people's trash and no interest in giving time to unproven players at the expense of retreads like Larry Hughes. It would be interesting to hear him explain why that's the case. His whole pitch has been about a brighter future, but there appears to be absolutely no interest in developing players who can be a part of it.
There was another thing clear in the Bucks game. Not drafting Brandon Jennings was a brutal mistake by Walsh. He's already as good as Chris Duhon and presumably will get better once he's got more than two weeks under his belt in the NBA. For a team that desperately needs good point guard play and is getting nothing out of Hill, that kind of blunder is inexcusable. On draft night it seemed as if the Knicks were only prepared to draft Stephen Curry, and his absence from the board forced Walsh to scramble.
We're all aware of the need to get under the salary cap and the dizzying promises of free agent goodies coming to town in June, but that's just a positive spin on throwing up your hands and saying Isiah left us with nothing to work with. Neither D'Antoni nor Walsh have done much of anything to make the Knicks a better team in the short term, which is unacceptable no matter the confines of the situation they inherited.
Throwing the blame on Thomas has already gotten old, but it will be downright stale if they keep trying it while running out a team as bad as anything Isiah ever put together. That's where they're headed, because progress is nowhere in sight at Madison Square Garden.