New York Knicks: Mike Woodson

Positional analysis: Coaching

August, 8, 2014
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Derek FisherAP Photo/Seth WenigFirst-year coach Derek Fisher will have many questions to answer in New York.
Now that free agency has died down, we’re taking a look at where the Knicks currently stand position-by-position. Today, we look at the coaching.

COACHING:

New additions: Head coach Derek Fisher, associate head coach Kurt Rambis.

Gone: Mike Woodson.

Strengths: Fisher has championship experience as a player, earning five rings over the course of his career. As evidenced by his introductory press conference, Fisher is a very good communicator who was a solid leader as a player. He's tough and comes with intimate knowledge of personnel around the league having just played last season. Phil Jackson is banking on these skills to transfer over to the bench.

Potential concerns: Fisher has never coached before in his basketball life. He hasn’t had to draw up a play in crunch time with the game on the line, or try to match wits with another head coach, manage a rotation, make the right subs at the right time or delicately handle egos. The Knicks' health is always a concern, so Fisher will have to potentially manage Amar'e Stoudemire’s minutes. And he will be doing all of this under the New York microscope.

Biggest challenge: Besides learning how to coach on the fly, Fisher will also have the tough task of installing the triangle and teaching it to several players like Carmelo Anthony for the first time. It’s one thing if Jackson was teaching the triangle. But the Knicks will have a first-time coach installing the complicated system.

What they’re saying: “He’s a leader and a teacher,” GM Steve Mills said on MSG Network during summer league at Las Vegas. “He and our coaching staff -- Kurt Rambis -- they really spent a lot of time teaching. ... I’ve watched Derek communicate with the guys and get them focused on the offense and defensive concept. ... I think he is going to do a great job.”

Outlook: Unlike Jason Kidd did with the Nets, Fisher enters his first year coaching without enormous win-now expectations. The Knicks want to make the playoffs but their eye is on next summer, when they can surround Melo with serious help. Fisher has a year to learn the job and hone his coaching skills. He inherits the core of a roster that was an absolute mess last season on the court. How will Fisher handle his rotation? Will he start J.R. Smith or bring him off the bench as the sixth man? Who will Fisher start at center? Can he fit these current Knicks pieces into the triangle? What kind of coach will Fisher be? A players’ coach? A tough-minded, no-nonsense coach? A combination of both? How long will it take for him to find his voice and comfort zone? There are many questions to be answered.

Like Kidd experienced last season, Fisher will have his growing pains. It just remains to be seen how rocky those growing pains will be. Kidd got more comfortable and eventually turned the Nets around. There’s no reason to expect Fisher can’t transition from playing to coaching like Kidd. He has to maintain the respect of his players through any tough times and should be able to do so. And Fisher has the benefit of leaning on Jackson whenever he needs to as well.
Amar'e Stoudemire’s goal for next season is simple.

He wants to get back to being a dominant player.

“My goal next year is to have an All-Star-caliber year to get back in the All-Star Game,” Stoudemire said recently on ESPN Radio’s “Mike & Mike.” “And then be a great team player for my teammates in addition to contending for a championship.”

If Stoudemire does that, new coach Derek Fisher will be a very happy man. Fisher needs to maximize what he has on the Knicks’ roster knowing that team president Phil Jackson probably won't make significant upgrades until 2015. So that means the Knicks will need help from what they already have.

Stoudemire played in 65 games this past season, averaging 11.9 points and 4.9 rebounds. Mike Woodson had Stoudemire start the season cautiously on a minutes restriction to preserve his knees.

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Stoudemire came on strong toward the end of the season. He averaged 16.9 points and 6.6 rebounds in March.

If Stoudemire can come close to those numbers and play 60 or more games again this coming season, that would be a nice bonus for Fisher’s squad. How the first-year coach will use and rest the power forward remains to be seen.

Stoudemire believes he will improve on last season because he can concentrate on improving his game this offseason as opposed to spending most of his time rehabbing.

The Knicks will need somebody to be an inside presence to go with Carmelo Anthony, provided Anthony returns, and Stoudemire believes he can be a force again.

“My focus is at a high level right now,” Stoudemire said. “My body feels great, and I’m out to prove the doubters wrong.”
Pau Gasol, Phil Jackson and Kobe BryantAndrew D. Bernstein/Getty ImagesThe triangle has made champions out of many. So where do the current Knicks fit in?
TORONTO -- The Mike Woodson era is over.

