“Did Walsh put together a playoff team that D’Antoni refused to play?”

Peter Vecsey is a great NBA writer. I grew up reading the guy. By the time I became a basketball fan around 1990 he was already venerable. I appreciated when he broke the story that Shaq would be leaving the Magic for the Lakers. Good times. But he appears to have a somewhat misguided vendetta against Mike D’Antoni. In his most recent article he took the Knicks coach to task for not playing Jordan Hill enough.

Nevermind that rookies usually have to earn their playing time, but, as Alan Hahn mentioned in his chat this week, the Knicks had so many overpaid, expiring veterans that it would have demolished team chemistry to sit them. You already had Nate Robinson, Eddy Curry, and Larry Hughes pouting on the bench. Would it really make sense to add Al Harrington to that incendiary mix?

It’s not that there aren’t legitimate criticisms of D’Antoni out there, but the real point of this post is to call out the absurdity of Vecsey’s criticism that because D’Antoni didn’t play Hughes, Nate (the Knicks actually won a large share of their games while he was benched), Hill (who is averaging a whopping 6 or so points) and, ahem, Darko Milicic, that D’Antoni “refused to play” a “playoff team”.

Vecsey attributes his conclusion to “Column contributor Phillip Marmanillo”. Well, blog contributor Scrotie McBoogerBalls retorts:

“Does he have a point? You tell me. Maybe you can make the same case legitimately for Toney Douglas who has carried the Knicks to a pretty decent record since he got the starting gig, but do regular minutes for Darko and Hughes and Hill make up the roughly 10 wins that the Knicks would need to just be in contention for a playoff spot? Vecsey points out that Darko gets regular minutes for the T-Wolves, but he fails to point out that the T-Wolves are one of the handful of teams that are worse than the Knicks, and that Darko hasn’t exactly helped them win very much. We’re talking about Darko!?”

12 comments

  1. Italian Stallion

    I agree with the premise of your article.

    The only objection I have to the way D’Antoni handled the rotations is his “all or nothing” use of players.

    I think playing a short rotation has a lot of merit if you have 7-9 players that are much better than the remaining ones. However, that isn’t the case with the Knicks. They have a bunch of role players with similar overall ability but different pluses and minuses.

    A guy like Hughes gives you defense, but you have to pay for it with some terrible shooting nights.

    A guy like Robinson gives you offense and bursts of energy, but you have to pay for it with a lack of defense, immaturity, and bad decision making.

    A guy like Darko gives you some shot blocking, more boards and defense in the middle etc.. but limited offense.

    A guy like Harrington is a lot like Robinson.

    When you have guys like that I think you have look at the match ups, see what you need and adjust from game to game.

    If Lee is getting killed in the middle, would it hurt to bench Harrington for a game, switch Lee to PF and try Darko at C?

    If that doesn’t work, would it hurt to try Lee and Hill together in the second half?

    If the team is totally dull and lacking energy on offense would it hurt to use Robinson and bench Hughes for a night?

    If Robinson could not cover a bigger guard, would it hurt to use Hughes on that night?

    I don’t think being more flexible would have given the team 10 more wins (almost certainly not in fact), but this “all or nothing” quirk resulted in a lot of pissed off players and some questionable uses of assets at times.

    • Dan L

      You make a fair point Stallion. Like I said, I don’t think he’s immune from criticism. I think it’s nonsense though to suggest, as Vescey did, that the key to making the playoffs was to give Darko more minutes.

    • Jay

      I don’t agree with that harrington plays really hard he makes mistakes but he reps this hard those other guys don’t even give you 60 percent darko even getting 20-30 min a game doesn’t give 100 present hill doesn’t know wat he’s doin on the court and Hughes can’t shot if his life depended on it Nate u guys already know James marbury curry jeffries come on

      • Dan L

        Harrington definitely plays hard every minute. You can’t take that away from him. But I think what Stallion was referring to was just that he’s a high usage player who will rarely pass. Moving the ball is not one of his strengths.

