Opening Tip: Woody's worst mistake?

April, 18, 2014
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Mike Woodson’s future is unclear with the Knicks. Most expect president Phil Jackson to bring in a new coach for the 2014-15 season. The Knicks underachieved greatly under Woodson this season. Coming off a 54-win season, New York won just 37 games this year and finished in ninth place, missing the playoffs for the first time in four seasons.

There were plenty of reasons for the Knicks’ struggles: injuries, poor performances by Carmelo Anthony's supporting cast and awful late-game execution really hurt the Knicks.

But a few decisions by Woodson also set them back.

Below, we take a look at three crucial mistakes Woodson made this season:

1. Too little, too late: The Knicks won 16 of their final 21 games and looked for a time like a playoff team. But they fell short, unable to crawl out of the 21-40 hole they dug themselves in. Part of their late-season surge can be attributed to Woodson deciding to insert Amar'e Stoudemire and J.R. Smith into the starting lineup.

Stoudemire played extremely well in the starting lineup, averaging nearly 17 points per game on 57 percent shooting. The starting five didn’t exactly dominate on a nightly basis. They were outscored by 2 1/2 points per 100 possessions over the Knicks’ final 21 games. But moving Shumpert and Pablo Prigioni to the bench improved the Knicks’ other lineups.

The lineup of Raymond Felton, Carmelo Anthony, Smith, Shumpert and Tyson Chandler outscored teams by 27.5 points per 100 possessions. This was the Knicks’ second-most used lineup during the final 21 games.

The lineup of Shumpert, Prigioni, Smith, Chandler and Anthony outscored teams by 18 points per 100 possessions. Clearly, Woodson’s lineup decisions in the final 21 games contributed to their success. It’s fair to wonder why Woodson didn’t insert Smith and Stoudemire into the starting five sooner.

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2. Sticking with Bargnani: Part of Woodson’s lineup issues stemmed from his insistence on playing Andrea Bargnani in the rotation. Bargnani was the Knicks’ biggest offseason addition. So perhaps Woodson had a directive from management to play Bargnani. Either way, Bargnani’s presence really hurt the Knicks.

The Knicks were 7.8 points per 100 possessions better when Bargnani was on the bench compared to when he was on the floor.

He never developed into the sidekick for Anthony, like the Knicks’ hoped.

Overall, the Knicks were 7.9 points per 100 possessions better with Bargnani on the bench than when he was on the floor.

The Knicks were 7.4 points per 100 possessions better when Anthony was on the floor without Bargnani than when Anthony and Bargnani shared the floor.

3. Defense rests: Woodson is known as a defensive coach, but he couldn’t get this year’s team to defend well on a consistent basis. New York ranked 24th in points allowed per 100 possessions. They ranked 19th in opponent’s field-goal percentage.

Woodson was criticized for asking his team to switch on pick-and-rolls this season. The strategy really seemed to hurt the Knicks. They ranked last in the NBA in defending the ball handler and screener on pick-and-rolls. According to 82games.com, Knicks point guards were outscored by 4.1 points per 48 minutes and shooting guards were outscored by 5.6 points per game.

The good: Woodson should be commended for keeping the Knicks engaged throughout the season. The Knicks never seemed to give up on Woodson. Need evidence? Look no further than their 16-5 mark to end the season.

Woodson also kept Anthony engaged. Anthony talked glowingly about Woodson on Thursday. Anthony had two of his finest seasons as a pro under Woodson. So give Woodson credit for that.

Up now: Carmelo Anthony says he wants to return to New York, but he also wants to win.

Tyson Chandler says the Knicks need to establish a winning culture.

Anthony backed Woodson on Thursday, calling him a father figure.

What’s next: An offseason that will be centered around Anthony’s free agency and, possibly, a coaching search.

Question: What do you think Mike Woodson's biggest mistake was this season?

You can follow Ian Begley on Twitter.

Tyson: Knicks need a 'culture' change

April, 17, 2014
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Tyson Chandler has some interesting theories on why the Knicks struggled this season.

One is that they lack a winning culture.