The triangle era is nearly upon us.

On the day he was hired as the New York Knicks' president, Phil Jackson made it no secret he wants to see the team play system basketball. Unfortunately for the franchise, the Zen Master says he’s not entertaining any thoughts about returning to the bench. But it makes all the sense in the world to hire one of his former disciples (Steve Kerr?) and then help the new coach install and teach the triangle offense.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at how some of the Knicks' current pieces fit, or don’t fit, in the triangle assuming that the core -- and Carmelo Anthony -- of the team is intact for next season:

Anthony
Anthony
Melo: Without a doubt, it will be a transition for Anthony. But Jackson’s championship teams were always built around an incredible scoring talent. Can Anthony follow in the footsteps of Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant?

If we're talking about his ability to play in the triangle, I think he can. He can direct the offense and work within the system's principles and find enough opportunities to pick and choose his spots. He might not be as athletic, graceful or as high-flying as Jordan and Bryant. Melo is more of a bull inside compared to those two. However, Melo is excellent at scoring on his man -- like MJ and Kobe -- and should be able to work out of the post like Jordan did at times.

Anthony will have to improve his passing, trust his teammates and will need them to make plays and make the right decisions in the triangle. Patience, which is a major requirement of Jackson, will be a must. Melo has said if he re-signs, he will do whatever Phil asks of him.


Stoudemire
Stoudemire
Amar'e: Amar'e Stoudemire has thrived in pick-and-roll situations. But he can score in the low post and shoot the mid-range jumper -- two things he should get out of the triangle. Stoudemire will have to improve his passing. He might not be able to pass like Pau Gasol did for Jackson’s Los Angeles Lakers championship teams, but Jackson won his first three titles with the Chicago Bulls with Horace Grant and Bill Cartwright as his primary power forward and center.

Grant improved his mid-range jumper in the triangle. And Stoudemire should be able to get open shots in the system. Andrea Bargnani might also benefit from the triangle as well.


J.R. Smith
Smith
J.R.: What the Knicks currently lack -- and what many of Jackson’s teams had -- is a versatile swing man. Obviously there is no Scottie Pippen on the roster. The Knicks don’t even have anybody as versatile as Toni Kukoc. They could even use a Rick Fox-type. Jackson typically has a swing man who can do a little of everything.

J.R. Smith does provide the Knicks with outside shooting and the ability to slash to the basket. Jackson’s teams had some great spot-up shooters, such as John Paxson, Craig Hodges, B.J. Armstrong, Robert Horry and Glen Rice.

Smith will need to be patient and take fewer quick shots without passing. He has to be able to play without the ball and move. But if Smith can pick up the triangle, he will be able to also pick and choose spots to score within the offense. All of this can be said for Iman Shumpert and Tim Hardaway Jr. Jackson did sign Lamar Odom, but it remains to be seen what Odom has left in the tank and in the head.


Felton
Felton
Raymond Felton: Jackson’s point guards during his championship years included the likes of Paxson, Armstrong, Kerr, Ron Harper, Derek Fisher and Brian Shaw. In other words, Jackson doesn’t need an elite point guard or an incredible talent at the 1 with the triangle. But he does need a smart point guard, and one who can preferably hit open shots from the outside.

Raymond Felton’s future is a bit uncertain given his legal situation. And his outside shooting has to improve. Jackson could bring in a veteran point guard to help, much in the way he used Harper on his teams.


Defense: The Knicks have to improve defensively. Jordan and Pippen were all-time defenders. But Jackson’s teams have always had some good defenders from Grant to Dennis Rodman to a younger Harper. Many of them were able to get steals and force turnovers that led to momentum-changing breaks.

Shumpert could be the next defender to shine under Jackson’s watch.

Shumpert
Shumpert
“I’m still a coach that believes in pressure defense,” Jackson said recently. “Anticipation, turnovers become run-outs. I was able to tell Iman that’s what has to be seen on a basis that we’d like to see from game to game.”

“The triangle offense is one of the best offenses to run because of its balance and because players can play defense out of an offense like that,” Jackson later added. “Instead of having stretched players who are standing in corners and have to recover from a difficult situation, you have guys that are in balance and there is an opportunity to defend from your offense.”

On Jackson's Bulls teams, Grant and Scott Williams provided energy, shot-blocking and rebounding. And of course, Jackson had Rodman for the second Bulls' three-peat. Tyson Chandler should be able to duplicate some of those things but will also need to improve on his passing.

