Knicks’ D’Antoni Doing It Better Than Gentry

Today Marc Berman posted a defensive assessment written by his lawyer buddy comparing the post-D’Antoni Suns to the pre-D’Antoni Suns. I don’t know the lawyer buddy but his assessment may as well have been written by Berman anyway because Berman thinks its “dead-on”, yet like most things posted on his blog, it’s wrong.

Berman’s buddy thinks the Suns have improved on defense since D’Antoni left but the numbers don’t back up the assertion. During D’Antoni’s Phoenix years its true the Suns weren’t a defensive juggernaut. Based on the points given up per 100 possessions stat, which equalizes for pace, D’Antoni’s Suns were always just about middle of the road defensively.

This year under Gentry? The Suns are 4th worst in the league. 27th in the NBA. Interestingly, the Knicks are 24th, better than the Suns.

Some dude’s scouting report is all fine and good but the forensic evidence contradicts his eyewitness testimony. Also, that quote Grant Hill told Berman’s buddy’s buddy? Berman’s buddy should know, that’s hearsay.

Basically what we’re left with then is that Gentry hasn’t coached D as effectively as D’Antoni did and does, and that the Suns are successful anyway because Gentry was smart enough to reinstall D’Antoni’s offense after Porter was displaced.

Another bone I’d pick with the buddy is the idea that D’Antoni didn’t try to develop a bench in Phoenix. Should I have to be the one to remind a Suns’ season subscriber that Barbosa became a dangerous 6th man under D’Antoni? I also think the Suns had a deep bench for several years while D’Antoni was there between Tim Thomas, Brian Grant, Kurt Thomas, and Jim Jackson. Finally, can it really be D’Antoni’s fault that Robert Sarver repeatedly traded away the Suns’ first round picks, which would’ve formed at least a bench, because he was too cheap to pay their salaries? By way of recap, Rudy Fernandez, Rajon Rondo, Nate Robinson, Sergio Rodriguez, and Loul Deng were all taken with the Suns’ draft picks, that Robert Sarver traded for cash.


  1. DVJ

    When I was reading Bermans article I couldn’t believe what I was reading. Why would Berman even post that??
    Excellent response.

  2. Jon

    On the bench point he has Boris Diaw too. Draft bust before he got there. Perennial sixth man of the year candidate thereafter.

    • Jon

      Actually, I stand corrected. Diaw started a lot for them. Especially that first year when Amare went down with the knee injury.

      • Dan L

        The fact remains though that plenty of players made significant improvements to their games under D’Antoni.

        Nash went from all star to MVP. Joe Johnson went from 10th man to all star. Diaw went from draft bust to versatile starter. Bell went from roll player to starter. Barbosa developed. Etc.

        • Italian Stallion

          Yea, I think he generally done a very good job of developing players.

          I have no problem with the progress Chandler made this year, Gallo is showing now, Douglas is showing now etc… Even Lee is a better player and he’s older.

  3. Virgil

    none of it means anything we are still not going anywhere this year and this team won’t be here next year

  4. EwingOak

    I think it’s a little difficult to say that none of it means anything. How else do you think the core players are to develop? How else is D’Antoni gonna get some experience trying to coach a little more defense? How else are the fans supposed to get excited about what could be coming? How else was Donnie to have the couple of years to dismantle and rebuild?

    I think everything means something here..

    • Virgil

      It means nothing cause aside from Gallo and possibly TD, who is really going to be here. If wilson or td is needed in a sign and trade they may be gone. Maybe walker and giddens return, but they may go somewhere else. So The development of the core is not that significant. The development of the coach is a joke in itself. The experience of the coach teaching d is also suspect. While they have shown some tendecies to talk about it, it is still questionable. IMO he has and is coaching just to get through the year til 2010. Nothing new there. Donnie has done a great job doing what he had to and we all have something to be excited about, but what we do this year and last means nothing on the floor.
      Just a quick question, is da coach the knicks have better than skiles, adelman, or gentry? They all seem to have gotten way more out of their team than this guy. Gentry may be the only one I consider to have much more superior talent.

        • Dan L

          This whole piece was about how Gentry is getting less out of the Suns than D’Antoni did Virgil.

          I’ve also previously written about Skiles (

          “Earlier this week, Frank Isola took a shot at D’Antoni’s coaching by asking hypothetically whether the Bucks have so much more talent than the Knicks. Maybe, but what they definitely do have is Andrew Bogut. A legitimate 7 footer who blocks shots and protects the paint, and abuses guys like David Lee on the offensive end too. And they have Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, who actually takes pride in his defense and doesn’t care about his numbers… And yes they have Scott Skiles, who has made a career out of squeezing 5 or 6 extra wins out of low-talent teams by employing a no-nonsense boot-camp strategy that inevitably grates on players who in turn quit on him after about three years.”

          I have to echo what Jeff Van Gundy said a few weeks ago, which to paraphrase, was something like: The Knicks have the most overrated talent in the entire league.

  5. 37 Years

    I love that 21st century communications no longer allow sportswriters to write uneducated nonsense without being called onto the carpet for it! I remember when Pete Vecsey wrote an article about how foolish the Knicks would be to trade Pat Cummings for Clyde Drexler. But back then all you could do was crumple up the paper and throw it out the window. Berman is not only completely ignorant about basketball, but he’s clearly got an agenda. How a major newspaper leaves him on the beat is inexplicable, but thanks for not letting him get away with it. BTW, ever notice how we always get ex-Knicks’ stats from Berman (and Isola) when they have a good game, but on the other 95% of the nights where they suck, we don’t hear a word?

    • Dan L

      Very well said. I agree. You hear about the one game where Hill or Darko score something like 10 points and then those guys complain that D’Antoni could’ve played them and we’d be a title contender.

  6. Jon

    It’s just funny to me that the one constant among certain beat writers is that they always choose to criticize D’Antoni’s coaching of defense. I get that it’s low hanging fruit because his teams surrender a lot of points. But it kills their credibility because the argument is completely contradicted by fact and appeals to the lowest common denominator.

    In reality, D’Antoni has always been a fine defensive coach. This is especially true when you consider that he’s only ever coached a handful of good defensive players. His methods are counter-intuitive because he baits long jumpers and tells his players not to foul, but studies have borne out that these are two of the most effective strategies a team can employ on D.

    When he was in Phoenix, the only above average defenders on the team were Marion and Raja Bell and yet the Suns still managed to hover around league average, in large part because D’Antoni put Marion to such good use. Likewise, prior to Jeffries’ departure, the Knicks were an average defensive team only because D’Antoni employed schemes that allowed him to cover for the weaknesses of his teammates.

    And I’m not saying there aren’t reasons to be critical of D’Antoni. If Berman wants to hate on him, he could go after his late game play-calling and make a pretty good case based on what we’ve observed this season. But criticisms of that nature require a nuanced understanding of basketball.

    It’s simpler just to label his offense “speedball” and say that he doesn’t coach defense. And Berman is nothing if not simple.

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