The recent signing of Chauncey Billups does very little to clear up what the Knicks will look and perform like next season, assuming there is a season. Billups signing appeared to be just a business move which gave the Knicks greater flexibility than waving the point guard and then attempting to negotiate a new salary. it is highly unlikely that the Carmelo Anthony trade would have happened if Billups believed he was going to lose nearly $11 million as a respected vet. For the Knicks purposes, the signing assures them of having a top flight point guard or the trade resources, in the form of Billups huge contract, to add new pieces or to recapture old ones, like Wilson Chandler and Raymond Felton, for next season. However, as good as Billups can be, it is difficult to fathom, given rumors that Mike D’Antoni’s job is safe for now, how well the team will perform the “D’Antoni offensive system” with Mr. Big Shot setting the tempo which is bound to be seven seconds or more faster than what D’Antoni likes. Compounding this conundrum is Carmelo Anthony’s preference for an offensive style heavy on isolations and awkward jumpers, which does not actually fit the D’Antoni way.
There are numerous options to developing this team, but the Knicks must clearly rebuild the team around its two stars and not D’Antoni’s system if the objective is to contend for championships in the post-season for the next few years. The danger of spending the off-season building a team around D’Antoni’s preferences, which lack defensive emphasis and schemes, is that the team must be rebuilt again for another style if D’Antoni is fired. Imposing SSOM on our major talent without a very strong defensive philosophy will most certainly fail as it did against the Celtics — regardless of how long the players have together under the system.
Unless D’Antoni surrenders to a more traditional and balanced philosophy the rest of his tenure with the Knicks will be very frustrating and disappointing. The Knicks clearly need size in the paint and a point guard that can sub for Billups or allow him to move to the two spot. Size matters in the post-season and D’Antoni’s small-ball comes with a sizable disadvantage.
D’Antoni will stay and most likely so will our suffering — unless we continue to have low standards that make us feel satisfied about going 0-4 in the first round of the play-outs.