Tag Archives: Mike D’Antoni

Why Stephon Marbury Is Right!

29 Nov

In many ways I’m sure that Stephon Marbury is the poster boy for the modern spoiled athlete.  One need only look at his paltry record of achievement in the NBA to realize that Marbury is at best over-rated or at worst a me first talent who has parlayed his immense skills into very little actual winning in the NBA.

Sure, there was the whole $15 sneaker campaign.  And for that, Marbury is to be complemented.  If you’re the Knicks, Marbury’s charitable impulse is probably counter-balanced however by things like his damaging testimony in the Isiah Thomas sexual harassment trial and the public revelation of Marbury hooking up with Knicks’ cheerleaders in parked cars not to mention those pesky lack of wins since Starbury has come home to New York.

So, all in all, I can completely see why the Knicks would want to get rid of him.  In fact, I (as a Knicks’ fan) never wanted him here in the first place.  I was not alone in this sentiment.  I felt Steph was a loser and many agreed.

Where I’m more alone, is with my current opinion on the latest Knick-Marbury tussle.  The Knicks have suspended Marbury for refusing to suit up recently.  If that’s all there was to the story, I’d surely be on the Knicks’s side as most fans are.

The reality, however, is that the Knicks and their new coach Mike D’Antoni mishandled Steph from square one.  When D’Antoni was hired most people figured it was the beginning of the end for Marbury in NY.  D’Antoni had gotten Marbury traded out of Phoenix after all, so it seemed a no brainer that if D’Antoni didn’t wanted to coach Marbury as a Sun that he sure wouldn’t want to coach him as a Knickerbocker.

Then, something surprising happened.  D’Antoni started out his Knick tenure saying Marbury would have a chance to be part of the team.  From all accounts, Marbury tried hard during the pre-season to fit into D’Antoni’s schemes.  At one point, when new starting point guard Chris Duhon was struggling, there was even talk around town that Steph might re-claim his starting job.  See! New York can be a naive place sometimes too.

About three games into the season, Marbury hadn’t seen a minute of playing time when Coach D’Antoni announced that Steph would no longer be a part of the team.  Donnie Walsh who is D’Antoni’s boss seemed caught off guard by his coach’s proclamation.  And so started the most recent Marbury controversy.

Whether Walsh was on board or not, Stephon Marbury was told he isn’t part of the team either now or in its future.  Yes!  He was able to keep his huge salary and for that he should certainly be (yet I’m sure he’s not) appreciative.  So, Stephon became an outcast.  That lasted until the Knicks got short handed and then they allegedly asked him to dress for a game.  According to the Knicks, Marbury refused and what with him still drawing a paycheck from the organization and all, the Knicks saw fit to suspend him.

Stephon Marbury might be spoiled.  He might be a jerk.  But, he’s not wrong in this situation.

It’s the Knicks who set up a really bad situation for Marbury and their team.  Now, they’re stuck with it.  They’ve offended Mr. Marbury and now when they need him he won’t play for them.

I know it looks bad for Stephon, but what would you do if you made tens of millions of dollars a year, knew that others would be happy/foolish enough to pay you similar amounts of money and had the ego to go with it?  Would you have put on a Knicks’ jersey?  Or would you have felt mistreated and told your bosses to take a hike.

As fans, we always want pro athletes to be sainted figures only in pursuit of wins and championships.  The reality is they are real people like you and me only more spoiled in most cases.  If I was Stephon Marbury and had been lied to about my chances in the D’Antoni regime, I too would be in little hurry to run back to the Knicks when they got desperate enough to ask me back temporarily.

If I were Stephon Marbury I would feel like the Knicks played me like a fool.  I would feel cheated out of a chance to compete for my spot on the team.  And, yes, I too would have told them I wasn’t up to playing 30 minutes after being banished all season for no longer fitting in.

If I were Stephon Marbury I would not understand how the Knicks wouldn’t have tried to increase my trade value by actually playing me until someone pointed out that all I was really worth to the Knicks was the massive cap room my expiring contract would soon give them.  Basically, I would realize the Knicks from the beginning were ready to flush away a year of my professional career so that they could get maximum cap relief.

Once that realization sunk in, I’d realize that I had some leverage.  And I’d refuse to play too.

My guess is that if many of you were treated similarly by your places of work and had the ability to hit back at your organization without jeopardizing your massive check that you’d go for it.  After all, you’re only human.

Just like athletes.

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D’Antoni Vs. Johnson… Who’s The Right Re-Tread Coach For Your NBA Team?

6 May

In most sports leagues, heck in most corporations, the head jobs are usually tough to crack.  Most sports teams out to hire a head coach go with someone who has done the job before.  The NBA is no exception.  It’s all about cutting down the risks when making a big hire. 

