The latest triumph for the seven-seconds-or-less Knickerbockers, a 122-117 victory over the Washington Wizards, may have been the most impressive on the season. Why? Because all the ingredients were there for what would have surely resulted in a turd of an effort last year: there were distractions with the recent trade of the two leading scorers Jamal Crawford and Zach Randolph, the Knicks had lost their previous three games, and the new recruits -- Al Harrington, Cuttino Mobley, Tim Thomas -- were still not available for the Washington game.
All things considered, it wasn't unreasonable to expect the undermanned Knicks to put up another stinker. But amidst the turmoil Coach MIke rallied the troops, leading to perhaps the biggest statement game of the new season.
It's been established the trade of the two best offensive players on the Knicks was to clear room for King James in 2010, and everyone is amazed at how Walsh did it, but part of what makes the deal work perfectly is that D'Antoni has shown his system can make an immediate impact on the competitiveness of the team, talent notwithstanding.
After the exit of Crawford and Z-Bo, D'Antoni was adamant his boys would continue to focus on making a run for the playoffs; the trade wasn't strictly a talent purge. And the win over the Wizards, playing two-three players down, allowed the new coach to walk the walk after talking the talk. It's a victory that shows D'Antoni has already earned some of his money by installing an offense that can put up a lot of points, and win, on any given night.
And since everything thus far has been D'Antoni's way or the highway (i.e. no playing time for Marbury or Eddy Curry), it also reinforces comradery and trust in the new leadership. This coach is sticking with his guys no matter what, and that confidence can elevate your team to victories, at least over similarly middling teams like the Wizards.
Looking back a few years, the symmetry with how the start of this era in New York resembles the beginning of D'Antoni's run with the Suns is remarkable; it's the same formula that allowed Phoenix to become a perennial championship contender. That Suns team, Knick fans may remember, jettisoned Marbury and Penny Hardaway to New York, to cut payroll, and give themselves a chance to sign Steve Nash. Once the MVP caliber talent was added, the Suns were able to play with the big boys.
Now the Knicks are doing the jettisoning -- thanks heavens! -- and D'Antoni's system should allow the team to compete while Donnie Walsh waits to add a stud player.