The Sharks are Circling Mike D'Antoni

Slow start for Knicks has crosshairs on the coach

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    NEWSLETTERS

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    The criticism is mounting for Mike D'Antoni.

    Tides turn quickly in New York.

    After the Knicks signed Tyson Chandler and beat the Celtics in the opening game of the season, people were pretty fired up about the state of the Knicks.

    Five games and four losses later, the atmosphere is very different.

    Part of that is just the nature of playing in the biggest market in the country where reasonable excuses for sketchy play -- injuries to key pieces, the difficulties of forming a team on the fly -- aren't enough to satisfy those looking for positive results.

    But some of it is also because the problems plaguing this year's Knicks, particularly their woeful defense, are the same problems that have hindered the team since Mike D'Antoni got to town.

    So far, the decision to hire Mike Woodson as a defensive coordinator, so to speak, has borne absolutely no fruit.

    Whether it is accurate or not, the perception is going to be that D'Antoni's complete disinterest in the defensive side of things plays a role in the disinterested effort his team puts forth on that end of the court far too often.

    And, unlike past seasons, D'Antoni's offense isn't bailing out the defense. Everyone knew that point guard play was going to be an issue this season, but plenty of people expect that an offensive mind as innovative as D'Antoni's should be able to figure out a way to work around that shortcoming to keep the motor running.

    When you throw in D'Antoni's decision to say some bold things about championship expectations in the run-up to the season (heretofore known as the Rex Ryan cautionary tale), that's enough for his seat to start getting uncomfortably warm. There were plenty of boos in Madison Square Garden in the two losses this week, and D'Antoni is now dodging arrows slung by Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports and Marc Berman of the Post as the team heads to Washington for a game against the winless Wizards.

    Calling the seventh game of any season a must-win is ridiculous, especially when last year's team started 3-8 and the Knicks stank in the regular season after the last lockout before advancing all the way to the Finals. But it certainly feels like things could head downhill in a hurry thanks to the perfect storm of heightened expectations, a lame-duck coach and a team that looks a lot more like mismatched parts than a cohesive unit. 

    If the Knicks finish out January with a winning record and signs that better days are still to come, all of this will seem like nothing more than a wild overreaction after too much time without basketball. If not, though, these shots across the bow will become a full-fledged drumbeat for D'Antoni's head and there won't be all that much he can do to convince the masses that he's the wrong man for the job.

    Josh Alper is a writer living in New York City. You can follow him on Twitter and he is also a contributor to Pro Football Talk.