It means that D'Antoni, who probably grades as high on coaching paranoia as most of them do, has a sense that he does go right on the frontlines if the deal is made.
If Walsh does close the deal, it is hard to see how Dolan doesn't exercise the team's option on Walsh's contract at the end of April. Walsh will have made the deal that Dolan wants him to make, after a negotiation in which Dolan has involved himself, but good. In that way, the whole thing is win-win for Walsh.
Then D'Antoni is the one who has to win games.
Now, just because one basketball guy says that D'Antoni is a possible obstacle to the Knicks trading 60% of their starting lineup for Anthony doesn't automatically mean that he is. But there is a certain logic to it. D'Antoni got the Knicks winning earlier in the season and the crowd cheered. And even though the Knicks have stumbled lately, they go into the break at 28-26 and still in the sixth playoff slot in the Eastern Conference, over .500 at the break for the first time in a decade.
Clearly, though, the game changes if the Knicks do get Anthony, no matter how much they have to give up. If you think D'Antoni is already out front - really for the first time - because of the way the Knicks have stumbled the last month (mostly because they play the worst defense in the conference and defense as bad as anybody in the league)
, what happens the night Anthony comes out of the tunnel? At which point the crowd doesn't just cheer, it officially goes back to being the Monster of Madison Square Garden?
One of the reasons that D'Antoni made the name for himself in Phoenix that he did was because he had two stars, Stoudemire and Steve Nash. But Nash was as unselfish superstar MVP as the league has seen. Not only that, he was low maintenance, and like a coach on the floor. It will be a little different if Anthony suits up for the Knicks next week. This is a young man who has been a star of his sport since he led Syracuse to the NCAA national championship as a freshman, even if he hasn't won much since.
Oh, you bet the game changes for D'Antoni, and the stakes are raised exponentially. All of a sudden, people won't just be thrilled to see the Knicks back in the playoffs, they will want them to make some real noise in the first round, even if it's against the Heat or Celtics or Magic or Bulls. Then D'Antoni really is out of the bubble in which he was allowed to operate before this season, when nobody expected him to do anything.
Maybe it makes sense that the person most worried about making this change is the guy who has to make a new team work with less than 30 games left in the regular season. In the third year of a four-year contract.