Knickerbonkers

FRANK ZICARELLI -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:48 AM ET

Donnie Walsh formally introduced Mike D'Antoni as the latest coaching saviour of the New York Knicks yesterday. Basketball's big cheese of the Big Apple began his spiel at the Wamu Theater located inside Madison Square Garden by mispronouncing D'Antoni's name, referring to the modern-day father of uptempo hoops as D'Antonio.

Some would argue that Walsh has miscalculated D'Antoni's ability to turn around a Knicks franchise that has bordered on laughable for the past seven years.

By becoming the 24th coach in Knicks history, D'Antoni received a four-year deal worth $24 million US in a market where money is no object.

While no one can take away a coach of the year honour, nor the 58 wins he averaged in four seasons with the Phoenix Suns, there exists a prevailing sentiment that D'Antoni is the wrong fit in New York.

For the record, D'Antoni said all the right things as New York's notoriously hostile media bombarded him with questions about his departure from the desert, rumours that he's bent on trading away point guard Stephon Marbury and that his reputation was forged, in part, because of the presence of Steve Nash, who won two MVP awards under D'Antoni's watch.

For four years, the D'Antoni-Nash combo helped Phoenix become the most efficient offensive team in basketball, a title contender that just couldn't get over the hump.

The question that can't be easily answered is whether the run was fuelled by Nash or was the byproduct of D'Antoni's mantra of heaving shots within seven seconds.

Like many things, it's probably a combination of both.

What is known is that D'Antoni spurned the Chicago Bulls because management questioned his ability to coach teams that will defend, an area Phoenix's current brass questioned as well.

Just before D'Antoni's unveiling in New York, the day's hot topic came courtesy of Bulls owner Jerry Reinsdorf, who told The Chicago Tribune that D'Antoni "misled" Reinsdorf, saying he didn't want to coach the Knicks.

Such comments are nothing more than sour grapes and should be quickly dismissed.

When one looks at the rosters of the Knicks and Bulls, clearly the makeup in Chicago is much more suited to D'Antoni's style.

D'Antoni, though, says he's prepared to adjust, but nothing can prepare him for what awaits in New York.

The team is full of bad contracts, bad attitudes and over-rated players.

One can't change a losing culture by simply bringing in a fresh face such as D'Antoni, whose run-and-gun approach is a thing of beauty, provided the right point guard is in place. The Knicks don't have one, nor do they have enough shooters, versatile players who can handle the ball and run in transition, absolute essentials in the D'Antoni system.

It is perhaps for those reasons why so many rumours are being floated that just about any current Knicks player is available and why the team is prepared to clean its messy salary structure to take aim on some high-end free agents in the coming seasons, such as a LeBron James.

As one might expect, D'Antoni wasn't about to get caught up in the rampant speculation.

"I know the job has to be done and with Donnie we'll get it done," D'Antoni said. "Having Donnie on my side is a big asset.

"I can adjust to style. We were seven seconds or less. The rules state it has to be 24 seconds or less and we can adjust to anything we want.

"I didn't come in thinking we'd have to start from zero."

Perhaps not, but the Donnie/D'Antoni fit in New York has zero chance of succeeding if radical changes aren't made -- and the sooner the better.

The problem for the Knicks is trying to move the onerous contracts. Only then will D'Antoni be in a position to implement his system and only then will he be properly judged.

MOON ON ROOKIE SQUAD

Toronto Raptors high-flying forward Jamario Moon was named to the NBA all-rookie second team yesterday.

Moon was one of the Raptors' biggest success stories this past season, a former NBA D-League player who earned a roster spot following a free agent tryout camp. He set team rookie records for games started (75) and defensive rebounds (392).


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