The New York Knicks are a team with a whole lot of leaders. Some of them unofficial, some of them quite good, some of them are pretty terrible at just about everything save for hiring crack musicians to play in their terrible "blues" band, and some could use a little help.
Mike D'Antoni could use a little help. Save for one season in Phoenix back in 2005-06, he's never really led an above-average defensive outfit. And his current Knicks roster is full of pretty terrible defenders, so he could clearly use an upgrade in that area in order to match a respectable defensive unit with a team that can put up 110 points in the blink of an eye.
But because of the Knick leaders that are pretty terrible -- owner James Dolan, and former Knick personnel el jefe and current unofficial advisor Isiah Thomas -- New York doesn't have any assets on hand to upgrade the roster with defensive-minded hounds.
Thomas, through Dolan, took over the reins and traded for Carmelo Anthony(notes) in February in a move that probably could have been accomplished in this upcoming offseason without giving up the players, depth, defenders and the draft picks that Dolan surrendered without warning. And with the team capped out and no real options on the table to enhance things, New York is looking to upgrade the coaching staff, because that never counts against the cap. They want to hire a defensive-minded assistant to help D'Antoni make that end of the court less embarrassing.
D'Antoni is under contract through next season and is expected to be retained after leading the Knicks to their first postseason appearance in seven years. However, under D'Antoni the Knicks have been among the league's weaker defensive teams, which is something [Donnie] Walsh would like to change.
Memphis assistant Dave Joerger, Orlando's Steve Clifford, Portland's Bill Bayno and Chicago's Ron Adams are all regarded as top defensive coaches. Another possibility for the Knicks is Thibodeau's replacement in Boston, Lawrence Frank, the former Nets' coach. Frank's contract expires this summer.
Isola also points out D'Antoni's reluctance in Phoenix to hire current Bulls coach and defensive maven Tom Thibodeau to guide his team on that end during 2007. Thibs went on to be hired by Boston, and his teams since then have either finished first or second in overall defensive efficiency in every year since.
The problem I have is, sure, bring in Ron Adams. He helped shape the Oklahoma City Thunder into a terrific defensive outfit last season (they fell off in his absence this year), and he's currently riding the pine for a Bulls team that locked down better than any other group in 2010-11. But what is he going to do with Chauncey Billups'(notes) slow recovery times, Ronny Turiaf's(notes) high foul rate, and Amar'e Stoudemire(notes) and Carmelo Anthony's legendary indifference to that side of the court? Carmelo can be helped, perhaps, but bigs don't usually start to "get it" defensively this late in a career. Especially if they're a few years removed from having their knee surgically reconstructed.
There's no doubt that someone who knows what he's talking about on that end could help D'Antoni, especially if he is as stubborn as the Thibodeau story would have us assume. But the real problem isn't on the sideline. D'Antoni can be helped by a defensive-minded assistant, there's no doubt, but the real issue is this team's roster.
And the biggest issue, as it's always been, is the terrible stewardship of James Dolan. Even with the Knicks making their first playoff series since the time Isiah Thomas mortgaged their future and sent a ton of expiring contracts, picks and depth to Phoenix for an All-Star scoring threat in 2003-04, the Knicks still have a hamstrung future. No well-regarded assistant is going to change that.