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Money Talks, Bulls Walk – D’Antoni to Knicks

Looks like Mike D’Antoni is going to be the next coach of the New York Knicks.  And I think the Knicks will have a much better season next year, as they start to utilize their personnel a little better (watch for trade talks to begin after Walsh and D’Antoni huddle).  Remember, the Knicks have a lot of balls in the lottery, so before you start talking too much smack about how the Knicks will do next year, wait to see if they get an instant-impact player in the draft and then what happens with Curry/Randolph/Marbury in the off-season.  You likely won’t see as dramatic a turn-around as Boston had, but things will get better and you’ll know what the direction is.  Another thing that shouldn’t be lost on Knicks fans: D’Antoni was Kobe’s hero growing up in Italy.  Kobe has expressed interest in New York as a trade option.  The Knicks get their cap down when his contract is over, they have a legit shot at luring Kobe.  There are worse consolation prizes if LeBron isn’t available.

 As for the Bulls, we have another screw up.  Everyone, with the possible exception of Bulls management, agrees that D’Antoni was the best fit for that young, athletic roster.  And what do the Bulls tell D’Antoni?  According to media reports, they keep wanting to talk about their “defensive philosophy.”  To paraphrase Mr. T, “You drafted a running team, fool!”  For that matter, I’m still trying to figure out who their defensive stoppers are (beside Tyson Chandler… whoops, he’s on another team in the play-offs).  They want to be a defensive team, they need to draft a little different.

Ultimately, it boils down to an actual offer.  Sayeth the Sun-Times: “Paxson made it clear to D’Antoni he was going to continue to interview other candidates and had no timetable to make a decision.”  The Knicks put a serious offer on the table.  The Bulls wanted to talk to other people.  If it was D’Antoni’s preference to coach the Bulls, and plenty of insiders think it was, the Bulls might have been able to just match his $4.25M contract and get the deal done.

Did the Bulls do that?  No.  They said “we’ll think about it.”  Let’s see… $6M/year on the table or waiting to see if a notoriously tight-fisted organization decided to make a possibly low-ball offer at a later date?  The Bulls were not a serious player when the Knicks made their offer, and that was a concious choice on their part.

Who’s left for candidates?  Mark Cuban says he’s got a verbal with Rick Carlisle, so cross him off the list.  For established coaches, which is what I think the Bulls need if they’re going to have the players’ respect, you’ve got Avery Johnson.  He’s good for $12M over 3 years from his Mavs contract if he doesn’t take another job, and he’s saying he wants to take a year off.  Not a shoe-in, but at least we’ve heard the Bulls are talking to him.  Not currently mentioned are Mike Fratello, whom I’d give a look for the simple reason he tailors his system to fit the players, Paul Silas, Paul Westphal (was an assistant in Dallas and might be in play with Carlisle assuming control) and my favorite dark horse who probably doesn’t want the job, Rudy T.

However, the Bulls now have plenty of their desired excuses to promote someone’s assistant coach for a lower salary.  Especially since, at the moment, they’re the only one with an opening.  They’ve already interviewed a Nuggets assistant and Paxson is reportedly hot to talk to Celtics defensive (that word again) specialist, Tom Thibodeau.

Figure, at this point, they’re gunning for Thibodeau.  That means they likely can’t begin negotiations or even conversations until Boston gets knocked out or wins the championship.  It also gives time for another coach to get fired and become a candidate.  (If you like Flip Saunders in Chicago, start rooting for Orlando.)

In the meantime, at least somebody was giving D’Antoni some love.  A couple encounters with my former colleagues in the NYC media and he’ll be wanting some love.

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