|Respected leaders aim to make Knicks respectable|
|Written by Admin|
|Sunday, 26 October 2008 23:41|
Well, what it used to mean, anyway.
The selfless play of Red Holzman's championship teams or the grittiness of Patrick Ewing's clubs is long gone, replaced mostly by bad attitudes, bad behavior, and really, really bad play.
Things seem headed for a change.
New York isn't ready to become a winning team yet. But with D'Antoni in place as coach and Donnie Walsh as team president, the Knicks have taken the first step in becoming respectable again.
``I think everybody should come to the Garden, and it is a journey and we're not even halfway down the road, but let's all take the first step together and let's do it,'' D'Antoni said. ``We're going to play as hard as we can play and understand every night we're going to try to win, and I would love to have everybody get behind us.''
k that figures to reach a franchise record-tying eight in a row since they return essentially the same team that went 23-59 in 2007-08, matching the club record for losses.
Worse, they became an embarrassment off the court - and ended up in it. Last season opened with former coach and president Isiah Thomas, along with Madison Square Garden, being found to have sexually harassed a former team employee. Players feuded with Thomas, who late in the season just stopped holding formal practices - probably so he wouldn't have to face the media and discuss his job status.
``Nothing could have survived that,'' said Boston coach Doc Rivers, a friend of Thomas. ``That was tough for the coach, it was tough for the organization, it was tough for the players. It was just so much negativity. Just everything was negative.
``Hell, nobody could perform under that circumstance and that's been removed. They're happy, they're playing together and obviously I know they haven't played a game yet, but you can just see that. And it'd be good for the league obviously if that continues.''
Walsh and D'Antoni filled Thomas' jobs, immediately becoming the new stars on Broadway. While neither is actively seeking the spotlight, both understand that for now they're the biggest reasons for hope in New York.
w because I expected it. I won't say a star, but you're always going to gather a lot of attention when you take over a situation like this.''
Walsh is the longtime Indiana executive who built the Pacers into a perennial Eastern Conference contender and is now back in his hometown to rebuild the Knicks. He hasn't been able to make any major player moves yet, but he scored big in the coaching department with the hiring of D'Antoni.
D'Antoni brings an entertaining offensive system that helped the Phoenix Suns average 58 victories over the last four seasons. He nevertheless felt unappreciated at the end of his run there but was immediately embraced in New York - even by those who realize he won't win yet with the personnel he inherited.
Fans were so fed up with Thomas' mismanagement that the boos started on game nights at Madison Square Garden when his name was announced before the starting lineups. The Knicks have been announcing D'Antoni after the starters, bringing instant cheers.
``It's flattering,'' D'Antoni said. ``But it's still the players in the sense of they've come with a different attitude, they've come fresh, they want to win, so they listen to everything and that might not have always been the case. But now that we have their attention, it's my job to get them in the right spots and then let them perform, because they're the ones that have to perform.''
lt that will be. He spoke confidently of the team's potential early in the preseason, but by the end he sounded more realistic, perhaps realizing what so many others do. His offense is potent, but doesn't look nearly as intimidating without Steve Nash and Amare Stoudemire in it.
With Zach Randolph, Jamal Crawford and Nate Robinson, the Knicks have good offensive players, so they'll score a lot. They also have no defensive stoppers, so they'll often give up more. D'Antoni's teams in Phoenix could often pull out a 110-108 win. In New York, those could become 112-110 losses.
D'Antoni wants victories, but just getting consistent effort would be progress. Though opposing coaches frequently praise the Knicks' talent, neither Thomas nor his predecessor, Larry Brown, could get his players to show it on a nightly basis.
``After you talk for so long and you can try to tell everybody that it's not us, it's the coach, blah, blah, blah, whatever,'' said forward Quentin Richardson, who also played for D'Antoni in Phoenix. ``I mean three years later and two, three terrible seasons later, you've got to look at it and say it's us. You've got to try and say we're going to listen to this guy and try to do what he wants.''
LeBron James could highlight a stellar free agent class. With the allure of playing in New York and for D'Antoni, the Knicks would have a great chance of landing a true superstar.
Perhaps then, the Knicks will produce some new highlights for the preseason video.