Sifting through some of today’s Knicks articles, I came across an interesting quote from Coach D’Antoni in a Marc Berman piece. According to Berman, the Knicks’ coach had the following to say regarding his hopes to get Toney Douglas more court action:
“There's certain guys in this league - Toney, Marcus Landry - you can play for one minute and they're fine. They'll give you everything for one minute and be over there cheering. There are other guys who need roles and need them defined. Nate Robinson. Al (Harrington) Eddy (Curry), Will (Wilson Chandler). If you don't have that bulk of minutes, you can't just throw them out. There's a disrespect there. You have to respect what they've done. I don't have a role for those guys.''
Before I get too deep into this, let me first say that Mike D’Antoni has a better feel for his players than I ever could. Mike D’Antoni has been a part of the game for a long time and has interacted with a large number of players. The current Knicks are a part of his basketball family. Me…. well I have never been in an NBA locker room. I have never even chatted with a Knick player. The closest I have come to having a full blown conversation with an NBA player was back in college when I talked a lot with Ty Rice (playing in Greece) and with Jared Dudley once.
With that said, I have played basketball my entire life. In college, I practiced with the BC women’s hoops team and I was friends with some other athletes. The impression I always got from them was a strong hunger to play, regardless of the role. During practices and during games, I never saw a girl dog it because she was not receiving the playing time that she felt she earned.
So when I read that quote from D’Antoni, I have to pose the question, is it more of a slap in the face to a player like Nate Robinson to simply not play him or to play him in a very reduced role? How about Eddy Curry? Are those players worse off by playing sparingly, or not playing at all?
I remember during the Marbury saga last season, D’Antoni used the same logic in keeping the beleaguered guard strapped to the pine. Once D’Antoni needed Marbury to play and his number was called, #3 never responded. At that point, the disrespect already existed (***I am not trying to defend Marbury in the least. I am simply using him as an example***).
As far as I am concerned, a true athlete and a true competitor will play whenever his number is called, no matter the situation and no matter the disrespect or animosity that exists with a coach. A true competitor let’s his/her game do all of the talking, whether it is garbage time or crunch time. Like I said above, I do not know any of the Knicks players personally. Perhaps D’Antoni is right is dismissing his veteran players to the end of the bench. Perhaps he is right in thinking that it is better for them to not play than to play sparingly.
If you ask me, I do not think that is the case. For guys like Nate and Eddy, they cannot prove themselves without the opportunity to do so. Look at Larry Hughes. He was in the same position at the beginning of the season, but he was given the opportunity to prove his worth.
Do not get me wrong. I would like to see Toney Douglas get more time. I think that he can help this team win ball games. Also, I understand D’Antoni’s benching if he feels a certain player doesn’t fit. But if the reason to keep guys glued to the bench is to keep from disrespecting them, I am a bit confused.