“I think anybody can fit in it,” Chandler said. “I played in a triangle when I was younger in my Chicago days. It is equal opportunity. It allows the game to dictate who takes the shot, and everybody else understands that and understands how to play off of it and I think that will be beneficial for this team.”

Knicks can win if Phil picks right coach

April, 18, 2014
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One day after making a plea for his job and why he’s the right man to coach the Knicks, Mike Woodson wasn’t made available to talk about a failed season one last time on Thursday.

In fact, Amar’e Stoudemire said he hadn’t seen Woodson on Thursday at the team facility. Stoudemire sat down for an exit interview with Phil Jackson and Steve Mills and discussed what needed to change with the Knicks. But no Woodson.

Typically, head coaches talk to reporters and players on the last day of the season to explain what went right or wrong and what lies ahead for the team and what improvements need to be made.

Of course, how can Woodson talk about what the team needs to do moving forward when he might not be a part of the future plan? Woodson’s fate was likely sealed much earlier this season when the Knicks repeatedly couldn’t get out of their own way.

Woodson deserves some credit for the Knicks fighting at the end -- albeit too little too late -- to make one final playoff run. But it’s time for a change.

Jackson may not be able to do much in terms of seriously upgrading the roster this coming season due to the Knicks’ limited cap flexibility. But one difference-making move he can make is choosing the right head coach.

If the core of the Knicks’ roster remains the same -- provided Carmelo Anthony re-signs -- then the one game-changing move he can make between this awful season and next season is the coach.

Picking the right coach, one who can motivate this team with a fresh message, one who can make the type of adjustments that Anthony and Tyson Chandler wanted earlier in the season, one who can command the attention of veteran players could be the difference in the Knicks returning to the playoffs.

Jackson wants the Knicks to play system basketball -- in other words, triangle basketball. The Knicks already have the best coaching candidate available on the planet but Jackson says he’s not interested in a return to the bench.

There are plenty of guys from Jackson’s triangle tree who could do the job such as Steve Kerr, Brian Shaw (if he were to become free), Kurt Rambis, Derek Fisher, Jim Cleamons, Bill Cartwright and Frank Hamblen among others.

Kerr and Fisher have yet to coach. But look at how Jason Kidd is doing without prior NBA coaching experience and he’s been doing it without a Phil Jackson to guide him along as an executive.

If Kerr were to be selected by Jackson to coach the Knicks, he would have Jackson’s full support and wisdom. Jackson would do everything in his power to make sure Kerr succeeds.

Core players like Anthony, Stoudemire and Chandler can’t talk enough about their respect for Jackson. So they should in turn respect whomever Jackson hand picks to install the identity he wants for the team.

The new Jackson disciple in charge also could be inheriting a situation that might not be as bleak as some think. If Jackson re-signs Melo, the new coach will have a top-10 player who averaged 27.4 points and 8.1 rebounds this season.

That coach also could also take over a roster with presumably three key players in contract years. Stoudemire, Chandler and Andrea Bargnani all will be motivated to earn a new pay day even if it’s elsewhere.

If Jackson adds a few more veterans to replace the leadership they lost from the 54-win team a season ago, the Knicks could easily be a playoff team again.

When you look back on this debacle of a season, the Knicks missed the postseason by two games to Atlanta. There are a plethora of reasons why the Knicks didn’t make the playoffs. One of them is coaching.

For whatever reason, there were times when Woodson was unable to motivate his team to play better. Heck, there were times when he couldn’t inspire them to show up for a matinee tipoff at the Garden.

Stoudemire said players didn’t always buy into Woodson’s coaching and said next season the remaining players need to be more professional about accepting the coach’s game plan.

“Coach Woodson put together a game plan on both ends of the basketball court,” Stoudemire said. “And there were times that we didn’t totally buy into it.”

Chandler intimated the Knicks have bigger changes to make.

“I think we all have to be on the same page,” Chandler said on Thursday. “I think that’s the biggest key. A winning culture. Got to establish a winning culture, if not, you allow history to repeat itself.”

That’s where Phil comes in. Jim Dolan is paying the Zen Master a fortune to lay down a winning foundation starting now.

A critical ingredient to a winning culture is the head coach. Hiring the right coach could seal the deal with Melo. And it could be the Knicks’ only way of truly improving the team for next season.

