- Ian Begley, ESPN Staff Writer
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With the New York Knicks down 25 in the fourth quarter of another listless loss at the Garden, some in the crowd wanted to voice their concerns.
A small pocket of fans in the upper deck began chanting "Fire Woodson" in the closing minutes of the Knicks' Christmas Day loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder. If those fans had their wish, the Knicks would have a new coach for Friday's game against Toronto.
Inside New York's locker room, though, players say they are still responding to Mike Woodson, their embattled coach.
"I believe so. I believe in him," J.R. Smith said. "I hope everybody else does."
Iman Shumpert added that Woodson's message is "definitely" getting through to the players.
"Of course, it's not reflected right now. Especially not today," the third-year guard said. "Guys are still listening to our leader, that's our leader."
That may be true, but the Knicks have turned in several listless performances in recent weeks. At 8-19, they've performed well-below expectations, leading to rampant public speculation that Woodson's job is in jeopardy.
No one from the Knicks' front office or ownership has commented publicly on Woodson's status in recent days. Team owner James Dolan gave Woodson a public vote of confidence Nov. 20. But the Knicks' struggles have only gotten worse.
New York is just 5-11 since Dolan's comments, including a 41-point loss to Boston on Dec. 8 and a 15-point loss to Cleveland two days later.
A source with knowledge of the team's thinking told ESPNNewYork.com earlier this month that Woodson is being evaluated on a "game-by-game basis" by upper management.
The Knicks didn't do much to help Woodson's case on Wednesday. They let Oklahoma City shoot 70 percent in the first quarter and 54 percent for the game.
Afterward, Woodson criticized the team's defense.
"I don’t think we even established anything from a defensive standpoint because they scored it pretty freely [in] the first quarter," Woodson said.
On a game when they didn't have Carmelo Anthony (ankle), Woodson's Knicks needed more from Smith. Smith struggled, though, shooting just 8-for-22 from the floor. He finished with 20 points and missed six of nine 3-pointers.
Afterward, he said he heard the boos directed at him and the team throughout the game.
"They’re just fans. When we lose they’re going to boo. When we win they’re going to cheer," he said. "That’s just the way the game goes."
Smith reiterated that he feels that Woodson's message is getting through to the team.
But it seems like something is amiss.
Beno Udrih, who is upset over criticism of his play, hinted at that on Wednesday. When asked if Woodson still had the confidence of the team, he said, "I'm not just saying his message doesn't come across. Maybe we're not hearing the right thing or, I just don't know. We all have to communicate better as people."
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