Mike D’Antoni — along with Steve Nash and the “seven seconds or less” Phoenix Suns — didn’t win a ring but they have changed the face of the NBA. Now you see the NBA champion Miami Heat going with a guy thought of as a forward at center (as do other teams), like the Suns did. You see many teams trying to get early offense before a defense sets, like the Suns did. Today’s NBA is different because of what those Suns did.
But they didn’t win a ring. D’Antoni regrets that.
And he told ESPNLA’s Ramona Shelburne he should have stayed and fought for one in Phoenix. Although that’s not how Knicks fans are going to see his comments.
“I shouldn’t have gone to New York,” he says, looking down at the sideline in Memphis, pacing on that unstable right leg.
“I should have stuck in there and battled. You don’t get to coach somebody like him [Nash] too many times. It’s pretty sacred and you need to take care of it. I didn’t….
“I think we got frustrated and I got frustrated. That’s why I left. We were there, it seemed like we deserved it, and then it seemed like something happened all the time. Maybe we weren’t good enough either. We have to understand that.
“I probably irrationally made a decision right when the season was over. You should take a month to figure it out. I shouldn’t have left. That was my fault.”
In an all-or-nothing sports society, we can forget how close those Suns teams were. There was the year of the Amare Stoudemire and Boris Diaw suspension. Joe Johnson’s broken face. Tim Duncan’s improbable three. A lot of things held them back, but they were close.
D’Antoni couldn’t have stayed and made it work in Phoenix, not with how Steve Kerr came in with a different vision of how to build a roster and what it took to win a title. We all knew those Suns were dead the day Shaquille O’Neal arrived. D’Antoni made what was the right call back in summer 2008, and not just for the money. It’s just that things in New York went off script.
Knicks fans, also know that D’Antoni was good for you. He built players up as trade assets during the years it took Donnie Walsh to wipe the stench of Isiah Thomas off the roster. To put them in a position to have assets they could trade and have cap room to sign Stoudemire. All of which paved the way for Carmelo Anthony and that trade. D’Antoni helped build the foundation the current Knicks are built on.
Of course he would have — 29 other GMs would have as well.
Jackson also seriously would have considered trading the No. 4 pick if the right package of picks — including Brooklyn’s unprotected pick from this season — were part of the package. Again, that’s not a surprise or even a poor decision.
But in New York, which has fallen in love with the guy they used that No. 4 pick on in Kristaps Porzingis, that idea has become news, especially in the wake of No. 3 pick Jahlil Okafor‘s recent run of off-the-court issues. Here is the report, via the New York Post.
According to an NBA source, as much as Jackson’s top adviser, Clarence Gaines Jr., wanted Jackson to take Porzingis even if the Knicks had the No. 1 pick, that wasn’t the way the Zen Master would have gone if it was a choice between the two big men.
Okafor was Jackson’s man.
“He had to draft Okafor — too much a sure thing,’’ the source said.
Again, 29 other GMs would have done the same thing at that time. Now, maybe it changes, but at the time anyone who tells you differently is selling something.
It’s not that some of those GMs (and certainly some of their scouts) didn’t think Porzingis could develop into an excellent NBA player, but he was considered a higher risk pick than Okafor, who is averaging 17.5 points a game for the Sixers and looks like a franchise cornerstone player. Maybe Porzingis had a higher ceiling, but Okafor had a way higher floor. If your job is on the line with a draft pick, you think about the floor.
Has Okafor had some incidents off the court? Obviously. He’s a 19-year-old making decisions that put in situations where bad things happen. That’s correctable. We all made stupid decisions when we were 19, just most of us grew out of them. (Well, if you ask my wife whether I did or not…) He likely will to, his handlers are already making significant steps.
Zach Lowe at Grantland said that the Knicks did consider trading the pick, but the deal never came close to fruition.