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.”

Amar'e: 'We'll make playoffs' if healthy

April, 14, 2014
Apr 14
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Amar'e Stoudemire has no intention of going through another season without any playoffs.

And Stoudemire says if he is healthy next season, the Knicks can still rebuild and make the playoffs.

“Not making the playoffs is not an option,” Stoudemire said on Sunday. “[Another losing season is] not an option for us. We’re definitely looking to make the playoffs every year.

“This year’s been a struggle,” he continued. “But if I return healthy and ready to go, I’m sure we’ll make the playoffs.”

Stoudemire is entering the final year of his contract worth $23.4 million next season. The 31-year-old big man is averaging 11.9 points and 5.0 rebounds. He has played in 63 games so far this season, his most games played since his first season with the Knicks in 2010-11, when he appeared in 78 games.

While this season’s results have been incredibly frustrating for Stoudemire from a team standpoint, the big man is happy with how his knees and health held up.

“The positive thing from it, from my standpoint, I felt healthy all year,” Stoudemire said. “Back to my health. So it feels great.”

Mike Woodson kept Stoudemire’s minutes to an average of 22.6 a game and rested him periodically. That seems to have benefited Stoudemire here late in the season. He is averaging 16.4 points and 6.3 rebounds in 19 games in March and April, leaving an impression on Phil Jackson.

“We’re all happy to see Amar'e have a resurgence here,” Jackson said earlier this month. “It’s been a long, hard struggle for him, rehabbing and trying to get himself ready for this opportunity, and we’re happy to see that.”

Stoudemire knows Jackson will try to implement big changes in the coming months, as much as the Knicks president can given the roster and salary cap restrictions.

“I’m not Phil Jackson,” Stoudemire said when asked what changes could be in store for the Knicks. “I can’t really make those type of decisions. My job is to stay optimistic and still be the leader of this team and one of the captains, and just kind of keep everybody motivated.

“This summer’s going to be very important for all of us to return in top shape. And with a mindset of becoming a student and being able to master our philosophy on both ends of the court. Whatever the strategy is, we gotta get to the point where we buy into it from the beginning and we gotta try to master it before playoffs.”

From the moment Jackson was introduced as the Knicks’ newest savior, the Zen Master has talked about wanting the Knicks to play system basketball. Jackson will likely bring in someone from his Triangle tree to install the system.

Jackson also could sign players familiar with the system like Lamar Odom, as ESPN’s Marc Stein recently reported.

Stoudemire believes he has shown Jackson what he is capable of doing next season.

“My game speaks for itself,” Stoudemire said. “I don’t have to toot my own horn. I play extremely hard and I work hard to return back to my dominant self."

“It could be a lot of changes,” he added of next season’s roster. “That’s the unknown factor. I can’t control things that’s out of my control. What I can do is continue to work hard and get stronger and even healthier and even better as a player. That’s my goal going into the offseason.”

Opening Tip: Who to fault for this season?

April, 11, 2014
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Mike Woodson, James Dolan, Carmelo Anthony Getty ImagesThis Knicks season has been absolutely awful -- who's to blame for this season?
With the New York Knicks’ playoff chances fading with just four games remaining, it’s hard not to think about what went wrong and how the 'Bockers got into this position in the first place.

The Knicks started the season with high expectations and now they could be playing out the final four games of their season with no postseason and no picks for this coming draft.

So with that in mind, who do you place the onus on for this disastrous season? Of course, everybody played a part in the Knicks’ failure this season but who do you point the finger at the most? Here are five candidates to choose from:

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James Dolan: The owner truly felt that this roster had what it took to win it all when the season started. He oversaw changes in the offseason that included the acquisition of Andrea Bargnani, demotion of GM Glen Grunwald and hiring of Steve Mills.

The Knicks went in a younger direction after key veterans helped them win 54 games last season. The team’s strong ties to CAA also led to J.R. Smith’s brother, Chris, making the roster at the start of the season. And other offseason additions like Metta World Peace and Beno Udrih ended badly with buyouts.

For better or worse, Dolan opted not to make major changes in-season whether it was not trading for Kyle Lowry or keeping Mike Woodson as coach. Dolan, though, didn't completely stand pat. He deserves credit for chasing and ultimately landing Phil Jackson even if he had to give up a small fortune. The Jackson hiring gives the Knicks what feels like a tidal wave of hope for the future even if it doesn't end with a title.

