Salut, Au Revoir, Auf Wiedersehen to Mike D’Antoni and the Greatest Kind of Basketball
|Would have been fun for a little longer… (Photo “courtesy” of Freshness Mag)|
Mike D’Antoni resigned today as head coach of the New York Knickerbockers (*that’s the Knicks.)
What this means for D’Antoni is yet to be seen, although it appears on the surface (and from afar) to be a gentle kind of euthanization. A kind of, “let this poor lamb go before that unholy Garden and Spike Lee destroy him, once-and-for-all.” It does, of course, end the union of Amar’e and him, and the chance (or the once-thought-of reason) for Steve Nash coming to the Big Apple.
Then again, Jeremy Lin did that, too.
But, isn’t that ironic, that Lin is the only redeemable thing left at 4 Penn Plaza? I mean, seriously, how much work have the Knicks put into re-doing and re-jigging and buying in the past two seasons? Okay, 20 seasons.
How ironic is it that the New York Giants have discovered that the key to winning is by building what you can off of a 9-7 regular season record and an out-of-nowhere superstar wide receiver, and that the Rangers are the NHL’s best team without a lineup that scares the other team or their pocket book?
Meanwhile, the New York Knicks continue to plague their chances for an NBA Title with the same glitter, glamour, gloss, and (eventual) dysfunction that has destroyed the current incarnation of the New York Jets.
New York City has always been a metropolis built on contradiction. It throws Fifth Avenue shoe stores and $100 prime rib at you while also having just enough room to wedge in felafel shops and Filene’s Basement. You have Vanderbilts and Cargnegie Halls and Rockefeller Plazas in the same place as you have Harlem, Little Italy, and Ellis Island.
(*NOTE: This just in, Filene’s Basement – the store with the motto, ‘Where Bargains Were Born’ and the brunt of the above allusion – has closed all its stores. But, you get the point.)
New York’s internal contradictions are some of of it’s greatest strengths, as a city. They’re also one of it’s biggest challenges, because sometimes the felafels are actually pretty good, and you didn’t know it because you were at a steakhouse. Sometimes, the Gap has the right shirt, but you were on Fifth Avenue.
Sometimes, Jeremy Lin is a better point guard than Stephon Marbury or Steve Francis, even if he costs and whole lot less and everyone else passed on him.
And so, maybe it’s absolutely fitting that the Giants and Rangers could win two titles in 2012 while the Knicks and Jets (and Yankees, of course) continue with a expenses-per-championships ratio more embarrassing than any television network’s expenses-per-profit ratio.
So, the Knicks went out and spent a whole toilet load-sized amount of dough on Amar’e Stoudamire, a fine player with a fine pedigree. They then wasted a whole lot in a trade for an overrated Carmelo Anthony, a player whose pure scoring would be one big, fine asset to any team if the team could score with him.
And then, they had this Jeremy Lin kid, an overnight superstar who everyone knows can play, and he’s proven it. Best of all, he appears to be nothing if not a hardworking kid who is extremely grateful for his opportunity, and almost too humble to know what he’s been doing on the court this season.
So, of course, the Knicks will chew him up like the gristle on a steak and spit him out into their newly purchased silver waste buckets. “No taste,” they’ll say.
And so, with all that as his backdrop, Mike D’Antoni leaves another land, this time one where he definitely could not work the magic he’s known for. In his last stop, he had a two-time MVP leading his floor force. In this one, he had a few willing hands and a few guys who drink too much soda. Probably.
Hey, you can’t make a good dinner if the milk is brought a day before expiry, can you? Honestly, it’s as if D’Antoni said, “We can’t have too many cooks in the kitchen,” and so everyone left. Even Spike Lee.
In Phoenix, D’Antoni assembled a team that was equipped to win by playing the best kind of basketball. No, seriously. The best kind. It was so fast you couldn’t keep up. As a viewer. It was so quick, you didn’t know when play had restarted or if it was even fair to the other team.
Watching the fast-break Suns play the Raptors was like watching an F1 car compete in the Soap Box Derby scene from The Little Rascals.
Seeing Steve Nash launch a pass down the entire court to Shawn Marion, or lob an impossibly angled behind the back assist to an already air-borne Amar’e Stoudamire, was like watching Ricky Rubio if Ricky Rubio was good.
(*NOTE: Ricky Rubio is good. Just… not worthy, yet.)
When D’Antoni and the Suns lost to the San Antonio Spurs in the 2007 Western Conference Semifinals, it ended the existence of the NBA’s greatest innovation. Troy had been defeated by Athens, but the Trojans didn’t try and rebuild it. They just said, “F*ck it” and went to England.
The fact that the Suns only lost because Robert Horry went all ass-out-clothesline on a rapidly running Steve Nash is as tragic as the Montreal Expos missing out on the 1994 World Series.
While Horry was ejected from the game, Amar’e and Boris Diaw missed the next affair for leaving the bench. In reality, everyone left the bench. That’s what happens when Steve Nash gets hit by a truck in the middle of a game. People stand up.
They didn’t get involved in the “fight.” They just stood up.
Stu Jackson, who handed down the suspensions, admitted that both Amar’e and Diaw were “20-to-25 feet” from the altercation. But, they “left the bench.”
Well sh*t, Stu. The hot dog vendor was closer than they were. They stand up when their team sinks a three-pointer, or when they have to allow enough blood to flow to their head to wonder why Tony Parker would ever cheat on Eva Longoria.
It’s a human reaction, and one that – if applied in your manner – would have resulted in everyone but the five guys on the floor for each team being suspended for one game.
The Spurs would go on to wins the series in six, the Suns having sacrificed Game 5 without the NBA’s best center (at the time).
The Spurs would go on to defeat the Utah Jazz in five games, and then the Cleveland Cavaliers and a prematurely developed LeBron James in four games.
(*NOTE: In the spirit of full disclosure, Horry got two games for the hit on Nash. Tim Duncan got his fourth ring.)
And, just like that, the Suns and D’Antoni’s fast break, full-court empire crumbled. It was dismantled, like the Oakland A’s after the 2002 season.
“Well, that didn’t work the one time we tried it. Break it apart. Let E:60 do a documentary on it.”
When in life does that ever work? When do you simply stop trying something because you came ever-so-close the first time and got screwed out of it by a technicality? In what world is it ever a good thing that the fast break game of basketball is over?
That would be like taking colour and sound out of movies and television, and then awarding the producers of such things. Oh wait…
Congratulations, Deadball Era. Your greatest opponent, Mike D’Antoni, is now on LinkedIn.
White Cover Staff
White Cover Magazine is the "foremost" source for "male" and "female" things in the world today. Kind of. We have Sports. Movies. Arts. (What are Arts?) Television. Music. And, of course, a critical look at everything in the world of Journalism, Sports Journalism, and News at large.
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