The Celtics were hell-bent on moving up to draft Justise Winslow, and offered the Hornets four first-round picks — including one of Brooklyn’s unprotected picks — for Charlotte’s No. 9 pick. But that was Boston’s fall-back plan, sources say. Boston initially chased Charlotte’s pick with the idea of sending it to the Knicks, along with Boston’s No. 15 pick, to vault all the way into New York’s draft slot — where they would take Winslow. Charlotte refused Boston’s pitches, and the scenario died. The Knicks downplay their interest in Boston’s offer, though it’s fascinating to consider how the draft might have played out — and which fan base would be chanting “POR-ZIN-GIS!” today — had the Celtics swooped in for Winslow at No. 4
“We listened,” Mills says. “But we were never close.”
Now, looking back at it, Knicks fans wouldn’t trade any of it.
Reggie Jackson, now the starting point guard for the Detroit Pistons, returned to face the team that drafted him last weekend, the Oklahoma City Thunder. The reception was chilly, to put it kindly. Both from the players and the fans.
Jackson responded to one of the heckling fans with an indecent suggestion (if you want to see the incident, you can, but it’s NSFW) and that has earned him a $25,000 fine from the league. The punishment was sent down by Kiki VanDeWeghe, Executive Vice President, Basketball Operations.
This shouldn’t be a surprise, the league has a pretty clear policy that fans pay the freight and can say nearly anything to players (it is up to the discretion of security at the arena, teams can ask to have fans removed if needed), and the players have to take it. Answer them with better play on the court.
Jackson has had a good season for the Pistons averaging 19.1 points and 6.7 assists a game, showing a real chemistry with Andre Drummond. He is part of the reason the Pistons look like a potential playoff team this season and are on the rise in the East. But the Thunder got the best of him that night (Jackson shot 4-of-16 and was -19), and so did a fan.
Later on Tuesday it will be announced that Warriors interim coach Luke Walton is the NBA Coach of the Month for November. (That’s not official yet, but seriously who else is going to get it?)
Yet Luke Walton’s record will remain 0-0 as a head coach. Those record 19 wins to start the season belong to Steve Kerr.
The league clarified its position to the media on Tuesday with a release:
…the head coach of record is credited with team wins and losses. Steve Kerr remains the head coach of record for the Golden State Warriors and is credited with those results. Additionally, any team head coach, interim head coach or acting head coach is eligible to be recognized with league coaching awards. Therefore, Warriors interim head coach Luke Walton is eligible for NBA Coach of the Month.
The logic is that the systems installed in Golden State were put in place by Kerr, and while Walton has managed games he is not the overall architect of their success. Which is true. With all due to respect to what Walton has done Kerr laid the foundation for this team, Walton has managed it this season. He hasn’t crashed the car.
There still is no official timeframe for Kerr’s return from his back issues. He is around the team at the practice facility all the time, but is not coaching games or traveling with the team consistently.
This performance will be a significant step toward Walton getting job where his wins and losses will count on his permanent record soon enough.
It happened in the third quarter, although it’s not clear exactly how. All anyone saw was Chris Paul calling a timeout to remove himself from the game (an eventual Clippers’ victory over the Trail Blazers) and grabbing his left side.
After the game, the Clippers said that Paul had suffered a “rib muscle strain.” CP3 will be re-evaluated on Tuesday, and then a timetable for his return will be set. It looks like he could miss a little time. Since the term “rib muscle strain” is intentionally vague we’re left to speculate a little: This could be an oblique muscle strain and if so they can be tricky, and it takes a couple of weeks (or more) to get back.
The Clippers might be wise to give Paul a little time away from the game; he has battled through a fractured finger and a strained groin this season. A little time off could help all of this. Paul played in all 82 regular season games for the Clippers last season, the first time he had done that in his career.
Paul is averaging 17.5 points and 8.4 assists per game, and the Clippers elite offense is 13.9 points per 100 possessions better when he is on the floor rather than sitting. Look at it this way, the Clippers’ most used lineup (Paul, J.J. Redick, Lance Stephenson, Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan) outscores opponents by 19 points per 100 possessions, but sub Austin Rivers in for Paul and they get outscored by 13.8 per 100 and their defense falls apart. (For the record, I know that they are trying different players at the three and that Luc Mbah a Moute got the chance Monday, but I was using the lineups with the most played minutes to lessen the sample size error.)
The Clippers are not the same without Chris Paul, if he is out for any stretch of time, it’s a setback for a team that had seemed to start finding it groove.