The evaluation begins NOW

 

You’re slow to admit it, sure, but you know.

You know that with yet another Training Camp behind him, Mike D’Antoni is now technically closer to the end of his four-year contract than he is the beginning. According to most, he’s running out of time, a sloppy 3 and 9 start away from feeling the unforgiving wrath of a battered and bruised fan base.

A fan base anxious to cheer but seemingly programmed to spew venom.

Not that it’s their fault.

They want to cheer, they just forgot how.

And I don’t blame them one bit.

For roughly a decade now, they have simply reacted to the product, and the product has failed. It’s failed on the court, surely, and it’s also failed in the court of morals and public opinions.

Thankfully, Donnie Walsh has slowly snuffed out the stench. He’s been the bleach to Isiah Thomas’ poison.

Still, from the revolving door of coaches and uninspiring press conferences laced with excuses and false hope, to Stephon Marbury foolishly being handed the keys to the one of America’s great venues, it’s been a disaster.

It’s been painful, sure, but most of all, it’s been sad.

Watching the slow demise and gradual erosion of anything good is never fun, especially in this city, where every misstep and flinch is analyzed.

Due to bloated contacts, horrific trades and other short-sighted personnel moves, derisive chants long ago replaced encouraging pleas from the upper chambers of the Garden.

Back to D’Antoni:

Yes, he mismanaged Marbury on Opening Night a few years ago, and to a certain extent, fueled “The Nate Robinson Circus.”

But really, other than a few cosmetic items, big picture,  just how culpable is he?

How much of this mess is actually Mike D’Antoni’s fault?

The answer is pretty much none.

Here’s proof:

Opening Night Roster, 2008:

 

Quentin Richardson

Zach Randolph

Jamaal Crawford

Chris Duhon

Wilson Chandler

Nate Robinson

Stephon Marbury

Malik Rose

Danilo Gallinari (R)

Mardy Collins

Eddy Curry

Opening Night Roster, 2009:

Jared Jeffries

David Lee

Chris Duhon

Wilson Chandler

Nate Robinson

Darko Milicic

Toney Douglas

Danilo Gallinari

Marcus Landry

Jordan Hill

Larry Hughes

Expected Opening Night roster, 2010:

Amar’e Stoudemire

Danilo Gallinari

Raymond Felton

Timofey Mozgov

Wilson Chandler

Anthony Randolph

Ronny Turiaf

Toney Douglas

Bill Walker

Landry Fields

Andy Rautins

Roger Mason

Is D’Antoni a savior? Clearly not. While the roster shuffle was a by-product of the summer of 2010, he knew the stakes when he agreed to take every, single penny of the $24 million dollar contract Donnie Walsh floated his way.

He may have ignored the dead weight on the roster at the time, but he’s no dummy. D’Antoni knew that the losing culture in New York was bigger than his Suns resume, and that it would take time to steady the ship.

Well, the time is now.

For me, D’Antoni has a clear slate, and the evaulation process begins Wednesday night in Toronto:

Unleash Amar’e.

Challenge Gallinari every, single day. Shower him with tough, aggressive love.

Transform Raymond Felton into Steve-Nash East.

Mold Anthony Randolph into a star.

Make sure that by December, Mozgov understands what the refs will call, and what they will ignore.

When your team rolls out the red carpet on defense and allows teams to work on their dunks, call time out, and blast them, old-school.

And if someone complains, sit them.

Immediately.

Don’t like it? Tough.

Most of all, do this all with the back drop of Carmelo messing with some of the young players’ psyche.

Not easy.

I like Mike D’Antoni, more than most, I admit that.

But like him, I have a job to do, and it starts now.

The evaluation process: sometimes messy, always interesting, and unlike others, I’m going to do this the right way.

Starting now.

In bocca al lupo.
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