Woody: 'Maybe I scared them into playing'

December, 13, 2012
12/13/12
2:35
PM ET
GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- The Knicks went 18-24 under Mike D'Antoni to start the 2011-12 regular season. They finished it by going 18-6 under Mike Woodson.

Since Woodson took over for D'Antoni, who is now coaching the Lakers, New York is 34-11 in the regular season.

So why have the Knicks succeeded under Woodson after falling so flat under D'Antoni?

[+] EnlargeMike Woodson and Mike D'Antoni
Jim McIsaac/Getty ImagesMike Woodson and Mike D'Antoni
"Maybe I scared them into playing, I don't know," Woodson said on Thursday morning prior to the Knicks' game against D'Antoni's Lakers.

Woodson was smiling when he said it, but there's a kernel of truth to the statement.

The day Woodson took over, he addressed the team and made it clear that his three stars -- Carmelo Anthony, Amar'e Stoudemire and Tyson Chandler -- would be held accountable for what happened on the court.

"I had some things that I had to get off my chest being back in the driver's seat as the head coach," said Woodson, who served as an assistant under D'Antoni prior to taking over as head coach. "I kind of stated what I wanted and what I expected from guys and who I was going to hold mostly accountable, which was Melo, Amar'e and Tyson at that particular time.

"They kind of knew where I was coming from. They bought in and we we've been playing some pretty good basketball since then. So that's all I can attribute it to, I guess."

Woodson led the Knicks into the playoffs, where they lost a first-round series to the Heat in five games. He then inked a three-year deal to coach the team.

Woodson's Knicks enter play Thursday with the best record (16-5) in the Eastern Conference, having won seven of their last eight games.

D'Antoni was hired to coach the Lakers after they let Mike Brown go following a 1-4 start. D'Antoni has struggled so far in L.A without the injured Steve Nash. The Lakers are 4-8 since he took over.

"He's got a team he hasn't coached. They're still trying to figure him out. He's trying to figure his players out," Woodson said. "That's what happens sometimes with change. I wish him the best until we play him, because it's all about the Knicks as far as we're concerned."

Woodson reiterated that he appreciated the opportunity to coach as an assistant under D'Antoni. He didn't want to address a question about the idea that D'Antoni failed to hold his players accountable in New York.

"I'm not going there. I can only attest to what happened when I was coaching that time and what I expected as a head coach. That's it," Woodson said. "What happened before that, happened. We've moved on since then. We're trying to build something in a big way and that's what it's all about."

The Knicks' offense under Woodson features plenty of wrinkles from D'Antoni's system. It is pick-and-roll heavy and uses the penetration off of the pick and roll to create openings for perimeter shooters, something D'Antoni's offense also relies on.

"I didn't abandon some of (D'Antoni's) offense. I like some of the things that he did," Woodson said. "I added some of the things I liked to do as well. I liked his offense."

Woodson succeeded in one area D'Antoni fell short -- getting Anthony to buy in. Woodson tweaked his offense to suit some of Anthony's strengths, such as playing in the post. That's something that D'Antoni did not do.

Steve Novak was asked on Thursday why the Knicks were able to play so well under Woodson, but not D'Antoni.

"A lot of times in basketball you can't really explain everything," he said. "But when a team goes out there and plays well, then it's right."

It's been right under Woodson. And it started with a speech from the coach to make sure his stars -- and everyone else in the room -- knew who would be held accountable.

"I was kind of out on a limb when I said that. But I meant it," Woodson recalled. "That was the right thing to do, I think."

J.R. HEALTHY, GASOL OUT: Woodson said J.R. Smith won't be limited on Thursday by the back injury he suffered against the Nets. Smith left the Knicks' locker room on Tuesday walking gingerly after tweaking his back during the game. He received treatment at the team's training facility on Wednesday and worked with his teammates on Thursday.

"He was out shooting today, so I think he's going to be fine," Woodson said.

Pau Gasol will miss his sixth straight game with knee tendinitis. D'Antoni told reporters at the Lakers' shootaround that Antawn Jamison will start at power forward. He will likely be matched up against Anthony.

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TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Carmelo Anthony
PTS AST STL MIN
27.4 3.1 1.2 38.7
OTHER LEADERS
ReboundsC. Anthony 8.1
AssistsP. Prigioni 3.5
StealsI. Shumpert 1.2
BlocksA. Bargnani 1.2