“What has to be different [next season]? I think we all have to be on the same page. I think that’s the biggest key. A winning culture. Got to establish a winning culture, if not, you allow history to repeat itself,” Chandler said after exit interviews on Thursday.

Those words could be construed as a criticism of coach Mike Woodson.

Chandler believes there was a "disconnect" at times between players and coaches during the Knicks' 37-45 season.

"I think there was probably was some disconnect, probably some misunderstanding," Chandler said. "A lot of that happens throughout the course of the season. I think the key is when you’re able to start off right -- normally an NBA season is long and you have your bumps in the road -- but then you’re able to come back to what brought you success. And we never got to that point. We found ourselves behind the eight ball, and then late in the season you’re kind of just scrambling and that’s not a position you want to be in."

Amar'e Stoudemire added that the Knicks lacked professionalism this season.

Asked if the Knicks could bring back Woodson if the players were not on the same page with the coach, Stoudemire delivered an indictment of his teammates.

"You got to have pros. Pros are the guys who actually focus in on becoming a better basketball player," Stoudemire said. "Who are constant about their health, constant about training, and improving and studying the game of basketball."

There has been speculation surrounding Woodson's job status for most of the season. Players said president Phil Jackson and general manager Steve Mills conducted interviews and Woodson was not involved. That's a bad sign for the coach's future. Head coaches are normally involved in exit interviews.

You can follow Ian Begley on Twitter.

Carmelo puts the ball in Phil's court

April, 17, 2014
Apr 17
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Phil Jackson loves the passing game so much that Carmelo Anthony figured he should throw him the ball Thursday, if only to put it squarely in his court. On arrival in New York, Jackson had challenged Anthony to elevate his game.

Anthony just challenged Jackson to do the same.

Back in the day, Patrick Ewing tried and failed to convince an arbitrator to make him a free agent, and tried and failed to persuade his new coach, Pat Riley, to trade him to a team that would give him a better shot at a championship before his prime expired. Riley eventually sold Ewing on the vision of a parade in the Canyon of Heroes, and then surrounded him with a cast of grinders and overachievers and damn near pulled it off.

Only those Knicks didn't pull it off, and Ewing retired with no ring and plenty of regrets. "I would have loved to have played with another bona fide superstar," he told me last year before acknowledging the merits of the good-but-not-great sidekicks who did what they could, like Charles Oakley and John Starks.

"But they still weren't Carmelo Anthony," Ewing sighed.

Ewing was already starting to break down when Allan Houston and Latrell Sprewell walked into his life, and Anthony doesn't want to meet the same New York, New York fate. Ewing never got his Melo, and now Melo, a pending free agent, wants to make sure he gets his Ewing before it's too late.


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Melo: Knicks' season was a 'failure'

April, 17, 2014
Apr 17
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GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- Carmelo Anthony talked about a wide range of subjects with reporters Thursday after his exit interview with president Phil Jackson. He discussed his priorities as a free agent. But he also touched on the difficulty of this season, his conversation and comfort level with Jackson, and the idea of taking less than max money as a free agent.

Here is a brief synopsis of the State of Melo entering the offseason:

Embarrassed by 2013-14: Carmelo said in no uncertain terms that this was his most difficult season in the NBA.

"By far, by far," the 11-year veteran said. "Not making the playoffs is definitely a failure for me. This is definitely a chapter in my book that I would never ever forget about it."

Anthony added that it's "embarrassing" that some of the players he entered the league with -- LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh -- and some players he is close with -- Kobe Bryant, Chris Paul -- are either in the playoffs or have enjoyed playoff success. Anthony, on the other hand, will be sitting home this spring.

"It's embarrassing. And this is just how I take it, I can't speak on everybody else. For me, it's embarrassing," Anthony said. "I can't even put that into words. I can't even describe the feeling. The last couple of nights just staying up all night trying to figure out what happened, what went wrong. Why this? Why that? Maybe those questions will never be answered. Maybe I shouldn't ask. But I do."

Comfortable with Phil: Anthony and Jackson got the chance to sit down and talk about the future for the first time since Jackson signed on as Knicks president. Anthony came away impressed.

