RED’S RANT (Week 2)
Brought to you by “Mr. We Need a Big More Than Anything…”-RED

Somewhere on my list of things I hate are: excuse makers, liars & phonies, weak minded individuals, liver, and flat-asses. After assessing the current state of our revived New York Knicks, or should I say renovated Knicks and their stage one renovated building, a few things come to mind- one of which I hate with a passion; Mike D’Antoni and his system. I can’t complain about wins, but honestly, I hate winning or rather playing how we do.

Located within my analysis is an observation buttressed by tradition, unconditional love, and a conundrum; a paradoxically flummoxing relationship between us fans, the team, the game of basketball, and of course the coach. I can only dub this phenomenon Basketball Stockholm Syndrome. We as fans while obligated to “root-root-root for the home team”, are thus rooting for unconventional basketball; an easily misinterpreted paradox.

Huh? You don’t know what I mean? Let me enlighten you. In psychology, Stockholm Syndrome is an apparently paradoxical psychological phenomenon in which hostages express empathy and have positive feelings towards their captors, sometimes to the point of defending them. These feelings are generally considered irrational in light of the danger or risk endured by the victims, who essentially mistake a lack of abuse from their captors for an act of kindness (Wikipedia). We will get more into this later but note I deem some fans held captive by this coach, formulating and extrapolating information based on what this coach needs to succeed, hostages who are predisposed to hold out hope that if one thousand anomalies occur then we can succeed.

For the past few years we have debated on KOL the merits of our front office and the approach by Mike D’Antoni. Analysis, excuses, reasons, assertions, rebuttals, revisionist history, and with all that we are nowhere. To be fair D’Antoni has had the pleasure of coaching 65 different players during his time here due to the flux involved in building a championship team. The issue here is “what is the formula for a championship team”? Who knows, surely not Mike D’Antoni.

The shell game we are involved in is simple yet effective. If you take the time to list all the reasons for our failures over the years, and then consider our successes, you eventually set up a game of find the ball under the cup. Just within the paragraph above I couldn’t help but to entertain myself by playing the shell game. When I said he has coached 65 different players, some can say, that’s why we have struggled. I can hear them now, “who do you know that can be successful with this type of turnover”. Of course they neglect the fact that D’Antoni has had us searching for an unavailable option and is the primary reason we jettisoned so many. Step right up and guess which cup has the ball!

Before last year, we thought the championship formula was through the acquisition of three stars. Miami and Boston proved this incorrect. There was a thought of size combined with a “knock-down” shooter but as many have pointed out, there is a lack of quality big men out there and even less “knock-down” shooters. The correct answer is there is no formula. Being that some teams match-up better with certain other teams, and of course the human element is involved (the Refs), the only definite is luck.

But sometimes it’s easier for someone to say what they don’t want rather than tell you what they do want, and in the case of basketball, we know what shouldn’t be. For instance we know we shouldn’t field a team consisting of five seven footers in the starting line-up, although it’s a game of size. Conversely we know the team who scores the most wins, but that in no way means to field a team of strictly shooters.

Speaking of shooters; we know we need to make shots, but not always as fast as possible. There are inherit things and fundamentals that even the novice fan should understand. Building a contending team takes finding the right mix of players, with the right coach, that peeks at the right time; who those players are, what they can do, and using what strategy is debatable. What’s not up for debate is putting things into proper context; basketball context. Size matters only if used correctly (ask your girl), and too much can impinge upon flow and good shot selection not to mention defense.

I don’t have to get further into our current state of affairs but to quickly sum it up (in case you have been sleeping underground), we have rebuilt our entire roster in three years, gone all-in after logically figuring out we have no shot at one particular player, raised our expectations after adding size, and continue to struggle while our team finds unity… again.

We have struggled with our ball movement, communication, spacing, rebounding, decision making, and injuries. But allow me to retort as I get back to my theory, Basketball Stockholm Syndrome. I like picturing things at their best, that’s how I keep perspective. At his best, Mike D’Antoni and his system has produced playoff teams. Even with our assembly line roster, we have been able to score near the top of the league. If someone where to describe D’Antoni they would harp on his offensive acumen. The spread Pick & Roll has produced some aw inspiring play- that’s me playing hostage, ever willing to set up my very own shell game. Even at its best, I still disagree with the approach, but can’t say so without appearing spoiled because we were so inept for years. As they say beggars can’t be choosers.

Amare is known as an offensive beast. Steve Nash is a hall of famer. Joe Johnson just received a max contract. Even menial players such as Chris Duhon and Raymond Felton noticed a spike in their offensive output as a result of this system (Stockholmers please refrain from saying we don’t run the SSOL system anymore). But here’s the paradox. Almost every player and every salary implicating move, were a direct result of the D’Antoni system. When we were considering jettisoning a player like David Lee for (or) Anthony Randolph, or giving more playing time to players like Darko Milicic, the decisions were made based on Mike D’Antoni’s system; as is the case when it’s decided to DNP players. It’s because they don’t fit the system; they can play basketball (context), just not the D’Antoni way. For some reason, (some of) these players who were good enough to entice a trade with us (or be drafted by us), couldn’t play within D’Antoni’s system, yet outside of our system, they flourished.

