mike d'antoni fin

Who Wins, and Who Loses, in the Wake of Mike D’Antoni’s Exit

Head coach Mike D'Antoni of the New York Knicks applaudes his team from the sidelines during the second half against the Washington Wizards at Verizon Center on February 8, 2012 in Washington, DC.
Yeah, get me out of here.

The true fallout from today’s shocking parting of ways between Mike D’Antoni and the New York Knicks likely won’t be known until next season. It is the sort of implosion that could only happen in New York. One month ago, D’Antoni seemed certain to be fired. Three weeks ago, D’Antoni looked liable to ride Jeremy Lin to the NBA Finals. Today, after three years of waiting for his type of roster (and getting it, briefly, twice, only to be thwarted by Carmelo Anthony each time) … he is gone. In the immediate aftermath, let’s take a look at the winners and losers.


Carmelo Anthony. Obviously. If there were any doubt who is charge, there isn’t any longer: Carmelo is the most important non-Dolan over at MSG, and it’s tough to see how that’ll be questioned again. Most of the time, if a team is rolling and exciting its fans the way it hasn’t in a decade while you are out with an injury, you would be expected to try to fit into what’s working, particularly if the team begins losing as you start demanding the team play the way you want it to. The Knicks are not that team. The only real downside to Carmelo’s life now – and it’s a considerable one – is that if the Knicks don’t start winning immediately, he’s going to be booed like few athletes here have ever been booed. Carmelo wanted the New York spotlight. He’ll get it. But he’s in serious danger of becoming the least popular Knick since Marbury. If the last couple of weeks are any indication, though, he doesn’t seem to mind that much.

Jim Dolan. If we’ve learned anything, it’s that Carmelo Anthony must have shared Isiah Thomas’ enthusiasm for JD and the Straight Shot.

Mike D’Antoni. As frustrating as it must be to have nearly four years of work torpedoed, what a relief it must be to be free of the MSG madness. D’Antoni will have plenty of opportunities; the Washington Wizards, frankly, look like an obvious fit. There will be those who will always say D’Antoni was never going to fit in New York, and there will be those who say he was never given a fair shake. (These two sides are not mutually exclusive.) But D’Antoni will never have to sit in a meeting with Jim Dolan again, and he’ll never have Carmelo Anthony ignore one of his huddles again. That makes him a winner, right there.

Baron Davis. Davis is a more traditional point guard than Jeremy Lin, and you should probably expect him to get more and more minutes over the coming weeks. In fact, it wouldn’t be a shock to see him starting, sooner rather than later.

The Milwaukee Bucks. They just made a key trade that will only help them in the short and long term, and their main competition for the No. 8 playoff spot in the Eastern Conference just set itself on fire. Again.

Anyone who has tickets to tonight’s game against Portland. This is going to be one of the most fascinating nights in recent Knicks history. If Carmelo happens to start off 1-for-11, or miss some key fourth-quarter shots … look out.


Jeremy Lin. Linsanity has been over for a while now, but D’Antoni leaving ensures that it’s not coming back. Lin thrived in D’Antoni’s freewheeling style, but Woodson (and, frankly, Anthony) prefers the halfcourt, isolation game. It would not be the least bit surprising to see Lin playing 10-15 backup minutes within a month. Putting him on the cover for two consecutive weeks will not end up among Sports Illustrated’s prouder moments. But do not let this fool you into thinking Linsanity was some sort of fad. It was real, and it was awesome. But it was too beautiful to live.

Amar’e Stoudemire. Stoudemire has struggled to play with Carmelo since last season, and this assures that they’ll be together essentially for the rest of his career, with a team that no longer emphasizes the pick-and-roll that has allowed Stoudemire to thrive. The good news is that everyone will continue to blame Carmelo for everything that goes wrong.

Mike Woodson. Yeah, sure, he’s the coach now, but he’s gonna need a serious playoff run — if he can even make the playoffs — to not be the first person jettisoned when the Knicks start going after Phil Jackson/John Calipari/so on in the offseason. Someone’s going to want to try to solve the Knicks puzzle, particularly when the job will come with serious Dolan money attached. Woodson is the coach now, but after this season, he’ll be lucky to still have a job with the Knicks.

The New York Rangers. Oh, don’t think you’re not next. Dolan still owns you too, and don’t you ever forget it.

All Of Us. For two gorgeous weeks, you forgot everything that was terrible and doomed about the Knicks. You weren’t thinking about Jim Dolan, or the MSG corporate shitshow, or Isiah Thomas, or the last decade of wretched basketball. You were watching Jeremy Lin, and Steve Novak, and Tyson Chandler, and you were swept up in Linsanity. Knicks basketball was as thrilling and breathtaking as it has been in years. After all this … you will never forget again. And you’ll be paying more for the privilege. As it turns out, the Knicks are the Knicks are the Knicks will always be the Knicks.

Winners and Losers in Wake of D’Antoni’s Exit