"His knowledge, his wisdom, is something I could sit down and listen to all day long," Anthony said. "He’s very philosophical ... has an answer for every scenario. He makes everything clear and just the way he talks, his delivery, his message, is, for me, something I could sit down and listen to all day."

Anthony and Jackson's relationship is extremely important for a Knicks team that is desperate to re-sign its All-Star forward.

On taking less money: Much was made earlier this season of Anthony's comments about taking less money in free agency to build a winner. Anthony expanded on those comments Thursday.

"If I was to go with another team, I would take less money anyway," Anthony said. "When it comes to the money, yes we play the sport to make money, let's be quite frank. At this point in my career, I'm not concerned about the money. The contract will be the contract regardless. I like to consider myself financially stable.

"For me it's more the day-to-day stuff," Anthony added. "Putting together a situation where I'm able to compete at a high level night in and night out and when it comes down to it having a chance to reach my ultimate goal which is winning that championship."

You can follow Ian Begley on Twitter.

Carmelo backs Woodson

April, 17, 2014
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GREENBURGH, N.Y. –- Carmelo Anthony passionately offered his support for Mike Woodson in his final talk with reporters on Thursday.

“To be honest with you, Mike Woodson, he and I have become, he’s been a guy that I can talk to, almost a father figure, a friend, a guy that I can bounce stuff off,” Anthony said when asked about Woodson. “I’ve been a guy he’s talked to multiple times, about multiple things in different situations.

“So when that time comes, if it’s ready for me to step up and take that next step and say, ‘OK, Mike Woodson needs to stay or go,' I don’t think it would come down to that, but I would back him.”

Anthony’s sincere backing of Woodson came on a day when the head coach was not made available to reporters on the final availability of the season. On Wednesday night before the season finale against Toronto, Woodson declined to comment when asked if he would be a part of the team’s exit interviews.

Team president Phil Jackson could bring in a new coach who is familiar with the triangle offense. He already has signed former Laker Lamar Odom, who played for Jackson in the triangle system and can help others grasp the triangle better.

Woodson said earlier in the season that he would coach the triangle if need be.

“If he needs my recommendation whether it’s here or anywhere else, I’ll back him,” Anthony said. “I have nothing bad to say about Mike Woodson. I support him. For me as a player, I had some of my best years under Mike Woodson. So I would never have anything bad to say about Mike Woodson.”

Carmelo Anthony: 'I want to win'

April, 17, 2014
Apr 17
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GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- Carmelo Anthony said on Thursday he'd like to re-sign with the New York Knicks this summer but first would need assurances that team president Phil Jackson can build a winner around him.

"I want to come back. But I also want to win," Anthony said after his exit interview with Jackson at the team's practice facility. "You know, me wanting to be here, if we can put ourselves in position to at least compete at a high level over the course of [the next contract], then I'm willing to stay here and I'm willing to ride or die for New York.

"You know, I've never once said I wanted to leave. I always said that I wanted to explore my options, I wanted to see what's out there."

Anthony plans to opt out of the final year of his contract and test free agency this summer.

The Knicks can offer Anthony a five-year contract worth $129,135,806. If he signs with another team, the maximum he can get is $95,897,372 over four years. Those numbers are based on the assumption Anthony, one of the top scorers in the NBA, will sign a max contract.

Anthony stressed Thursday that he wouldn't make his decision based on finances.

"At this point in my career, it's about winning," he said. "Nothing else even matters." 

The Knicks, Anthony said, failed to meet his expectations this season. They finished 37-45 and in ninth place in the Eastern Conference, missing out on the playoffs for the first time in four seasons.

The team isn't expected to have much of an opportunity to re-shape the roster this summer. Even if Anthony signs with another team, the Knicks still will be over the salary cap thanks to the contracts for Andrea Bargnani


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Bad Boy may be good for Detroit

April, 17, 2014
Apr 17
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Isiah ThomasBrian Drake/NBAE/Getty ImagesDetroit shouldn't let outside influences keep it from giving Isiah Thomas another shot.

Isiah Thomas tried to convince Jack McCloskey, the general manager of the Detroit Pistons, to bypass him in the 1981 NBA draft.

