Anthony’s arrival wasn’t the final piece of the puzzle, because it actually created a new problem for D’Antoni. Stoudemire had lifted the Knicks into playoff contention before the team decided to gut its roster and ship four starters and a first-round draft pick to the Nuggets for Anthony.
Anthony and Stoudemire both need a lot of touches to be effective and haven’t figured out how to defer and share, and when to be assertive.
Stoudemire has been slumping and Anthony is shooting a career-worst 39.9 percent while dealing with injuries to his wrist, ankle and thumb. Anthony’s latest setback — a strain — has effectively described his season in New York, as he recently experienced an introspective moment, telling reporters after a loss to Denver, “Maybe I need to not take so many shots.”
The Knicks made the biggest move of the offseason, acquiring Tyson Chandler in a sign-and-trade deal with the defending champion Dallas Mavericks. Chandler turned down several suitors to come to New York, which was swept out of the first round of the playoffs last season.
“I just envisioned myself, Amare and ’Melo, being able to punish teams — with our size, what we are, what we’ve been able to bring to teams throughout our careers,” Chandler said. “I felt like the combination, we could be a great contender and championship-bound. I still feel that way.”
But without a veteran point guard running the show, having arguably the most talented front court has been the equivalent of placing a Bentley on bricks instead of wheels. It looks good up top, but isn’t going anywhere. The Knicks used the amnesty clause to waive Chauncey Billups in order to get Chandler, and signed Mike Bibby and Baron Davis. Bibby has been ineffective and Davis has yet to make his season debut, sidelined with back and elbow problems.
D’Antoni has experimented with several options. He used Anthony as a facilitator, then tried shooting guard Toney Douglas and rookie Iman Shumpert until he found a competent floor leader — for two games at least — in Lin. Lin, a former star at Harvard, had already been cut by Houston and Golden State before exploding for 53 points and 15 assists and leading the Knicks to two wins. Fans in New York have already serenaded him with “MVP” chants and D’Antoni said he would ride Lin “like frigging Secretariat.”
“Our expectations are still high,” D’Antoni said. “We want to turn it around. We want to be a viable team, get in the playoffs and make some hay. We think we can. We have the guys to do it. They still believe. They are still trying.”
Chandler is urging for patience. “I think, being here in New York, everybody wants everything now,” Chandler said. “We’re all new players, playing with each other. We’re not used to one another, we didn’t have a training camp. We didn’t have many practices, so it’s even worse than what other teams were able to go through, because we didn’t have a summer and all of that stuff to get accustomed to one another, so we’re learning on the fly.”
And still waiting to take off.
Staff writer Amy Shipley contributed to this report from Miami.