That's how Rajon Rondo made his bones. As a former shot-distributor in the ABA, NBA and Italy, it's unfathomable D'Antoni fails to grasp the intense difficulty to divide shots among Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen to their satisfaction.
Finding a substitute for Billups would be impossible. Finding someone who specializes in blocked shots, defense and rebounding (two out of three ain't bad) would be next to impossible. Who can they secure for $8 million carved between two bigs, maybe three -- Samuel Dalembert, Reggie Evans, Kenyon Martin, Nazr Mohammed, Kwame Brown, Jeff Foster?
That's why it pays to stick with Billups. Yes, his salary puts the Knicks over the cap, but it solidifies the second most important position. And by keeping him, it permits the Knicks to use the $5 million mid-level exception (if the new CBA doesn't eliminate it) to split between two of the aforementioned players.
That brings us to D'Antoni's shaky status. Who cares that he took the Suns twice to the Western Conference finals? Alvin Gentry took the same talent there last season. What's important is how well D'Antoni coached the Knicks in the playoffs, with or without all his talent. Pretty lousy, from what I observed.
While we live in world of diminished expectations -- the Mysterious J. can attest to that -- D'Antoni lowered the limbo bar. Save for a couple stretches when I suspect the Celtics dozed rather than the Knicks dazzled, his team came home for two games and did not compete . . . and that simply does not compute.
"Boston today is a better team than we are in every sense of the word."
This quote was brought to you by a guy who's 50-50 to get outcoached by Kurt Rambis, Roy Rubin and Red Klotz. So, we have a franchise which has lost its last ten playoff games led by a (lame-duck?) coach who has lost 10 of his last 11.
D'Antoni doesn't deserve to get more time just because the Knicks tanked his first two seasons. This is his 17th on the sidelines. It's not like he figures to get better at the job if given more years. If he can't react to adverse situations now why prolong his stay just because he's owed $6 million? It's like keeping a player who stinks just because he's making important money.
The best time to evaluate a coach is when things go wrong, not when they're winning. When you're down and out, you've got to do something, think of something that's helpful. What did D'Antoni do of consequence for the Knicks when they were hurting and undermanned?
Melo and Amar'e got swept and look what they did? They were not rendered useless. D'Antoni was rendered useless.
After Sunday's column, I got an e-mail from a prominent former NBA coach. While he agreed D'Antoni "basically had been outcoached by Doc Rivers, he's probably a little better than u had him in last article.
"Mike is essentially another Nellie (Don Nelson). Wants to coach a wide open game with no big men and then complains he never had a big man."
I don't believe for a silly second Walsh -- or Dolan, should he dictate the decision -- will do the right thing and ditch D'Antoni, especially following endorsements by Stoudemire (effusive) and Anthony (milquetoast).
(FYI: superstars are notorious for expressing one sentiment publicly and going the opposite way privately to management.)
Unlike Billups, D'Antoni would be easy to replace. Mark Jackson should've been hired initially. ABC-ESPN viewers are praying Jeff Van Gundy returns to the office. Mike Brown is unemployed. And Rick Adelman still wants to coach.
Look how the Rockets played the last two years without Yao Ming. I've yet to hear anyone knock his ability or say it wasn't fun playing for him.
Calm yourself; Thomas has no shot to resurrect his coaching or front office career with the Knicks. If he did, if Dolan was truly considering bringing him back, the False Prophet would not be trying to manipulate every influential journalist within the sound of his voice.