- Ian Begley, ESPN Staff Writer
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GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- It's inaccurate to say the New York Knicks have quit on Mike Woodson.
They are a week removed from a four-game winning streak. On Wednesday, they played the Portland Trail Blazers -- one of the best teams in the NBA -- pretty evenly before falling just short, 94-90.
So for those looking for reasons to fire Woodson, it's a stretch to say all of the players have stopped competing for him.
But recently, some players have grown a bit tired of Woodson pointing out the team's lack of effort after losses. They expressed their frustration privately in a group setting late last month, league sources told ESPNNewYork.com. And a few players communicated their frustration to Knicks management, league sources say.
This could be interpreted as a schism between players and coaches. But more than likely it is a product of the toll constant losing takes on a locker room. If the Knicks were winning games, this wouldn’t be an issue.
The problem is, the Knicks are in the midst of another losing streak. Naturally it has brought on a fresh round of media speculation about Woodson's job security.
The Bergen Record has reported that the Knicks have “plotted ending the tenure" of Woodson. That planning, according to the Record, includes elevating Herb Williams to interim head coach and possibly adding Larry Johnson as an assistant.
Still, as the Record report notes, Knicks owner and Madison Square Garden chairman James Dolan could easily change his mind and choose to keep Woodson on for the rest of the season. That's the thing with trying to forecast the Knicks' next coaching move: oftentimes, it's a fool's errand.
The only people who truly know what the Knicks will do next are Dolan and team president/general manager Steve Mills. And Dolan, the ultimate decision-maker, isn’t speaking to the media.
Most people you talk to around the Knicks believe the team's preference is to keep Woodson on the bench for the rest of the season and start a coaching search in the offseason.
But if the Knicks continue to lose in embarrassing fashion -- like Monday's loss to the lowly Bucjs -- Dolan or the Knicks' front office could be forced to make a mover sooner than they'd like to.
If you ask J.R. Smith, firing Woodson right now would be the wrong move.
"I think we, as players, we need to start taking some of the heat, because he can't play for us, he can't go out there and grab 10 to 12 rebounds or shoot the ball; that's our job,” Smith said after Thursday’s practice. “So we've got to stand up and admit when we're wrong and not playing well, and take the heat."
Smith, though, admitted he's worried Woodson ultimately will take the fall for the Knicks' poor performance.
"Yeah, without a doubt," said Smith, who was benched by Woodson earlier this season for untying opponents' shoelaces and showing up late to a team meeting. "I think in this situation we as players have to look at ourselves in the mirror and understand that he's doing everything he can for us. It's just a matter of us taking the information and putting it out there on the court.
"We just have to put it all together as players. Coaches, like I said, they can only do but so much."
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2dIan O'Connor, ESPN Senior Writer