Mike Woodson: The man who coached the Knicks to 54 wins a season ago won’t be able to win more than 37 games even if he finishes the season 4-0. He has had to deal with a slew of injuries to Tyson Chandler, Smith (who started the season with a five-game suspension), Raymond Felton, Bargnani and Kenyon Martin among others. But he had difficulty getting the Knicks to play consistently, there were defensive breakdowns and confusion on some nights and basketball IQ flops at the end of games against Washington and Milwaukee.

There were also embarrassingly awful losses to the Celtics, Spurs, Kings, Sixers and Lakers just to name a few. The Knicks were more inconsistent than a flip-flopping politician as guys like Chandler, Felton, Smith and Iman Shumpert all played below their 2012-2013 level. But despite all that and Phil’s hiring, Woodson oversaw a late surge in which the Knicks have won 12 of their last 17 games.

Carmelo Anthony: In what could potentially be his last season as a Knick before becoming a free agent, he’s averaging 27.5 points and 8.2 rebounds in a career-high 38.9 minutes a game. Melo authored an all-time Knick performance with 62 points against Charlotte and was often the only reason why to watch the team for much of this dreadful season. Anthony is trying to battle through a shoulder injury in an attempt to get the Knicks in the playoffs.

Anthony knew the team would look to him to lead more this season with Jason Kidd gone and he tried calling team meetings early in the season. But there’s only so much Anthony can do. The All-Star has felt the burden of the Knicks’ struggles this season according to Jackson and all this comes right before he will opt out his contract later this summer.

J.R. Smith: Smith’s 2013-’14 got off to a smashing start with offseason surgery on his left knee shortly after signing a three-year, $18-million contract in July. He then served a five-game suspension for violating the NBA’s anti-drug program to start the season. Woodson has often pointed back toward the suspension as one of the many things that went wrong this season.

Smith, though, has come on as of late and has begun playing like the Sixth Man of the Year from last season. He has buried a total of 41 three-pointers in his last seven games and looks healthy again.

Jason Kidd: How damaging was his departure? Players have talked repeatedly about how much they miss his leadership and basketball IQ on the court and in the locker room. Without Kidd, the Knicks’ point guard play struggled with Felton going through a tough season. And as if it wasn’t bad enough that Kidd retired, he then took his smarts to the rival Nets and led them to a stunning turnaround since Jan. 1 –- all while the Knicks have been struggling.

Up now: Can the decision-making duo of Phil and Mills do special things for the Knicks next season?

The Knicks will need an Atlanta meltdown to make the playoffs.

What's next: Knicks try to keep their slim hopes alive at Toronto at 7 p.m.

Question of the day: Who do you place much of the blame on for the Knicks’ woes this season?
Dolan, JacksonNathaniel S. Butler/NBAE/Getty ImagesSteve Mills believes he and Phil Jackson can build the 'Bockers into a winner.
Steve Mills believes that he and Phil Jackson can be a tandem that will “do something special” for the New York Knicks.

In an interview airing Thursday at 7 p.m. on SiriusXM NBA Radio, Mills talked about how he and Jackson can combine their strengths to turn the Knicks around.

“I look at our situation in terms of putting us in a position to win,” Mills said in an interview with Spike Lee. “Obviously he has tremendous, tremendous credibility, he’s won 11 championships, he understands how to build a team. From my standpoint, the relationships I have around the league with players and agents, as we start to think through strategically where we want to go from a free-agent standpoint, we’re going to be able to understand what players are available and want to come and play in New York. There are not going to be surprises.

“We’re going to have the relationships in place with players and agents, and you couple that with Phil’s credibility from a championship standpoint and coaching and what he’s done to build teams, I think together we can do something special.”

Mills admits that the Knicks’ courtship of Jackson did “lead to some problems” initially with head coach Mike Woodson. Mills said he wanted to make it clear to Woodson that he did not have any conversations with Jackson about coaching the Knicks after the first report came out that the two had met.

ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith reported that Mills met with Jackson about the possibility of Jackson becoming the team's next coach but that Jackson wasn’t interested in coaching, according to sources. Owner James Dolan said he did initially ask Jackson about the possibility of coaching the Knicks when they first had discussions.

“It was very tight,” Mills said of keeping the talks with Jackson quiet for some time. “It started to lead to some problems because even when it started to leak out that we had been having conversations, I wanted to make it clear to Mike Woodson in terms of our relationship that during this process or any other processes, I never had any conversations with anyone about coaching the Knicks.”

