Tuesday, March 20, 2012
A deeper dive into Woodson's world
By Jared Zwerling
The Knicks' community is still learning about Mike Woodson, who is 3-0 as the interim head coach. We'll soon find out what he's really about, especially as the season gets closer to the playoffs. For now, the Woodson file is just getting sorted in New York.
To get a better idea of the sideline boss' coaching style and tendencies, ESPN New York consulted with two veteran NBA scouts, one in the Western Conference and the other in the East.
Here are seven things you should know about Woody:
1.) On his personality: "I know him as a great people person. He's a defensive-minded coach. He comes very well-prepared. He focuses on the execution in offense. He has a lot of stuff that he runs out of timeouts. He did a great job in Atlanta and they got better every year. He's not a guy who's going to draw a lot of attention to himself. He just goes about his job. He's very hard-working and I think the players respect that about him. He tries to just put great players in position to do what their capable of doing. Chuck Daly always used to say, 'In college, you tell players where to go and what to do offensively. In the pros, it's how can I get you the ball in position to score?' Mike Woodson has a really good handle on that."
2.) On his offense in Atlanta: "I think the characterization of Woody's offense is a product of simplistic journalism. It's easy for one guy to look at what someone else says and say, 'Oh, they just run isos all the time,' and then just repeat that. Woody runs a very traditional NBA offense -- post-ups, pick-and-rolls, isos. And no, he doesn't advocate tempo unless it's an advantage. He doesn't advocate chucking up quick shots. He doesn't advocate taking threes, unless they're good shots.
"Basically, what Woody is going to say, and this is going to go back to Larry Brown [with whom Woodson won a title in 2004 in Detroit], you're going to play good defense and you're going to play at a pace that's conducive to you being successful. We want to play at a pace where we're causing turnovers. If that's the way we're getting easy buckets and we're getting layups, then fine, let's push it.
"D'Antoni's system says we're going to get up more shots than you, we're going to force some bad shots, but the bottom line is we're going to take more and the volume of our shots is going to cause us to outscore you. That's not a right or wrong thing, but that's his philosophy. Woody is at the opposite end of the spectrum. Woody is more like Mike Fratello, Jeff Van Gundy and Larry Brown -- more traditional. We're going to play the tempo that suits us best. If that's defending, controlling possessions, making sure we get good shots, whether it's fast or slow, then that's the way we're going to play. It's only fast if it's to your benefit. If you have an advantage, then you fast break. If you don't have an advantage, you don't."
3.) On instructing star player Joe Johnson in Atlanta: "He ran a lot of nice sets to get Joe the ball. He called a lot of stuff out of timeouts to get him and guys open. Sometimes you had to zone up on the out-of-bounds and the sideline because he likes to run a lot of stuff out of timeouts. He does a great job of fixing things up to make teams off-balance, but at the same time, he went to Joe Johnson to take advantage of him working off the pick-and-rolls."
4.) On his biggest and underrated strength as a coach: "One of his biggest strengths is handling the team, handling the locker room and the most underrated strength that Woody has not gotten credit for is his consistency. You're not going to see the lineup change every other day, you're not going to see tinkering with the lineup, the rotations are going to be the same and he's not going to do things different from one night to the next.
"Now, it may not always work, it may not always be pretty, there may be patches where you wonder why he's sticking with something that he's doing, but the value in the long term for that is the players always know what to expect, they know what their role is, they know exactly what they're doing and without constant mediation."
5.) On helping Jeremy Lin develop as the Knicks' point guard: "He's going to try to put Jeremy Lin in a position to succeed. Let's face it, their longest winning streak this year [seven games in February] had more to do with Jeremy Lin than anything else.
"It's not that he's going to be anti-Jeremy Lin, but Lin is going to have to learn to take care of the ball better, and saying that, he will take care of the ball better because not playing at such a frantic pace automatically will lend to that. So Woody's offense may not be Jeremy Lin's ideal style of play, but it does not mean it's a Jeremy Lin killer either. If Jeremy Lin can help Woody win, believe me, Woody will ride him like Secretariat too. But if he can't adjust and take care of the ball and take good shots and get the ball to the guys at the right time, then his role could diminish."
6.) On the difference between working with Mike Bibby in Atlanta and now with Lin: "Bibby is now a glorified shooting guard. He's no longer a guy who can handle the ball and put pressure on people with pick-and-rolls and get into the lane and penetrate. He's not quick enough to drive by anybody. Lin is a guy who obviously has the ability to, at least in pick-and-rolls, put the pressure on the defense. So I don't see how Woody would use him exactly the way he would Bibby.
"To me, what you do with Lin is you put him in pick-and-rolls with Amare [Stoudemire], you put him in pick-and-rolls with Carmelo [Anthony]. Carmelo's a great pick-and-roll option and both of them can shoot. So when Lin comes hard off the pick-and-roll, you immediately put the defense in a pressure situation."
7.) On having to adjust his coaching to defenses applying more pressure on Lin: "If I'm Mike Woodson, that's exactly what I want to see. I'm asking for situations to put pressure on a defense, and if that means that the defense is getting extra attention to someone, whether it's Lin or Carmelo or whomever it is, that's exactly my job as a coach. To me, as an X's and O's guy, your job is to create mismatches, force the defense to adjust and when they adjust, make them pay for it. That's the whole point of everything I diagram.
"When defenses jump Jeremy Lin on pick-and-rolls and really pay a lot of attention to him, wonderful, because that means Jeremy Lin has to give the ball up, has to know when to give it up, he has to give it up on time and he has to get it to the right guy. If you put him in a pick-and-roll with Carmelo or Amare, then if a defense traps Lin and tries to get the ball out of his hands, you just made my day. You can have Amare pop to about 17 feet, kick it to him and shoot an open J."
What's impressed you the most about Woodson? Leave us your comments below.