The Knicks-Celtics series continues Friday at Madison Square Garden and the national broadcast switches from TNT to ESPN, which means fans outside of New York who can't watch on MSG Network will get a break from Charles Barkley's incessant bashing of the Knicks.
Barkley is certainly entitled to his opinions and is paid to offer them in a strong manner, but did he go too far before Tuesday's Game 2 while, after offering criticism of Mike D'Antoni, he added, "That's why they are going to have a new coach next year."
It was an off-the-cuff comment, not based on any information Barkley had, but more an opinion on what he thought should happen.
D'Antoni has one year left on his contract and, despite widespread criticism of his coaching style, which is only further fueled by late-game management issues that have sprung up in this series so far, there is little doubt that he will return to coach at least next season.
Barkley's comments quickly went through the Knicks organization on Wednesday, which had several high-level staffers annoyed. D'Antoni, too, has heard the criticism and suggestions that he should be fired. In the midst of a playoff series, it's the last thing he needs to feel is hanging over his head. But then again, it puts him in the same boat as Donnie Walsh.
Jeff Van Gundy experienced a similar situation during the 1999 playoffs, as former Garden president Dave Checketts talked with Phil Jackson about potentially coaching the Knicks. Van Gundy, whose star-loaded team struggled during the lockout-shortened season, shrugged off the reports and guided the Knicks on an improbable run to the NBA Finals. He was awarded with a two-year contract extension.
There is plenty to debate about some decisions D'Antoni makes and his record since coming to New York is hardly impressive. However, in fairness, D'Antoni has had to deal with a major in-season trade that shook up his roster in each of his three seasons so far. He's never gone from training camp to the season finale with the same core players.
D'Antoni still should be judged off his team's performance in the playoffs. The injuries to Chauncey Billups and Amar'e Stoudemire provide an excuse if the Knicks bow out here in four or five. The Knicks, however, have been extremely competitive in these two games so far, despite falling short in the clutch.
With a lockout looming and one year left on his deal, there's little chance D'Antoni will be fired before next season.
In fact, the lockout also gives reason to believe that team owner James Dolan will look to bring Walsh back next season, though the team option may not be picked up in 10 days to lock it in. If the April 30 deadline passes for his $5 million team option for 2011-12, that doesn't mean Walsh is out. It means he'll have to negotiate a new contract when his current one expires on June 30. Dolan and the Garden can sign Walsh to an extension at any time before June 30, which is a fact most often overlooked.
With the potential for a lockout, Walsh may have to consider a new deal that includes a work-stoppage stipulation that lowers his pay while the league is shut down. Most of the recent contracts drawn up for current GMs and coaches hired over the last two years include this work-stoppage provision, but it is not believed that there is one in Walsh's deal, which was signed in April 2008.