Former Knicks coach Larry Brown blasted the Knicks for how they have treated Woodson with the Jackson hiring in a recent interview with SiriusXM NBA Radio. During that interview, Brown also said Mills “has no clue” about basketball.

"I don't know what he knows about the sport, to be honest with you," said Brown, who worked with Mills during his lone season as Knicks coach. "I was with him. Steve Mills has no clue. They fired [Glen] Grunwald, who was tremendous. They told [Grunwald] they couldn't [sign] any older players. They didn't make any changes as the season went on, and there were some opportunities to do that.”

Dolan hired Mills to replace Grunwald at the start of the season, but his title and role have since changed with Jackson’s arrival.

“Well, obviously it has changed because I gave up the president title and just retained my title as the general manager,” Mills said. “And Phil is coming in and he is going to, you know, ultimately decide what we do from a player standpoint, what we do from a coaching standpoint.

“But when I took this job with the Knicks, I made it clear to Jim I wanted to come back and I wanted to try to help us win. And I looked at the opportunity as I got to know Phil, and we went through a three-month courting process.”

Mills said that during that "courting process" he had multiple meetings over several hours with Jackson to build a rapport at Dolan’s request.

“We had a meeting where I went and met with Phil, and then we had another meeting where Jim and I and Phil got together for five or six hours,” Mills said. “And then we had a weekend where we went away where we could just get to know each other personally. ... It was really important for Jim to feel that Phil and I could work together.”

Trees for Threes: The Knicks and PwC US will plant 1,500 trees and 200 shrubs in Jamaica Bay Park at part of the "Trees for Threes" program. The Knicks made 369 treys through 39 home games this season and PwC tripled that number in trees and shrubs.
Mike Woodson heard how Amar’e Stoudemire would have liked to have seen the ball go inside more last Sunday in Miami.

The Knicks coach believes his team has established an inside game. The coach just wants to see a little more balance with his team’s inside-out game.

“We’ve been pretty good in this stretch in being able to mix up our threes and go inside out,” Woodson said after practice. “I know there was some bickering out there about we didn’t play inside enough.

“But for the most part we have established an inside game with Amar'e and with Melo [Carmelo Anthony]. And we’ve shot a ton of threes as well. So we’ve got to keep them in that range where it’s not so one-sided.”

J.R. Smith made 10 three-pointers and scored 32 points in the 102-91 loss to the Heat. But he launched 22 shots from behind the arc. Woodson said he would have liked to have seen Smith get to the line more after the shooter failed to shoot any free throws.

Stoudemire scored 12 points but took just nine shots. Anthony, struggling with a shoulder injury, shot 4-of-17 and finished with 13 points.

“We had a chance to win the game,” Stoudemire said after the Knicks’ loss. “They went small and we shot 3s.”

Stoudemire said “we didn’t take advantage of our size” and noted how Shane Battier was on him for several possessions.

Stoudemire said the team hasn’t discussed the big man’s observations about going inside more since that game.

“No, we didn’t talk about it at all,” Stoudemire said. “But we had a day off yesterday and we had practice today and we will get ready for Toronto here in the future so we will see what we will do in Toronto but we got to move forward.”
GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- The New York Knicks are watching Atlanta’s every move, whether it is in Mike Woodson’s office or from Amar’e Stoudemire’s bath tub.

The Knicks (33-45) are a game and a half behind the Hawks (34-43) and their chances of beating out Atlanta for the eighth seed are becoming slimmer.

“It is going to be tough,” Stoudemire said of the Knicks’ chances. “We put ourselves in this predicament which unfortunately we have to win every game at this point to get in.

“It has been a roller coaster year for us so far,” Stoudemire continued. “But to be optimistic, we got a chance to make the playoffs still. We just got to make sure we take care of business.”

Stoudemire said he watched the Hawks ruin a relaxing hot bath for him by crushing the Pacers, 107-88, on Sunday night.

“Yeah, saw the Atlanta-Indiana game, sitting in a long hot bath, just watching the game,” Stoudemire said. “They played well.”

After losing six straight, the Hawks have won three of their last five games. Atlanta owns the tiebreaker over the Knicks, who have dropped two straight. So Woodson’s team will have to finish one game better than Atlanta to make the playoffs.