Detroit had the second pick. Mark Aguirre, a scoring star for DePaul, was expected to go No. 1 to the Mavericks. Thomas, the leader of Indiana University's national championship squad, was the clear No. 2 prospect. He wanted to play for his hometown Chicago Bulls, who had the sixth pick.

"Every question [McCloskey] asked me, I answered intentionally wrong," Thomas said in the terrific "30 for 30" documentary "Bad Boys," which airs tonight at 8 ET on ESPN. 

McCloskey wasn't fooled.

He nabbed the best little man in NBA history without hesitation, changed the course of professional basketball in the Motor City and empowered the thorn that would irritate the four most important men in NBA history: Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan and David Stern.

Isiah Thomas didn't want to be a Detroit Piston. I kept thinking about that delicious bit of irony as the documentary laid out Thomas' primary role in turning a moribund franchise on the outskirts of a dying city into a force that throttled the Celtics, Lakers and Bulls and frustrated a heavy-handed commissioner.


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Opening Tip: If Woodson's out, who's in?

April, 17, 2014
Apr 17
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About an hour after after the last game of the Knicks' miserable season, J.R. Smith took some time to reflect on the uncertainty surrounding his coach.

"He's in a tough situation," Smith said of Mike Woodson. "It's a situation that he's been in all year. Pretty much not knowing his place and where he's going to be; whether he's going to be here, whether he's not going to be here. I think it's a tough circumstance to deal with and I just hated that it had to be him because he's a great person and a great coach."

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Nothing's official yet. But there is widespread speculation that Knicks president Phil Jackson will fire Woodson in the coming days. Woodson is under contract for next season, but the coach seemed to be resigned to his fate on Wednesday.

"Is it fair to let me go? I don't think so. Again, I don't make that decision. That's got to come from the top," the coach said Wednesday.

Let's assume that Jackson decides to let Woodson go. What happens next? Below, we take a look at three guys we think Jackson would strongly consider hiring as the Knicks' next coach:

Steve Kerr: Several reports, including one from ESPN.com's Marc Stein, state that the job is Kerr's if he wants it. So Kerr has to decide if he wants to leave the comfort of the TNT studio for the cauldron of coaching in New York. Kerr and Jackson remain close. As a player, Kerr won three titles while playing under Jackson in Chicago. Thanks to those years learning from Jackson, Kerr is intimately familiar with the triangle offense. He's also expressed an interest in coaching.

Brian Shaw: Shaw, the Denver Nuggets coach, is also close with Jackson. He won three titles with the Zen Master in Los Angeles and later served as a scout and assistant coach for the Lakers while Jackson was the coach.

Shaw is well-schooled in the triangle offense but he inked a three-year deal to coach the Nuggets last spring. So the Knicks will need to give Denver compensation if they hope to hire Shaw, unless he gets let go by the Nuggets. That's unlikely to happen though.

Phil Jackson: Jackson said as recently as two weeks ago that he has no plans to coach the Knicks. But if his coaching search doesn't yield a desirable candidate, it wouldn't be out of the realm of possibility for Jackson to take the bench next season.

A source told ESPN LA's Ramona Shelburne in early March that Jackson would be open to the possibility of coaching for a short period of time if it was necessary.

Dark-horse candidates: Derek Fisher, Mark Jackson, Kurt Rambis

Up now: Woodson believes he's the best man to coach the Knicks next season.

The Knicks inked Lamar Odom to a two-year deal, with an ungauranteed option for next season.

Let us know which Knicks you'd keep and which you'd dump heading into next season.

What's next: The Knicks will conduct exit interviews with players on Thursday. Carmelo Anthony, Tyson Chandler and Amar'e Stoudemire are expected to meet with reporters.

Question:
If Phil Jackson fires Mike Woodson, who should he hire as the Knicks' next coach?

You can follow Ian Begley on Twitter.

K-Mart to undergo ankle surgery

April, 17, 2014
Apr 17
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NEW YORK -- Forward Kenyon Martin said he plans to undergo surgery to repair a nagging ankle injury in the coming weeks.

