Mike D’Antoni on Knicks Retaining Momentum when Injured Superstars Return: “There should be no reason why Amare and Melo both don’t flourish.”

February 14, 2012 – 6:00 am by Steven Cuce

A week ago the basketball gods seemed to be playing a cruel trick on Mike D’Antoni and the Knicks. New York was sitting at 8-15, underachieving massively given the expectations that comes with having superstars like Amar’e Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony plus Tyson Chandler. Then came the tragic news that Amar’e Stoudemire’s brother, Hazell, had passed away in a car accident. The Knicks were without STAT for a week, and on top of that, Anthony tweaked a groin muscle against Utah.

For D’Antoni, there didn’t seem to be a lot of positives, and with a bench lacking depth and no alternatives at point guard he turned to Jeremy Lin, an overlooked Harvard point guard who was given his last chance in the NBA. Lin has galvanized a troubled Knicks team and even turned the most cynical fans, including myself, into believers.

The Knicks may have found a player who fits D’Antoni’s system perfectly by being able to hold his dribble, split double teams to force easy pick-and-roll opportunities, and drive the lane with force. All D’Antoni has to do now is find a way to get his team at full strength to play in harmony with one another and it should make for one heck of an Eastern Conference race.

Mike D’Antoni joined WFAN in New York with Mike Francesa to discuss never seeing anything like Jeremy Lin before in his NBA coaching career, when he realized  Lin would fit perfect in his system, Amare Stoudemire’s game rising to another level with the emergence of  Lin, how the Knicks’ offense will run when  Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony return from injury, and the timetable for Carmelo’s return from his groin injury.

Have you ever seen anything like this with Jeremy Lin in your basketball career?

“No. Not like this. You see a guy maybe you don’t know come in that has some pretty good minutes or give the team a little spark. A little bit like that, but over five games to do what he has done at the level that he has done it is incredible.”

How quickly did you realize Jeremy Lin was perfect for your system?

“After the first half of the game in the New Jersey game you could tell. You could see it. It didn’t take long. It started clicking. Again we went back and watched the Boston game and he didn’t have a great half and made a couple of crazy plays where he fouled [Paul] Pierce, but you could even see there if he could adapt a little bit he’s our best point guard. With that we were just hoping that he was able to play at a certain level and he’s way surpassed that.”

Amar’e Stoudemire should be the easy part in coming back and fitting into this system with Jeremy Lin right?

“Well because he has played it before. Again I don’t know if it easy or not. They know what we need to do. We now have someone who can also direct traffic, which we didn’t have before. That’s when you don’t have a traffic cop out there it goes all over the place because stuff is not easy with Lin’s pace of the game and his ability to stay on balance he’ll keep everybody right, so in theory I am always worried about everything as a coach does, but there should be no reason why Amar’e and Melo both don’t flourish. Our team is a lot better with them. There’s no reason for it. If there is? There should be some soul searching and then you figure out what the problem is.”

Do you have to discuss with Jeremy Lin that when Amar’e Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony are back he needs to take less shots?

“Well in theory and sometimes theory doesn’t work at the time, but we really don’t talk about the number of shots or call a guy’s play. I don’t like that. I don’t like to coach that way. That’s why I hate to pinpoint somebody to just go out after them. We let the ball flow and usually the ball finds energy. Usually the ball finds guys that are good. Usually it finds guys that are open and normally your best players will take the most shots. Now if that’s not the case and we find an unbalance then we will look at it and talk to people and try to get the ball moving in the right spots, but I hate to tell – he’s gotta be ready every play and every play says he is expected to take a 15-footer, which he can make, then he needs to shoot it. We don’t go away from that, but if he has a lot of 0-for-11 like the second half against Minnesota, then we’ll have to talk about it, but I don’t foresee that. I just see if people are open shoot it and if people aren’t open pass it. It’s not real complicated.”

How long before Carmelo Anthony gets back?

“We’re thinking towards the end of the week. Maybe Friday, but again day-to-day. We’ll see how it goes, but I am thinking Friday.”

Listen to Mike D’Antoni on 660 WFAN in New York here

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