After a remarkable Jeremy Lin-led run that made them the toast of the NBA, the Knicks have lost 8 of their last 10 games. There's plenty of blame to go around, but while some within the organization are questioning superstar Carmelo Anthony, most of the fingers are being pointed at head coach Mike D'Antoni, according to several sources close to the situation.
hailed as an offensive genius during his successful tenure in Phoenix,
has lost the Knicks' locker room, the sources say.
players like Mike as a person," one source said. "They think he's a good
guy. But he doesn't have the respect of the team anymore."
is in the last year of a four-year deal and all indications are that he
will not be brought back after this season; that is, if he survives the
rest of this season. The Knicks are expected to make a run at Phil
Jackson, who retired from the Lakers last year with 11 NBA titles.
But the Knicks, losers of six straight games, still have 24 games
left to get through this year, and according to numerous sources close
to the team, the reeling club is as dysfunctional in the locker room as
it is on the court.
In addition to questioning D'Antoni,
players are complaining about playing time, and confused about the
offensive and defensive schemes.
It is lost on no one that
the Knicks' free-fall coincides precisely with the return of Anthony.
While Anthony was out with a groin injury, the Knicks won 6 of 7 games,
including victories over the Los Angeles Lakers and defending champion Dallas Mavericks.
With Lin leading D'Antoni's offense, the Knicks played fast and free,
spacing the floor, hitting the open man, and even improving defensively.
But the day Anthony returned, the Knicks lost to the struggling New Jersey Nets,
starting a sorry stretch that has washed away all the feel-good
emotions of Lin's emergence and left them on the verge of missing the
Management, the coaching staff and the players
know Anthony is hurting the offense and in turn, the defensive morale,
according to the sources. While D'Antoni's offense calls for Anthony to
plant himself on the wing at the 3-point line, he often creeps in to his
favorite spot in the floor -- the area between the elbow, the arc and
the post. That kills the Knicks' ability to run the high pick-and-roll
and ruins the spacing that is so critical to D'Antoni's offense.
at the very core of our problem," one person close to the situation
said. "That messes up the fluidity of the offense. Melo could do it, but
he's got to trust the offense."
When Anthony first
returned -- and it still appears to be the case -- Lin would bring the
ball upcourt and try to run D'Antoni's system. When Anthony would
abandon the offense, Lin would not pass him the ball, which irritated
Anthony, sources said. So when Lin tried to talk to Anthony on the
court, Anthony would turn his back to the point guard and tune him out.
The two never had heated exchanges, though, and the players tried to
come to a compromise, agreeing to run D'Antoni's system while also
mixing in post-ups for Anthony.
"But it's just a mess because D'Antoni's system is not designed for that," one source said.
his often poor body language, many of the players believe Anthony is
trying to adjust and sincerely wants to win. He has told people close to
him that he is being asked to do things he's never done, saying that
throughout his career he has always had plenty of post-up opportunities
and that he is uncomfortable standing on the wing spacing the floor.
the team is trying to do what coach says and the other half is doing
something different," one source said. "Then it spills over to the
defensive end because players are (ticked) off about somebody taking a
With Anthony sapping the energy from the
offense, the players often lose their incentive to play defense. But
even when he's trying to play defense, Amare Stoudemire
struggles. Having spent almost his entire career in D'Antoni's
non-defensive system, Stoudemire has trouble making defensive reads and
rotations. Anthony knows what to do defensively, but simply refuses to
do it consistently, the sources said.
Some players believe
D'Antoni had the leverage to force Anthony to adjust to his system when
he first returned from injury. The Knicks were rolling, showing they
could win without Anthony, and their fan base was believing in
D'Antoni's system. If D'Antoni had checked Anthony, perhaps even
benching him, when he strayed from the offense, the players and fans
would have been behind the coach and Anthony would have had no choice
but to conform. But D'Antoni, ever the one to avoid confrontation with
his players, would not do it, and now it's too late. That's when he lost
the locker room for good.
Now, the players believe they
need a coach who will hold players, especially the stars like Anthony
and Stoudemire, accountable, the sources said. They do not believe
D'Antoni is willing or able to do it.
On top of that, Baron Davis,
who just returned from a back injury, is unhappy with his limited role
as Lin's backup. Davis, averaging just 17 minutes a game, has already
spoken to D'Antoni about giving him more playing time, according to the
sources. While Lin wants to run D'Antoni's system, Davis is more in line
with running the offense through Anthony and Stoudemire, the sources
"The only way this is going to work is if we have a
coach that will hold Melo accountable and teach Melo, Amare and Jeremy
how to play winning basketball," a source said.