  2. EwingOak

    I do think that the Knicks could have been more of a contending team if D’Antoni had made more changes from a game to game situation. There were quite a few times this season that I was watching a game and it was going poorly and I was curious as to why D’Antoni didn’t play a different batch of guys to try to get something going. He has a little to much stubborness in these situations for me. But I will say that I think this season was a good learning point for D’Antoni and perhaps he may loosen his collar a little bit as time goes on. He had such a good mix of guys in Phoenix and got so used to having the advantage of sticking with the same guys night in and night out. But with this group of Knicks, he really had to play the match up game more and keep his options open from the bench to help in a game to game situation. Hopefully he coaches a little more knowledgable next season and pulls alot of these experiences into his style. I think we will see many good things from him next year.

    Out of all the Knicks roster this year that didn’t play as much as people hoped they would, the only one that I think really could have made them a playoff team is Douglas. His incredible energy is obviously contagious (Gallo pounding his chest and Lee drawing a charge nearly had me pass out with happiness). This is the best I feel that they have played this season. I know they had a great stretch a few months ago, but I feel this particular combination could have done even better in that stretch. I am certainly not opposed to Douglas, Sergio and, yes, even Duhon taking the point next year if an upgrade isn’t available at PG. With that group you can keep fresh legs and ball handling skills to get the ball into the hands of whoever decides to come here next season. I like Duhon as a backup. He is one the true professionals out there and I feel his presence and support is a nice factor for Douglas and Sergio to play with confidence.

    Another good article my man….

  3. Jay

    Listen it’s about time we had a coach who is bigger than those wanna bee players those guys on a winning team other than Jordan hill would play more than 5 min a game they kept who they needed to keep and got rid of access. This current team plays better ball than any team in the last 8-9 years they play hard they play together and they want to win with a couple more pieces like lebron and etc. This will
    Be a championship level team not a team that will get swept in the first round. What’s the point of a team that gets 7-8-9 spot in the confrence that would be medicore serious who wants that other than vesey n berman.

  4. Jay

    Plus we got mcgrady in the hill trade come on show these guys some love 10 outta 10 times any real gm would do that just picture mcgrady healthy we are gonna be a playoff team and under the cap what else can u ask for

  5. EwingOak

    @Jay

    I agree with the love. I have got nothing but love for the situation the Knicks are in right now and the moves that have been made. It’s hard to imagine how different this predicament was just a couple of years ago. I think the Knicks are gonna make a big impact in the league next season… BIG!!!

    I like McGrady too. His attitude is great, as he is willing to sacrifice his role and money for the better of the team. It’s a perfect fit for what they are trying to accomplish next year.

  6. EwingOak

    @Jay

    I agree with the love. I have nothing but love for the situation the Knicks are in right now and the moves that have been made to get here. It’s hard to even imagine the predicament they were in just a couple of years ago to what they are in right now.

    I like McGrady too. His attitude is great, as he is willing to sacrifice his role and money for the better of the team and help it become solid. It’s a perfect fit for what they are trying to do.

  7. chris

    I have to say I think the idea that D’toni refused to play a playoff team is ridiculous. I mean lets look at those player. Hughes was waived a sure sign that he is a winning talent. Darko may be playing better and more minutes in Minn but they are still losing.

    Harrington got and still get plenty of playing time. I think he is better off the bench because he knows he can come in and just dominate the ball in a scoring way. Also coming off the bench isn’t exactly a sign you suck and won’t be played ie look at Ginobli, terry, and crawford. You need a 6th man that can get his own shot.

    And in fact that is what Boston traded FOR when they traded for Nate. I think nate is a great talent but he needs to be matched with a big pg so that on D he can play the pg. Also the system depends upon a willingness to give up the ball. Nate just generally isnt willing to do that. Good player wrong system.

    Hill should not even be in the conversation. Even if he is good now (i dont think he is) like every rookie he needs time to grow.

    And honestly a lot of these players got plenty of run even when they stuggled. I’m looking at you hughes and darko

    I think we could have been a playoff team but there was simply no pg for the longest time. Douglas wasn’t ready (his shot was not falling) duhon seems to still be stuck on the wall he hit last year. and nate is just not a pg

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