Nov 28, 2012, 4:32 PM EDT
Mike D’Antoni — along with Steve Nash and the “seven seconds or less” Phoenix Suns — didn’t win a ring but they have changed the face of the NBA. Now you see the NBA champion Miami Heat going with a guy thought of as a forward at center (as do other teams), like the Suns did. You see many teams trying to get early offense before a defense sets, like the Suns did. Today’s NBA is different because of what those Suns did.
But they didn’t win a ring. D’Antoni regrets that.
And he told ESPNLA’s Ramona Shelburne he should have stayed and fought for one in Phoenix. Although that’s not how Knicks fans are going to see his comments.
“I shouldn’t have gone to New York,” he says, looking down at the sideline in Memphis, pacing on that unstable right leg.
“I should have stuck in there and battled. You don’t get to coach somebody like him [Nash] too many times. It’s pretty sacred and you need to take care of it. I didn’t….
“I think we got frustrated and I got frustrated. That’s why I left. We were there, it seemed like we deserved it, and then it seemed like something happened all the time. Maybe we weren’t good enough either. We have to understand that.
“I probably irrationally made a decision right when the season was over. You should take a month to figure it out. I shouldn’t have left. That was my fault.”
In an all-or-nothing sports society, we can forget how close those Suns teams were. There was the year of the Amare Stoudemire and Boris Diaw suspension. Joe Johnson’s broken face. Tim Duncan’s improbable three. A lot of things held them back, but they were close.
D’Antoni couldn’t have stayed and made it work in Phoenix, not with how Steve Kerr came in with a different vision of how to build a roster and what it took to win a title. We all knew those Suns were dead the day Shaquille O’Neal arrived. D’Antoni made what was the right call back in summer 2008, and not just for the money. It’s just that things in New York went off script.
Knicks fans, also know that D’Antoni was good for you. He built players up as trade assets during the years it took Donnie Walsh to wipe the stench of Isiah Thomas off the roster. To put them in a position to have assets they could trade and have cap room to sign Stoudemire. All of which paved the way for Carmelo Anthony and that trade. D’Antoni helped build the foundation the current Knicks are built on.