posted 2012-03-21 22:03:16

Bad Ownership to Blame for Knicks Woes

Carmelo’s entitlement doesn’t help

Benn Wynns

Staff Writer

The dream is over, Knicks fans.

Time for Duane Reade to toss out the Linsanity pennants on display at the checkout lines. Time to forget that MSG is back on the air again. Time to hang up the Carmelo jersey in your closet for a while and maybe pull out the Clyde Frazier throwback. Reality has returned, and as is typical of the last decade, it is not kind to New York’s only NBA team.

Just a month after the unexpected heroics of Jeremy Lin rejuvenated the fanbase and shot the Knicks back into the NBA spotlight, the franchise appears to be crashing to earth faster than even the biggest critics of the “Linsanity” hype would have expected. Head Coach Mike D’Antoni, whose lack of interest in team defense made him an easy scapegoat, left the team on “mutual agreement” with ownership on Mar. 14 after enduring a six- game losing streak.

As with any New York sports crisis, speculation abounds. The most publicized line is the deterioration of the relation- ship between D’Antoni and star forward Carmelo Anthony. After the boisterous form shown by the Knicks during Anthony’s injury absence in February, the team’s losing results correlated quite dramatically with Melo’s return – the team had been 7-1 without Anthony in the lineup, while going 3-8 between his return and D’Antoni’s resignation.

While the losing skid could also be attributed to the Knicks’ playing on the road against much better teams like Miami, Chicago, and Dallas, team chemistry was obviously strained. Anthony, a long-overrated “superstar” whose favored tactical setup involves him being able to hold the ball as long as he wants and shoot whenever he wants, was obviously not interested in playing D’Antoni and Lin’s high-tempo pick-and-roll offense upon his return to the lineup.

This is not to say that this is all Carmelo’s fault. Lin has gone from nightly double-doubles to being ranked 42nd in assist-to-turnover ratio among league point guards in a matter of weeks. And suddenly, low-scoring power forward Amare Stoudamire appears to be in the midst of some sort of mid-career existential crisis. The signing of bad boy shooting guard and tattoo canvas J.R. Smith has reportedly also strained the locker room atmosphere. Still, Anthony represents a lot of the endemic dysfunction of the Knicks franchise.

For the last year, Anthony has been the most recent shiny new toy bought by Madison Square Garden chairman, Knicks team owner, and wannabe blues singer James Dolan. In what has become a Groundhog Day experience for Knicks fans, Dolan has hitched all of the franchises hopes to hyped-up “name” every few years, only to see the shortsighted move blow up in his face.

First it was the disastrous 2003 hiring of former superstar player Isiah Thomas as general manager, which was followed by four seasons in which the team blew its payroll on expensive failures like Eddy Curry and Stephon Marbury. This was followed with another media-baiting move with the $50 million dollar hiring of legendary coach Larry Brown in 2005 designed to revamp the team. Brown was fired after a disastrous season in which he complained of Dolan and Thomas’ overbearing management and the petulance of the players they signed, like Marbury.

After an especially bad year, in which Dolan entrusted the head coaching job to Thomas (who, besides consistently losing games, allegedly instigated an on-court brawl between Knicks players and a certain Denver Nuggets forward named Carmelo Anthony), the Knicks made another sensationalist move that never panned out: hiring Phoenix Suns coach D’Antoni.

D’Antoni, who had been the hottest coach in the league after constructing one of the greatest offensive basketball teams of all time in Arizona, ended up with a 121- 167 record in just under four seasons in New York before his resignation last week. Sources close to D’Antoni have hinted that his relationship with Dolan had been strained throughout his tenure as coach, and that he was never interested in the Carmelo Anthony trade Dolan engineered last season. Indeed the breaking point for the D’Antoni era in New York is reported to have been when Dolan refused to make a proposed trade that would have sent Anthony to the Nets in exchange for elite point guard Deron Williams, who would’ve fit D’Antoni’s scheme perfectly and taken the pressure off of the obviously flawed Jeremy Lin.

A motive for the always media-sensitive Dolan’s rejection of the trade might have been his fear that Anthony, whose roots as a New York native always made him a good box office sell, would move with the Nets to Brooklyn next season and overshadow the anemic Knicks in the city they’ve had to themselves for decades. What Dolan fails to recognize is that the Knicks appear poised to fall in prominence regardless, and that the team would probably be better off not just without Carmelo, but without himself.

It’s time to start lumping James Dolan in with Jerry Jones, Al Davis, Frank McCourt, and other pro sports owners who have ruined once-great franchises by putting themselves above the team.