It’s your roster now, coach.
Mike D’Antoni’s job was safely secured in his first two years with the Knicks. After all, it didn’t matter how badly his teams played, Donnie Walsh’s club was in a transition period. D’Antoni’s third year, though, the one with hand-picked players for his system, has started much the same as his first two — with long losing skids.
Sunday’s horrific loss to Houston was the Knicks fifth defeat in a row and dropped them to 3-7. It’s not enough, at least right now, to call D’Antoni’s future into question.
“We know this isn’t going the way we want, [but] I’ve made no judgments on Mike the first few years because I didn’t think he had the personnel to compete because of what we were doing,” Walsh said. “This is a young team that has to be brought along a certain way and I think he’s still trying to do that. These first 10 games I expected that we’d be up and down.
"I don't think it's time to make judgments on Mike."
The Knicks could be down even further in the standings if they don’t start playing some defense on a four-game road trip that begins tonight in Denver. They are giving up a conference-worst 105.2 points per game.
Amare: Buy into the system
Amare Stoudemire has been here before with Mike D’Antoni.
The All-Star forward is happy to remind anyone, including his teammates, that his coach’s up-tempo system will eventually work.
“Everybody is from a different system. It takes a while,” said Stoudemire, who was in Phoenix in 2004 when D’Antoni took over and posted his only losing record with the Suns. ““Everybody plays a certain way, so it takes time. But I think we understand it’s a long season and we have time to turn this thing around.”
Stoudemire takes accountability for the early-season slump.
“It comes from players. It’s internal and comes from the heart,” Stoudemire said . “With the funk we’re in now, guys aren’t as confident as they would be, so effort is not quite there yet. But if we continue to buy into the system and play the way we’re supposed to play, the effort will be there and the swagger will come back.”
Walsh thinks that perhaps playing in New York City and having to subconsciously fight the losing culture could be a shock to the newcomers.
“It’s a hump you have to get over. Even when you change the players, it still lingers on. And I’m not sure why,” Walsh said of trying to rid a franchise of a losing culture. “It could be the town itself or it could be just the way you’re perceived and you buy into it. You need a guy to take you out of that. I had that in Indiana with Reggie [Miller]. He wouldn’t accept that [losing mentality]. Once you start winning you realize you can win and then you get out of it.”
He added that even playing in D’Antoni’s up-tempo system can be a shock to players’ systems.
“It’s a different pace. But guys will figure out, ‘Oh, I’m not going to play if I don’t really run every single time.’ And once they start doing so, then they realize how easy it all can be,” Walsh said. “It’s not about buying in. It’s a matter of really understanding what you have to do in order to play in this system. And the one thing you have to do is run. I don’t think in other systems you really believe you’re going to run every single trip, so it takes time for players to know how to do that.”
One denominator that won’t be called into question, said Donnie Walsh, is how hard the players work. When a team stops working hard for a coach, then you have a problem that needs to be corrected from the top down. Walsh said he’s nowhere near that point yet.
“Hard work and intensity are two different things,” Walsh deduced. “I think the intensity has to pick up here but I think the guys are playing hard.”
Walsh continued saying he’s not concerned about D’Antoni’s ability to reach this team but he is worried about having to dig out of an insurmountable hole, in what is a wide open bottom-half of the Eastern Conference.
“You always worry about it,” Walsh said about falling into a deep hole. “I’ve worried about it every year I’ve been in the league. But I also know you can get yourself out of it. But the only way you do that is if you stay together and everybody has to work hard.”