Whenever a vacancy is announced, it’s never long before the management looking to fill that opening is calling up guys who’ve done the job before.  You know, re-treads.  Never mind that often times the re-treads fail miserably on their second or third or fourth chances.  Sort of like most hollywood stars and marriage.

So, it’s always exciting when a new coaching re-tread becomes available to the NBA’s general managers.  For that reason, Phoenix Coach Mike D’Antoni is getting a lot of attention now that his boss GM Steve Kerr (remember his deadly 3 point shot?  He’s been a lot less accurate as a GM so far) is letting him talk to other teams.  Word is the Bulls and Knicks are interested.

My question is why?

First off, and I know it’s a surface thing, but there’s the bad mustache.  Memo to Mike D’Antoni.  1974’s come and gone.  Let go of the ‘stache.

Cheap shot?  Maybe, but do you think today’s young athletes are respecting someone with  ’70s porn facial hair? 

Whatever. 

Let’s move on.  The more important factor is what D’Antoni’s managed to do in Phoenix.  There’s no arguing with the regular season record. It’s pretty impressive.  Speaking of pretty, the style of play he advocates is fun to watch and play. Players and fans alike dig it.  (PS – I’m using 70s slang as a subtle tribute to the D’Antoni mustache)

Yup, you know the problem.  The nice regular season stats and the powerhouse offense has meant nothing come playoff time.  A team that has featured the now departed Sean Marion, Amare Stoudemire, Steve Nash (and his bad hair), Shaq and Grant Hill among others has never made the finals.  Not once.  And if memory serves, they’ve never even made it to a game seven of a conference finals.

As his core ages, the post season woes have gotten worse.  Now, the Suns are making first round exits.

The trouble with D’Antoni is his teams don’t play defense pure and simple.

For my money, if I was a GM looking for rookie re-treads, I’d go with Avery Johnson.  Johnson’s regular season record holds up nicely to D’Antoni’s.  Johnson has coached a team to a finals appearance, even if Dirk and Co. did choke it away. 

Most, impressively, Johnson changed the culture in Big D.  Suddenly, they were focused on D.  Taking the reins from Don Nelson and getting a team to buy into defense is one big accomplishment.  For that, re-tread Johnson deserves a second shot way before Mike D’Antoni.

Pretty basketball be damned.  And besides Avery doesn’t have as cheesy a mustache…

The Sun Is Setting On Not One, But Two NBA Franchises!

30 Apr

This just in.  The Dallas Mavericks have exited the NBA Playoffs in the first round despite mortgaging part of their future to get Jason Kidd out of New Jersey.  You know a certain Mr. Cuban isn’t happy right now.  Change is gonna come…

Soon enough, the Phoenix Suns will be bounced out of the playoffs by the San Antonio Spurs.  Shaq and Dirk will make a very large twosome on America’s golf courses.  Not sure if either actually does play golf, but even if they don’t, after first round exits each will have plenty of time to learn. 

The rumors are flying that the Suns may let head coach Mike D’Antoni go if (or I should say when) his team loses to the Spurs.  The Knicks already have him on their short list of potential coaches.

No matter what happens with D’Antoni.  It’s clear the window is shutting on both franchises.  Sports is all about windows of opportunity. 

Growing up in the 70s, I hated the Pittsburgh Steelers.  I loved Bum Phillips and enjoyed seeing the rise of the Houston Oilers as a legitimate threat to the Steelers’ AFC dominance.

I remember after one year, in which the Oilers came close but couldn’t overcome the Steelers, Phillips had a great quote about what he expected going into the next season.  Bum said something like “last year we knocked on the door.  This year we’re going to break it down”.

To me, Bum’s quote is what it’s all about.  To win a championship, you’ve got to build a team of complementary players, give them time to jell and hope for a heck of a lot of luck.  In Houston’s case, the window closed without a championship for either Phillips or Earl Campbell, the most exciting runner I ever saw as a kid.  That doesn’t mean Bum wasn’t right.  It takes time to win championships.

Looking at Dallas and Phoenix, I’m struck by the same thing.  Churn.  Dallas is certainly more guilty.  But, each NBA franchise has continued to tweak their roster downward.  Both the Suns and Mavericks have been good for a while, yet neither has had a enough to break through.

Neither franchise has been able to resist the temptation to try to improve their roster.  Yet, it seems to me, each team keeps weakening their squad with each successive trade.  Dallas is now stuck with a very old looking Jason Kidd (especially in comparison to Chris Paul) at the point, while Dirk’s not getting any younger.

As for Phoenix, I absolutely never understood the Sean Marion trade.  He was such a big part of that team and still so young.  How do you give him up for an old Shaq?  Now, Phoenix is stuck with two aging superstars in Shaq and the still very effective Steve Nash. 

The sun is setting in Phoenix and the window is closing in Dallas.

Too bad.  I would have liked to see either franchise finally break through.  I’m pretty sure Bum Phillip agrees.