Woodson has been watching the Hawks closely.

“Sure it’s hard because when it was 20 games you’re kind of locked into your own team, worrying about you're doing,” Woodson said. “But now you got to keep a close eye on what Atlanta’s doing now because everything is going to be triggered off of them and what we do the rest of the way. Sure we’re watching.”

The Hawks’ remaining games are against Boston, at Brooklyn, Miami, Charlotte and at Milwaukee.

The Knicks have four games remaining at Toronto, against Chicago, at Brooklyn and against Toronto.

“We still have a shot to make the playoffs,” Woodson said. “We are playing better basketball coming down this home stretch. But only time will tell.”

Knicks' playoff hopes dimmed by Wizards

April, 5, 2014
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The Knicks’ playoff hopes took a major hit Friday night.

The Atlanta Hawks’ blowout win and New York's last-second loss to the Washington Wizards left the Knicks one game back of the eighth-place Hawks with five games remaining.

If the Knicks lose to the Miami Heat on Sunday, their season will essentially be on life support.

[+] EnlargeJ.R. Smith
AP Photo/Frank Franklin IIJ.R. Smith pumped in 32 points against the Wizards, but it wasn't enough.
"We’ve been up against the wall this whole time. Miami’s just another team we gotta go [through]," Carmelo Anthony said after his 10-point, nine-turnover outing in a one-point loss to the Wizards. "We've had some pretty good wins on the road. We wanna keep it up. We've got five games left. We wanna try to make this happen."

The Knicks are two games behind the Hawks in the loss column, and Atlanta holds the tiebreaker based on conference record. So if the Knicks and Hawks finish tied, the Knicks will not make the playoffs.

"It makes it extremely hard, but we put the pressure on ourselves from the beginning of the season to be in this situation," J.R. Smith said after pouring in a game-high 32 points. "We don’t have any choice but to come out fighting if we really want to make it, and I think we do, so I feel good about it."

The schedule also favors the Hawks, who, despite some recent talk of tanking, beat the Cleveland Cavaliers by 19 on Friday. Four of Atlanta’s final seven games are against opponents under .500.

In fact, three of the Hawks' opponents (Milwaukee Bucks, Boston Celtics, Detroit Pistons) are a combined 100 games under .500.

If Atlanta wins three of its final seven games, New York would need to go 4-1 in its final five to get into the playoffs. If the Hawks go 2-5 to finish the season, the Knicks would get in if they went 3-2.

In other words, the odds are against the Knicks. That's why Friday's loss felt so deflating to Amar'e Stoudemire.

"It was right there for us to take. We just didn’t take it," Stoudemire said.

The Knicks were up 89-88 with 33 seconds remaining, thanks to a Raymond Felton 3-pointer. But Bradley Beal -- the same player who hit a game-winning layup against the Knicks in December -- hit a jumper coming off of a screen with 23 seconds to play to put the Wizards up one.

The Knicks then called a 20-second timeout to set up an ill-fated play that seemed a bit disjointed.

Coach Mike Woodson said he wanted to set up a play that would have allowed Anthony and Stoudemire to work in a two-man set, but the Wizards did a solid job denying Anthony the ball.

Anthony eventually got the ball from Felton, more than 25 feet from the basket, and tried to split two Wizards defenders on a drive. But the ball slipped out of his hands and ended up in the hands of Smith, who missed a fadeaway 3-point attempt at the buzzer.

"This one was tough," Felton said.

The loss left the Knicks in desperation mode. Now, they need to win nearly every one of their final five games -- starting Sunday in Miami -- to make the postseason.

"We should have won the game," Stoudemire said. "It’s a game that we had in our hands, so we have no excuses now. We have to keep fighting, keep playing hard and see if we can win in Miami."

You can follow Ian Begley on Twitter.

No timetable for Bargnani, Martin

April, 4, 2014
Apr 4
9:19
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It’s looking more and more like Andrea Bargnani and Kenyon Martin won’t return during the regular season.

Knicks coach Mike Woodson said Friday that neither Bargnani nor Martin have started any on-court activity.

Martin, out since Feb. 3 with an ankle injury, said Wednesday he was getting closer to a return but didn’t provide any specific details. Bargnani has been out since Jan. 24 with a torn ligament in his left elbow.

Amar'e Stoudemire has taken Bargnani’s spot in the starting lineup and is playing well. The Knicks are 12-3 since Stoudemire was inserted in the starting lineup.

