Newsday's Al Iannazzone takes you inside the Knicks.
Winning time finally arrives for D'Antoni
Mike D'Antoni sat on the dais for Saturday's hastily-prepared press conference to introduce Tyson Chandler with the usual smile on his face, the one he's learned to wear over the years in New York through the many press conferences and announcements about seemingly countless player transactions.
"Hopefully we don’t have many more of these left," D'Antoni later said. "It would be nice to stay pat for at least four or five years and keep adding little pieces that will take us over the top."
Over the first three seasons of his tenure in New York, D'Antoni has coached 39 players. This season, he will have at least five more to bring that total to 44. In four seasons. Yes, that's a lot of press conferences talking about a lot of different players.
"The good thing about now, the last one (Carmelo Anthony) and this one (Tyson Chandler), is we’re shaking things up but it’s getting better," D'Antoni said. "I can handle that. Shaking it up and getting worse that wasn’t good but now this is exciting."
That's the same word Glen Grunwald, serving in the role of interim general manager and already showing great aplomb as the administrator overseeing an experienced group that includes former NBA Executive of the Year winners John Gabriel and Mark Warkentien and the well-connected, well-versed Allan Houston.
"Now I’m really excited about working here," Grunwald said in his first comments as the interim GM. "We don’t have constantly try and save cap space. We have a group we can commit to, we can move forward with and we can add the pieces. I feel we’re in an excellent position."
No one forgets that Donnie Walsh put them in this position. And no one should forget that D'Antoni took most of the bullets during the arduous, but necessary, waiting period to get into this position. So no one was more ready to scrap the wait-for-CP3 idea more than D'Antoni, who was pleased to see Grunwald and Co. go all-in with the swift and calcuated move to fill the team's most critical need, a defensive-minded center, with the best one available on the free agent market.
Yes, the Knicks still have to figure out the point guard situation and it's on D'Antoni to use his offensive wizardry to make it work without one, but just knowing that it's winning time -- finally -- is appealing to a coach in the final year of his contract.
"Speaking to a guy on a one-year contract, yeah, that to me sounds like a good idea," D'Antoni said. "Again, another plan was to save cap space. OK, but if you can get this guy? Why save it? You get a great player that is a need we really need. It would be no reason to bypass this to chase a dream. This is a dream."
The arrival of Chandler, who with Carmelo and Amar'e Stoudemire give the Knicks one of the best frontcourts in the NBA, may be enough to keep the D'Antoni lynch mob at bay. But they'll be waiting for the first sign of trouble. Phil Jackson and John Calipari are out there, Mike Woodson is right here on the staff, and all are sure to be immediately mentioned once there's a first sign of trouble for D'Antoni, who might have a total of 10 days of real practice with a full roster -- after everyone is signed, sealed and delivered and including two preseason games, a media day and a fan-friendly scrimmage -- before the Boston Celtics show up at the Garden on Christmas morning.
D'Antoni knows the Garden way. He saw how it worked last season with Walsh. There will be no campaigning for a contract extension during the season. That business will be handled in the offseason, unless otherwise notified. So even in the midst of winning time, the first real opportunity to play for something significant since he arrived here, D'Antoni will be the only major part of the team that can't look at the potential of this roster beyond this season. He can't even consider the potential of luring his old friend, Steve Nash, with the full Mid-Level Exception next summer to really make a championship push because D'Antoni knows it's possible that he might not even be here.
No, there is no more looking ahead. It's winning time now.
"As a player, you play hard, you play well and things work out," said D'Antoni, who will be 61 at the end of the season. "The same as a coach. You play well and things will work out. I’m not at the beginning of my career. I’m at the end. That’s not a thought. I’m just happy to be able to coach these guys. I really think we have some terrific things ahead of us. I’m satisfied."