NBA AM: Time Is Ticking On D’Antoni
The expectation to continually produce at a high level within New York’s professional sports scene never ceases and the scrutiny surrounding the head coaches of its franchises is a well documented pressure cooker.
New York is truly a place where criticism never sleeps.
The latest candidate who could potentially by engulfed by its demands is New York Knicks head coach Mike D’Antoni who is entering the final year of his contract and hasn’t been given any assurances of an extension.
As outlined yesterday, former Atlanta Hawks head coach Mike Woodson was hired by the Knicks to join its coaching staff as lead assistant in order to strengthen team defense which has been a source of contention from fans since D’Antoni arrived in the Big Apple.
D’Antoni understands he’s on the hot seat to produce now and knows he doesn’t have the luxury of long term planning at his disposal.
“It’s not like they [Knicks] have to keep [you] around because they’re financially strapped,” D’Antoni said during the conference call announcing Woodson’s hiring. “We have to produce. Whether it’s one or 10, it doesn’t matter. It’s going to come down to next year.”
Despite leading the team back to the playoffs last season after a six year drought and finishing the campaign with its first winning record since 2001 D’Antoni has continued to draw heat from fans and the media for his perceived reluctance to concentrate on shoring up defensive shortcomings.
Complicating matters for D’Antoni is the uncertainty in the Knicks’ front office.
D’Antoni was hired by former team president Donnie Walsh who abruptly stepped down from the post earlier this summer. To survive D’Antoni will have to overcome a few hurdles without the front office support system that was previously in place.
Interim team president Glen Grunwald is a former collegiate teammate of Woodson’s at Indiana and according to the New York Post he reportedly approached D’Antoni with the suggestion of bringing Woodson onboard to round out the coaching staff.
History is littered with examples of head coaches not lasting long with franchises after the executives who hired them initially leave an organization.
This is shaping up to be a similar type of situation for a few reasons.
The first goes back to D’Antoni being in the final year of his deal without a long term endorsement from owner Jim Dolan.
The second issue comes down to familiarity. Grunwald is completely familiar with Woodson which would undoubtedly come into play if the club stumbled out of the gate once the season began.
The last item revolves around experience.
Woodson will be the only assistant on the staff with NBA head coaching experience. He possesses extensive postseason experience compiled during his tenure with the Hawks and was a strong candidate for numerous vacancies throughout the league this summer. In essence, Woodson could be a built-in contingency plan in the event D’Antoni falters early. His presence and respect from players would soften the blow if the Knicks decided to go in a different direction midseason.
However the embattled coach is putting a positive spin on his current contract situation and believes Woodson’s presence will bolster the team.
“I’m on a one-year deal, and we could have a quick turnaround,” D’Antoni said. “It’s a special type situation. We got the best of everything. Head-coaching experience was very important to have the respect of the players. We got to have a better team next year. It’s good to have someone who’s been through it already, knowing what I need.”
The Knicks made a 13 win improvement over their 2010 finish so most would say that the corner has already been turned. But without ownerships backing D’Antoni could be operating in a lame duck status no matter what his upcoming results turn out to be.
Chandler Commits To China: Wilson Chandler, expected to be one of the most coveted players during this year’s free agency period, has signed a contract to play with Zhejiang Guangsha of the Chinese Basketball Association.
One thing to note immediately about Chandler’s departure overseas is that the Chinese Basketball Association will not allow its players to leave their respective teams once the NBA labor dispute ends.
Even with that being the case, Chandler isn’t worried about missing out on the NBA experience – for one year at least.
“Maybe I’ll lose out,” Chandler told ESPN. “But I think it can be a great experience. I haven’t been in any [labor negotiation] meetings. I can’t call it. I’m just taking a risk, at the end of the day.”
This could be another sign that the 2012 season is in serious jeopardy of being scrapped altogether as Wilson was projected to haul in a multi-year contract in the $6- $8 million per season range at the very least.
Instead the 24 year old small forward is rolling the dice and going to China on a one-year deal between $1.7 million and $3.0 million.
His salary abroad will be less than the qualifying offer the Denver Nuggets tendered earlier this summer which made Chandler a restricted free agent and retained their rights to match any offer for his services.
The only worry on the forward’s mind revolves around a potential long term injury which would damage his future career earnings once the lockout is long in the rearview mirror.
“It’s a huge concern,” Chandler said about the possibility of injury.”But as long as I take care of my body, I’ll be fine. We’ve got insurance.”
Chandler will join former Orlando Magic forward Earl Clark who signed with Zhejiang Guangsha earlier this summer.
Other NBA News & Notes
- Philadelphia 76ers reserve forward Craig Brackins has signed with Maccabi Ashdod of the Israeli Basketball Super League according to Kate Fagan of the Philadelphia Inquirer. Brackins appeared in only three games with the Sixers last season logging 33 minutes. The deal only runs through December and also includes an opt-out clause in the event the lockout ends before then.
- The Algemeiner is reporting Cleveland Cavaliers forward Omri Casspi has received numerous offers to play overseas. The French club ASVEL Lyon-Villeurbanne (ASVEL Basket) was mentioned as a potential suitor. So was Russian teams Spartak St. Petersburg and Khimki Moscow. France is reportedly the early favorite for his services.
- According to a report by Fox Sports Australia, Milwaukee Bucks centerpiece Andrew Bogut has confirmed the National Basketball League (NBL) is a viable option for his services in the event the lockout stretches into the season. Bogut wouldn’t seek a large deal, but would fully expect insurance for his $60 million contract to be provided by any team seeking to sign him.
NBA Chats: There are two NBA chats on the schedule today. HOOPSWORLD senior writer Eric Pincus will host his weekly chat at 4:00pm EST (1:00pm Pacific). Submit your questions here.
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