On Wednesday, we were talking about Blake Griffin and said that the Knicks' dreadful play over the second half has obscured the strides the team made this season. There are those, notably Marc Berman of the New York Post, who don't think the team has made any strides at all.
Can someone tell me again what Mike D'Antoni did well in his first season running the Knicks? I'm willing to give D'Antoni a chance, but please don't give me the song and dance he's done a good job in 2008-2009 on any level. Yes, they made changes and trades, but a great coach gets them playing defense and playing together. D'Antoni, frankly, disappointed me. ... But Mike, you have to admit overall you haven't done a good job this season - starting with your decision to sign Chris Duhon as the end-all-be-all point guard and eradicate Stephon Marbury despite a solid preseason.
Let's take the last part first. Berman and Marbury had a close relationship, and Berman served as a conduit to getting Marbury's side of the story out into the media. That explains why he's beating the deadest of horses about a player whose departure was cause for celebration for just about everyone who watches the Knicks except for Berman.
Berman may be right that D'Antoni sacrificed something on the court by shunning the tattoo-headed one, but he avoids the question of where the team would be better in the final reckoning. Maybe they'd have 32 or 33 wins instead of 30, but they might also have 27 or 28. We aren't talking about the second coming of Michael Jordan here, we're talking about a flawed player whose slowdown style wouldn't have fit any better than Duhon's.
If you looked at this team before the season, with Marbury, did you see a playoff team? Perhaps, but that vision went away when the team traded Zach Randolph and Jamal Crawford. Berman chooses to criticize the coach, but why not the man who implemented the trades and the entire play for 2010 plan? D'Antoni's failed to get Al Harrington and Larry Hughes to be productive NBA players, which puts him on par with every other coach that's ever come into contact with them.
Let's get back to the larger question; what has D'Antoni done well? It is actually pretty easy to answer. The offense is more efficient than it ever was when Marbury was running the show, and it might surprise you to learn that the defense is as well. Where Isiah Thomas' teams played a slower pace, their defense was actually worse than D'Antoni's even with the Knicks giving up more points.
Before you pooh-pooh that as statistical nonsense, please realize that improving on an abject disaster doesn't turn you into a soaring success. But it does make you better. That's not to say that there aren't huge flaws on this team, because there are, but making a team better at offense and defense has to be worth something, doesn't it?