Outside of the armed services, it's hard to think of many people more concerned with conformity than athletic coaches. They like their players to be seen and not heard, prefer when schedules are followed with precision and rarely make changes for the sake of change because that might open the door to the possibility that they could actually be wrong about something. Those predilections are what make a decision made by Mike D'Antoni so interesting.
D'Antoni is cancelling the morning shootaround before the Knicks home preseason game with the Sixers on Tuesday night and plans to do without the longtime tradition at home games for the remainder of the season. Instead of heading to the team's Westchester practice facility for the 10 a.m. session, the team will now gather at the Garden at 3:30 p.m. for four hours of team time, including a shared meal.
Someone should have told Allen Iverson that the Knicks weren't going to practice before he signed with Memphis. He probably would have paid them to join the team.
Actually, the morning session has historically been less about basketball than its been about making sure players weren't doing anything at night that precluded them getting up early in the morning. Now, they can stay out later at night, which may work against the team's best interests especially if they use all that gas money they're saving on trips to Westchester to finance new manners of debauchery.
"I think it should be good for us," Al Harrington said. "You get better rest, you get a chance to wake up when you wake up, have breakfast, hang out a little bit and then come to the arena."
That sounds about right, although one wonders if Eddy Curry is so keen on having so many people seeing his caloric intake up close and personal.
The thought of NBA players in New York City being left without a reason to wake up early is a bit troubling, but there are three things to like about this move. One is that being at the arena for a few hours focused on your team and basketball has to keep you sharper than napping and showing up 90 minutes before the tip. Another is that the old ways of doing things certainly haven't worked for the Knicks, so why not give something new a shot?
Finally, since this is the year of LeBron the impending free agent we are obligated to use that angle to analyze the impact of the move. If James is going to come to New York, the off-court allure of the city is certainly going to have something to do with the decision. It can't hurt that he won't have to haul himself to Westchester early on mornings after partying with Jay-Z or attending the premiere of some new blockbuster.
It's not the expected slogan, but "We're the Knicks and we don't practice" could wind up doing the trick.