Martin's ankle injury sidelined him for the final 35 games of the season.

Martin will be a free agent this summer. The 13-year veteran, a former No. 1 overall pick, said on Wednesday that he plans to play in the NBA next season.

He hopes to return to the New York Knicks.

It's unclear at this point if new Knicks president Phil Jackson will have interest in bringing back the 37-year-old Martin.

Martin, who gave the Knicks a big lift off the bench in the second half of the 2012-13 season, also talked Wednesday about the disappointment of missing the playoffs this season.

"We didn’t get off to the start we hoped and then injuries played a part, guys in and out of the lineup all year. That’s part of it. But us not playing well as a team, that’s what it all boils down to. We just didn’t get it done," Martin said.

Martin said it was unfair that coach Mike Woodson was left to take blame for what went wrong with the team.

"Woody, he had us prepared every game. It was just we didn’t go out and get it done," Martin said. "It wasn’t one day we didn’t have shootaround, didn’t watch film or game plan. All that went on still. It’s the same game plan, same scheme, same everything we had last year. We just didn’t get it done. Us, with the expectations we had, of course we feel like we underachieved as a bunch."

You can follow Ian Begley on Twitter.
video

Roy Hibbert, Harrison Barnes, and even Russell Westbrook are considered as Bill Simmons and Jalen Rose answer the question "What playoff team is the best candidate for a panic trade if they get bounced too early?"

Rapid Reaction: Knicks 95, Raptors 92

April, 16, 2014
Apr 16
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NEW YORK -- At least the Knicks went down fighting.

New York overcame a 21-point first-half deficit to beat Toronto at home 95-92.

It was the biggest comeback for the Knicks this season.

Even in defeat, the Raptors clinched the third spot in the Eastern Conference thanks to Chicago's loss to Charlotte.

As soon as the Bulls score was final, Raptors coach Dwane Casey pulled his starters.

That helped the Knicks cut a 13-point Toronto lead to two late in the fourth quarter.

J.R. Smith tied the scored at 90-90 with a transition dunk. Following a Steve Novak miss, Cole Aldrich had a put-back dunk to give the Knicks a 92-90 lead.

Smith then drilled a pull-up jumper from the right wing with 21 seconds left to all but seal the victory.

The Knicks finished the season winning 16 of their final 21. But they fell short of the playoffs for the first time in four seasons. They ended the year in ninth place in the East, one game behind the Atlanta Hawks.

Smith sizzles: Smith led the Knicks with 30 points on 13-for-19 shooting. He also had five steals and was the primary ball handler for much of the night. Raymond Felton had the night off.

Starting in place of Tyson Chandler, Aldrich had 13 points and 16 rebounds. The Knicks outscored the Raptors by 12 in the 40 minutes that Aldrich was on the floor.

Toure' Murry had a big night as well. Playing extended minutes for the second straight night, the point guard tallied 15 points on 6-for-12 shooting.

Tim Hardaway Jr. added 18 points. He finished the season with a combined 54 points in his last three games.

D-Fense: New York finished the year playing scrappy on the defensive end (where was that all season?). The Knicks forced Toronto into 25 turnovers and turned them into 22 points.

They held the Raptors to 20 misses on 29 attempts from beyond the arc.

What's next: Phil Jackson's first offseason as Knicks president. His first order of business will be to deal with the head coaching situation. Then he will have to address Carmelo Anthony's free agency.

You can follow Ian Begley on Twitter.

STAT: We didn't buy into Woodson's system

April, 16, 2014
Apr 16
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NEW YORK -- Amar'e Stoudemire says one of the Knicks’ downfalls this season was the team’s unwillingness to completely buy into Mike Woodson’s coaching.

“I think next year we got to take more of a mindset of trying to master the game,” Stoudemire said before the Knicks’ season finale against Toronto. “I mean, again, certain strategies were placed upon us with Coach Woodson. There were times when we didn’t quite buy into it and as a result of that, we lost games.”

Knicks players have been critical of the coaching at times this season. Carmelo Anthony said the team didn’t make the necessary adjustments following a loss to Indiana earlier this season. And Tyson Chandler questioned Woodson’s strategy of switching on defense as well earlier in the year.