There are many players who for some reason perform outside of the D’Antoni influence. Maybe not all-star worthy performances, but provide viable options. To be fair, there were some players who got better within our system. But in my analogy, if we had to label the captor and the hostage, D’Antoni is the former… we fans are the hostages forced to allow what we know is wrong to be correct.

All of our common-sense is reconstructed and reevaluated. It’s the Bizzaro world, and we as hostages do whatever we can to survive, even if that means accepting something that’s so totally bass-akwards, like a mirage in the desert to parched roamers. Even if that means ignoring our instincts, as long as we survive, the ends justify the means. Prisoners who exhibit Stockholm syndrome seem to rationalize and empathize with their captures. This is like all the fans who think B. Diddy is the answer. Recall a year ago, Felton was the answer, and previous it was Nash and a slew of other players, the “Chosen One” included. Ignoring all common sense that suggests even future hall of famer Steve Nash wasn’t the answer.

These Stockholm afflicted fans are doing whatever they can to not get killed, it’s not their fault. They keep telling themselves it’s the players not the coach. Does it matter that a roster consisting of statistically better players have not achieved what these fans think our umpteen rosters could? Nope. Does it matter that no other team has achieved what we are attempting to achieve in the fashion we are attempting (figure that one out)? Nope.

These hostages have an answer for everything except for what’s most important. They are more than willing to go to bat for the guy who kidnapped them and held them hostage, because evidently he cares enough to give them their very own dark dungeon complete with 50ft well, slop to eat, and lotion for their skin. (See The Silence of the Lambs, “it puts the lotion on its skin”). Tell them the roster is comparable, they say not without Nash. Tell them but that roster never won, they pull the Spurs card; and have an Amare ejection card yet to be played. Tell them that defense is lacking as a byproduct of this system, they say being fifteenth is better than twenty eighth. They even feel with the right players, defensive deficiencies can be overcome regardless of coaching.

Can we blame these fans? These Stockholm afflicted fans, who are in survival mode, willing to say anything? Whenever you offer logical reasons why we can’t rebound consistently, like because there’s no one near the basket; they say trade for better players who can rebound. When you say we can’t win chucking up threes this much; they say wait til’ Baron Davis returns, then there will be more ball movement.

Never-mind the astute observation that although player-wise we have improved, the system still produces the same mistakes like not being able to showcase a hot player where he likes to get the ball. Never mind the still game photos illustrating four players standing around the perimeter while one attempts to rebound over an entire squad, because had those shots [taken] furthest away from the hoop fallen, there would be no need for rebounds. Hello?! Sad hostages… Sad Stockholm syndrome fans viewing this game through a Mike D’Antoni view-master.

They think with the right point guard (ala Steve Nash) all will be well. Steve Nash would supersede the defensive issues. He would make sure the ball keeps moving and players know where to be. All in their created fantasy world. They had visions of Lebron, Nash, D12, which would transition to CP3 if all went well. Of course that would be after we won our first championship in over thirty years, then we would be working on not 2, not 3, not 4… you get the message.

Ah, you got to love the Stockholmers. We’re just a piece away. A few practices from everyone realizing how to run the system; we don’t need former NBA champion Tyson Chandler; Gallinari is better than Carmelo Anthony especially after D’Antoni told him to drive more because he was settling for too many outside shots (LAUGH OUT LOUD), and that if we can hit 30 three’s in a game, the opposition doesn’t stand a shot. They feel for their captor D’Antoni because it’s not his fault. It’s up to the players to correct mistakes. When players like Bill Walker decide on not shooting the twenty seventh three even though twenty six were skillfully bricked onto the rim, he is wrong! Because as all D’Antonians know, we were just rocking the competition to sleep, that way they take us lightly and we then strike like a thief in the night or when we see them come playoff time. All according to plan, and Walker almost f’ed that up!

According to Stockholmers these are fundamental mistakes that only better player acquisition can remedy. Considering our current cap condition, those better players are just a fantasy. How in the world can unspecified players make more of a difference than the coach is beyond me? The truth is the unknown is more suitable to them than the facts; it’s a matter of convenience. It serves to answer all the basic questions left unanswered by this coach. Why are we creating mismatches by switching on defense? Because if we had better players we wouldn’t have to switch. Why is Amare driving into a crowd? Because Tyson Chandler is too expensive, takes up too much space, everyone else sucks and Chris Paul would’ve made sure that didn’t happen.

Why oh why are we shooting threes so much? Because an uncontested three and all that results from it is better than a contested shot at the rim. But what about drawing fouls? We should be up by so much that fouls won’t matter. And if we get the spacing down (by spreading out along the perimeter) Amare will have room to work. It’s definitely not D’Antoni’s fault. Game-plans are there to succeed not fail. Why is the tallest guy six foot nine playing center? Because they should be able to hit the three and more rapidly race down the court, grab the inbounds from the shot the opposition hit, beat the opposition back down the court and shoot before the opposition is ready. As stupid as that sounds, Stockholm Syndrome hostages, can’t wait til’ the playoffs. By then, not only will Steve Nash be here, but we would have traded STAT and Chandler for shooters that can hit the three from half-court reducing our need to even run and play defense yet alone rebound. At least that’s what D’Antoni has sold them, complete with a gift bag full of lotion for their backs. (Silence of the Lambs again!)

In the meantime, when we ask why there is so much inconsistency? So much undisciplined play? We know who isn’t to blame, the coach. It must be the players because no one told them to miss.