Who is more to blame for the Knicks' woes, Mike D'Antoni or Carmelo Anthony?
Carmelo Anthony is being blamed for the Knicks' struggles this season. Is it really his fault?
The popular opinion seems to be that Carmelo Anthony is to blame for the current woes of the New York Knicks. Those people point to the Knicks' record since they acquired Anthony last February. They also point to the recent Linsanity phenomenon, the seven-game winning streak the Knicks went on when Jeremy Lin took over at point guard when Anthony was sitting out on the sideline, injured. They point to Anthony's low shooting percentage, the lowest he's ever shot, in this his 11th NBA season. I guess, in a way, you can't call it opinion, because all of those things are facts. Thing is, despite showing poor body language, seeming to be out of shape and in the middle of a frankly bad season, Carmelo Anthony isn't the only problem the Knicks have right now. One of them, and the easiest and most logical one to correct, is the guy holding the clipboard on the sidelines, Mike D'Antoni.
When the Knicks acquired Anthony last season, D'Antoni was the Knicks' head coach. He has been since the beginning of the 2008-09 season. If somebody can point to the time when the Knicks were successful with D'Antoni as their coach, please let me know. If you want to make the argument that the beginning of last season, before the Anthony trade, was successful, here's my take on that:
Before the Knicks acquired Anthony from the Denver Nuggets last season, they were 28-26. They finished 42-40. I have a hard time believing their record would have been much better had they not acquired Anthony. Also, had the Knicks not traded for Anthony, he probably would have ended up on the New Jersey Nets. Thing is, the pre-Anthony Knicks weren't that good. Why does everybody act like the Anthony trade wrecked something special? Last year, the Knicks started out 3-8, had two six-game losing streaks (you see, those don't only exist on teams that have Carmelo Anthony), and another patch where they lost five out of seven right before the trade deadline. Then the Knicks pulled the trade that brought Anthony here, had a bunch of bad losses and a long losing streak before rebounding with a seven-game winning streak to make the playoffs as the six seed. And we all know how that worked out - swept in four games by the Boston Celtics.
So yes, the Anthony Knicks have not been successful. But neither have the D'Antoni Knicks. If the Knicks need to make a choice between Anthony and D'Antoni, I don't see how anybody could say that they'd be better off with D'Antoni. It's almost comical.
The D'Antoni system, which worked so well during the short-lived Linsanity era, is all predicated on point guard play. The only time D'Antoni has ever succeeded as an NBA head coach was when he had Steve Nash, one of the best point guards who ever freaking lived. Perhaps Jeremy Lin could run a D'Antoni system and lead a successful team. I don't think it's shocking to think that a D'Antoni-Lin combo, in the right situation could net somewhere between 42-47 wins. But I think a seven-game sample is a bit too small to say even that, and I don't think Lin is projected as an all-time great. In the NBA, you need superior, top-level talent to win a title.
Carmelo Anthony certainly isn't on pace to be an all-time great, either. Perhaps he just isn't good enough to be the leader of a title team. But to think he's a team-killer, or simply a loser, is off base. Doing a tiny bit of research, I found a stat that will perhaps shock the 'Melo haters: Anthony has never been on a team that finished under .500 over the course of an 82-game season. Here are the Denver Nuggets' records while Carmelo Anthony was there, in case you don't believe me:
2003-04: 43-39 (82 games played and started by Anthony)
2004-05: 49-33 (75 games played and started by Anthony)
2005-06: 44-38 (80 games played and started by Anthony)
2006-07: 45-37 (65 games played and started by Anthony)
2007-08: 50-32 (77 games played and started by Anthony)
2008-09: 54-28 (66 games played and started by Anthony, including 16 postseason starts where the Nuggets went to the Western Conference Finals with Anthony averaging more than 27 points per game)
2009-10: 53-29 (69 games played and started by Anthony)
(In case you're wondering, I didn't make these numbers up. Thanks to basketball-reference.com for the info.)
So if you want to tell me that Anthony is a loser and can't be on a winning team, I just don't believe it. On a team where he's the go-to guy, with a good coach (like George Karl who he was in Denver with), you can win a lot of basketball games. That's been proven. Can you win a title with Anthony as your lead man? Remains to be seen, for sure. But are you closer to winning a title without Anthony? If you could trade him for LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Kevin Durant, Dwight Howard or Derrick Rose, sure. Sorry, ain't happening.
Yes, Anthony is under .500 as a Knick. But Mike D'Antoni has been his coach that entire time. History proves that Anthony has been a part of successful teams when utilized correctly. True, there is only one deep playoff run in that history. But last time I checked, the Knicks haven't won a playoff game since most fourth graders were born, and D'Antoni has never had any success without Steve Nash.
Who would you keep and roll with? I know who I would.