Before the Knicks’ final game, Woodson defended his coaching when asked about his uncertain future after failing to make the playoffs.

“Am I the guy for the job? I’m the only guy for this job,” Woodson reiterated. “I’ve always said that. And I don’t mean that in a braggadocios way. I feel good about what I do as a coach. I know the system works.

“Unfortunately, this season we’ve had some bad luck, some bad breaks along the way. But hey, I can’t go back and get this season. If I could I would.”

It’s widely expected that Phil Jackson will make a coaching change and bring in someone from his triangle tree. Jackson repeatedly talked about having the Knicks built on system basketball for the future at his introductory press conference.

Jackson also could bring in more veterans he’s familiar with, like Lamar Odom, who signed with the Knicks prior to the game. Odom played for Jackson with the Lakers.

Stoudemire said the Knicks couldn’t overcome the loss of leadership from last year's 54-win squad with Jason Kidd, Kurt Thomas and Rasheed Wallace moving on.

“We lost a lot of vets,” Stoudemire said. “And those vets were definitely key leaders for us. And it was tough for me to be the leader that I know I am because I was still on limited minutes and I wasn’t playing much so it was tough for me to lead by example.

“Once I got into the starting lineup, then my leadership qualities [resurfaced],” he added. “So, next year, we should be focused a little bit more and it’ll be a much better year.”

Knicks wrap up season with win over Raptors

April, 16, 2014
Apr 16
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NEW YORK -- The New York Knicks finished their disappointing season with a 95-92 victory Wednesday night over the Toronto Raptors, who blew a 21-point lead but earned the No. 3 seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs.

Toronto will host the Brooklyn Nets, who fell to the No. 6 seed, in its playoff opener Saturday.

Cole Aldrich made the tiebreaking dunk with 1:23 left for the Knicks, who won their final four games to finish 37-45. J.R. Smith scored 30 points, while Aldrich finished with 13 points and 16 rebounds.

Kyle Lowry scored 22 points in 26 minutes for the Raptors, who finished 48-34.


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Mike Woodson confident in job

April, 16, 2014
Apr 16
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NEW YORK -- Before what could be his final game as the New York Knicks ' coach, Mike Woodson maintained that he is the "only guy" for the job.

"Am I the guy for the job? I'm the only guy for this job. I've always said that. And I don't mean that in a braggadocious way. I feel good about what I do as a coach," Woodson said before the Knicks' final regular season game against Toronto. "I know the system works. Unfortunately, this season we've had some bad luck, some bad breaks along the way."

Owner James Dolan told staffers on the eve of the season that he felt the Knicks could compete for an NBA title.

They've fallen well short of those expectations.

New York started the season 3-13, suffered through losing streaks of nine and seven games and fell as many as 19 games below .500. They won 12 of 15 games in March and early April to climb back into the playoff race but were eliminated late last week, missing out on the postseason for the first time in four seasons.

The Knicks' subpar performance has led to widespread speculation about Woodson's job status.

The coach was asked on Wednesday if he thought it would be fair if he lost his job in light of the Knicks' failures this season.

"What's fair? ... I was given an opportunity two years ago to take over a team that was struggling and I made the most of it. Unfortunately this year just didn't go according to plan," said Woodson, who is under contract for 2014-15. "Is it fair to let me go? I don't think so. Again, I don't make that decision. That's got to come from the top."

If new president Phil Jackson fires Woodson, Jackson is expected to bring in a coach with whom he has a previous relationship. He's also expected to hire a coach with an intimate knowledge of the triangle offense.

Steve Kerr is a possible candidate.


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Melo To The Bulls?

April, 16, 2014
Apr 16
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Tom Penn, Bruce Bowen and Tim Legler discuss what the Bulls would have to do to land Carmelo Anthony this offseason.

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TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Carmelo Anthony
PTS AST STL MIN
27.4 3.1 1.2 38.7
OTHER LEADERS
ReboundsT. Chandler 9.6
AssistsR. Felton 5.6
StealsI. Shumpert 1.2
BlocksA. Bargnani 1.2

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