Let's rewind back one year. The Knicks were off to another horrendous start under then head coach and President of Basketball Operations Isiah Thomas. The starting lineup on opening night was Eddy Curry, Zach Randolph, Quentin Richardson, Jamal Crawford, and Stephon Marbury. After countless lineup changes, sexual assault scandals, and quarter pounders consumed by Eddy Curry, New York Knicks owner James Dolan finally came to his senses and dismissed Isiah Thomas as head coach and President of Basketball Operations. In came former Phoenix Suns top man, Mike D'Antoni.
Renowned for his offensive genius and "Seven Seconds or Less" attack, he brought the run and gun mentality to MSG. In Phoenix, he was supplied with an MVP and an All-Star cast which helped him average 58 wins a season in his four full seasons as coach. Running the show was MVP Steve Nash, who many considered to be the engine behind the offense, not the system itself.
One year later with essentially the same roster from the 2007-2008 season which managed to win a pathetic 23 games, here is D'Antoni again working his magic. Through the first nine games of the season, the Knicks are 6-3, tied for the fifth seed if the playoffs started today, and are three games over .500 for the first time since December 29, 2004. Some of you may remember this date as the day Stephon Marbury boldly declared himself the "best point guard in the NBA." The biggest offseason import was career backup point guard Chris Duhon. With career averages of 6.9 ppg and 4.5 apg, hardly the engine and floor general he had with Steve Nash in Phoenix. However, D'Antoni is proving his critics wrong and winning over the MSG crowd with his great basketball mind. A look at the numbers shows this record isn't just a fluke and that his players in Phoenix did not make the system. The Knicks are averaging a league leading 104.8 ppg and are fourth in the league at 23.2 apg. Both numbers up from last years putrid offense which averaged only 96.9 ppg and 18.7 apg. An enormous change from this group who were labeled as selfish last year.
The starting lineup for this years squad is Zach Randolph, Wilson Chandler, Quentin Richardson, Jamal Crawford, and Chris Duhon. Crawford is proving to the NBA he can be a winning player and is averaging a career best 21 ppg. Zach Randolph has rejuvenated his career and playing team basketball for the first time in his life. Within the flow of the offense he is averaging 20.1 ppg and is third in the league in rebounding at 12.3 a game. The man has bought in so much to what D'Antoni is preaching, he even dishes out an assist every game.
After an offseason where D'Antoni was essentially kicked out the door by the Suns and was mocked for passing on the Chicago Bulls job, (a team who would eventually land number one pick Derrick Rose and was seen by many as the perfect point guard for his system) the Knicks were happy to embrace D'Antoni as its savior. He is changing the culture, winning the crowd, and showing the fans of New York the changing times literally by benching Eddy Curry and Stephon Marbury for the entire season. The season is still a long way from being over and there's a chance either of the two could still play, but the early returns show that D'Antoni's mind and basketball sense matter more than the players on his roster which is a welcomed attitude after the prior regime.