Mike D’Antoni: “We will figure this out and ‘Melo is going to be a big part of this”

February 23, 2012 – 6:30 am by Chris Fedor

The job facing Mike D’Antoni for the remainder of the season is not an easy one.  Thanks to Jeremy Lin’s magical run over the last couple of weeks, the Knicks suddenly have heightened expectations. It just so happens that Lin’s rise to prominence was going on all the while Carmelo Anthony was watching from the bench and dealing with a groin injury. Now D’Antoni has to find a way to incorporate his star forward back into the lineup while keeping the same cohesiveness that led to the team’s rise in the Eastern Conference standings. Furthermore, he also has to find a role for newly acquired JR Smith as well as Baron Davis, who just recently returned from injury. There are going to be growing pains and some bumps in the road. The other night against New Jersey might be a perfect example of that, but if Anthony’s return to the lineup causes things to go back to the way they were at the beginning of the season, D’Antoni will be feeling the heat in New York.

Mike D’Antoni joined ESPN Radio in New York on the Michael Kay Show to talk how difficult it is to try to implement new players into the lineup constantly, whether certain guys are entrenched as starters, if Amar’e Stoudemire is lacking the explosiveness he had last season, if he would agree that Anthony wasn’t the reason for the loss against the Nets, and if Anthony can fit with Jeremy Lin.

On trying to implement new players constantly:

“It is a challenge and it is a challenge for the players. If we just hold in there and not listen to the pressure from the outside, just keep making advances, and keep trying to get better we will be okay. We just have to continue to play hard, keep our energy level up, and keep our confidence as well as we can. We do have a little bit of a break coming up with All-Star week. We do have two practices right after, then a game, then three more practices before we do it again so we have five practices and one game so we should be able to get a lot done and hopefully start looking better after the All-Star break.”

Whether guys are entrenched as starters:

“Well the only reason I would say that and I’m not going to tell anybody he’s not going to start. Everybody wants to start and everybody wants to improve their game so why would a coach go ‘no matter what I’m not doing it.’ That’s coach speak. Obviously I love Jeremy Lin and I love what he’s doing and I don’t see anything changing but I’m not going to tell Baron he can’t start, I’m not going to tell JR, ‘hey JR you’re coming here but you can’t start.’ If you beat the guy out and you’re better than that and that is really good then obviously you will start but I don’t have preconceived notions and I’m not going to put a lid on a player. Right now Jeremy Lin is a starter and I expect him to be so but as a coach you never know.”

If he believes Amar’e Stoudemire is not as explosive as he was a season ago:

“Well I agree with you. I don’t think a lot of players have it. A lot of players have struggled with the schedule, it’s brutal. They don’t have time to get into the weight room and do the things necessary to recuperate. His attitude is good and he’s in there and you’re right I think this All-Star break will be great for him where he can get a little bit of that pop back. I’m not going to panic with it and I think he knows he has to do a little extra work and again a little bit of a product of the team. I think with Jeremy and the more chemistry they develop the better he will be.”

On Carmelo Anthony  not being the reason for the loss against the Nets:

“We talk all the time and you talk to the whole team about different things and different situations and you’re right he wasn’t the reason we lost. We didn’t play good enough defense that game and that’s everybody. That’s got to pick up. Offensively we will be fine but one of the things that we did over that stretch was we went from about the 20th defensive team in the league to about fifth. That’s where we have to do it. It’s not the offense. The offense will be fine. ‘Melo will get his points. He was a little rusty but he will be fine. Jeremy will still have his space and he will be fine. Amar’e will be fine. I’m not worried that much about that. Now we have to iron some things out, get a little smoother, and get a little bit better. Defensively everyone has to have in their mind that every play is important and every assignment and game plan we have schemed out they have to follow and concentrate. Monday maybe because we were tired, maybe because we had new elements coming back, we all did not follow the game plan and we all did not communicate and we did not defend and that is why Deron Williams goes off for all those points. People say ‘well he took it against Jeremy,’ well no that’s not it. It’s never Jeremy against Deron Williams, it’s Deron Williams against the New York Knicks. He beat the Knicks and those are the things that we have to insist upon. If we do we are going to be good.”

Whether Anthony can co-exist with Lin:

“Sure he can and it’s funny because I really live in a cocoon and I love you guys but I would not listen to talk radio if someone had a gun pointed right to my head. I won’t even listen. I can’t do that. You can’t read newspapers and I don’t. I don’t read anything and when they ask me stuff in the press about something happening I go ‘what happened’ because you have to tell me. I do not want to know because I’m in a locker room with these guys and we’re going to figure it out. That’s all I need to know. I don’t need to know what everybody else thinks. We will figure this out and ‘Melo is going to be a big part of this as is Amar’e as is everybody else. We have a lot of talent here and it goes all the way down to the end of the bench and we just have to have everybody buying in. Our voice has to be heard and it takes strong willed guys in New York to come through it. That’s what ‘Melo is, that’s what Amar’e is, and that’s why they came here in the first place so we will get through this.”

Listen to Mike D’Antoni on ESPN Radio New York here

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