New coach D'Antoni sees Knicks fall spot in draft lottery

Updated: May 21, 2008, 12:40 AM ET
Associated Press

SECAUCUS, N.J. -- If Mike D'Antoni had taken the Chicago Bulls' job, he would have a chance to coach the No. 1 draft pick.

Instead, he came to New York and did what the Knicks have done too often lately: Took a step backward.

The Knicks fell one spot in the NBA draft lottery and will have the No. 6 pick on June 26. They had a 7.6 percent chance of moving up to the top spot and a chance to take Derrick Rose or Michael Beasley.

Once they didn't, D'Antoni said there wasn't much separation after the top couple of players.

"To be honest, there is not a whole lot of difference from three, four, five, six, eight, 10," D'Antoni said. "They are all good players. Now you have to figure out which is the best one and take the one you feel is the best one."

If they keep the pick, the Knicks will try to find someone who can play D'Antoni's style. The former Phoenix coach decided to bring his entertaining offensive system to New York, choosing the Knicks instead of the Bulls, who still haven't hired a coach.

Before the draft, D'Antoni wouldn't say who the Knicks would pick if they won, saying that was ultimately up to new president Donnie Walsh. But it would have been hard to pass up Rose, since the Knicks will need a point guard with Stephon Marbury's contract expiring after this season.

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"We would have liked to get a top pick, like a top two, but it didn't work out like that," D'Antoni said. "We don't want to be here next year, that's for sure. We'll try to make it count this year."

Still, at least the Knicks can do something with their pick this year. They had to hand it over to Chicago the last two years, payment for the trade for Eddy Curry in 2005.

New York would have chosen second in 2006 and ninth last year, picks that became LaMarcus Aldridge and Joakim Noah.

D'Antoni isn't sure the Knicks can get a player at No. 6 who can contribute immediately.

"It's hard to say yes. It's not a science," he said. "There are some good players and players who will contribute that might be a definite option. We also have to look at deals and see what comes up. I don't think we are set on anything. We will explore every option."

Despite the disappointment in the lottery, it's been a good spring for the Knicks. Coming off a 23-59 finish in their seventh straight losing season, they have earned praise for the first time in ages for the changes they've already made in replacing Isiah Thomas as coach and president.

Walsh was one of the league's most respected executives in Indiana, and D'Antoni was Coach of the Year in Phoenix three years ago. So far, the Knicks seem to be coming through on commissioner David Stern's prediction that they would undergo a transformation.

"It's a good down payment on the transformation, isn't it?" Stern said of those hirings.

"I think that the Knicks have brought in what I said was a tried and true basketball professional in Donnie Walsh. I'd call him an elder statesman, but he's only a year older than I am so I'm not about to do that. And they brought in a demonstrated winning coach, and so I think you can't do any better than that, than those two things."


Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press

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