If Bargnani does return, it will be interesting to see if his presence adversely impacts the Knicks’ chemistry.

Melo’s 62 honored: Madison Square Garden honored Carmelo Anthony's record-setting, 62-point performance earlier this season with a visual retrospective at the Garden 366 exhibit on the Madison Concourse.

Anthony's 62-point night on Jan. 24 broke the franchise record previously held by Bernard King, who scored 60 back on Christmas Day 1984. Anthony also broke the Garden record of 61, set by Kobe Bryant on Feb. 2, 2009.

High expectations for Shumpert: Phil Jackson said Thursday that he liked what he saw from Iman Shumpert against the Nets. Shumpert had four steals in the first half to help spark the Knicks to an easy victory.

Woodson also praised the third-year guard and said expectations are high for Shumpert. "Iman didn’t play one game with me, as me being the head coach and I threw him right in as a starter. That’s how much I believed in Iman based on his style of play and what he brought to the table," Woodson said. "That hasn’t gone away. I just expect more from him. I think we all do. If he plays like he did the other night, he impacts the game, he changes the game *#133; so I’m pleased with his play. We’re going to continue to push him, and he’s got to continue to give us more. That’s what we’re looking for."

What’s been the key to the Knicks winning 12 of their past 15?

"It’s just been a lot of things going on with our ballclub," Woodson said. "The fact that [J.R. Smith] is playing better, [Stoudemire's] minutes have grown. He’s playing at a high level. It makes life a little different. We got to continue on that pace if we’re going to make the playoffs."

You can follow Ian Begley on Twitter.

#NBArank: Woody 28th-best coach

April, 4, 2014
Apr 4
2:52
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video

ESPN.com has ranked the NBA's head coaches from worst to first.

The Knicks didn't fare too well.

ESPN's Forecast Panel ranked Knicks head coach Mike Woodson 28th out of 30 head coaches. Woodson came in ahead of just Milwaukee's Larry Drew and Detroit's John Loyer.

It's been a disappointing season for Woodson and the Knicks. Owner James Dolan told Woodson and his staff prior to the season opener that he felt the Knicks could win a championship. Instead, the Knicks find themselves 10 games below .500 with six games remaining.

New York is percentage points ahead of the Hawks in the race for eighth place in the East -- not exactly where Woodson envisioned things at the start of the season. The coach has been criticized for his inability to find a productive lineup for the first four months of the season. He's also been knocked for his players' poor basketball IQ, which has resulted in several ugly losses and head-scratching, late-game execution.

Give Woodson credit for this, though: He has the Knicks playing well over the past three weeks.

New York has won 12 of 15 to surge up the standings in the East. On March 3, the Knicks had lost seven straight and were 6 ½ games back of eighth-place Atlanta. Tonight, if they beat Washington, and Atlanta loses to Cleveland, they can move one game ahead of the Hawks with five to play.

Woodson, who led the Knicks to 54 wins and their first playoff series win in 13 seasons, is under contract through next year. But he is expected to be replaced in the offseason. Many predict new president Phil Jackson will bring in a coach with whom he has a relationship, and one who has an intimate knowledge of Jackson's triangle offense. Steve Kerr has been the candidate mentioned most often.

For what it's worth, we think that Woodson deserves to be ranked higher than Utah's Tyron Corbin and Cleveland's Mike Brown, at the least.

You can follow Ian Begley on Twitter.

State of the Zen address

April, 3, 2014
Apr 3
3:53
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GREENBURGH, N.Y. –- Phil Jackson has been watching the Knicks for a little more than two weeks.

He gave reporters a State of the Zen address, discussing Carmelo Anthony, what he has been up to, his view on the Knicks' future and even the Knicks’ ties to CAA. But here are some of Phil’s other observations:

J.R. and Amar'e impress: Jackson agrees with Tyson Chandler: The Knicks could give whomever the top seed in the East will be some fits if they get in as the eighth seed.

The reason? He sees the Knicks’ supporting cast rising to the occasion around Anthony. He likes what he has seen of late from J.R. Smith and Amar'e Stoudemire.

[+] EnlargePhil Jackson
Maddie Meyer/Getty ImagesNew Knicks president Phil Jackson held court Thursday.
"Well, with J.R. [Smith] playing at the level he’s playing at now, yes,” Jackson said. “Now they have more than one option out there on the floor and I think that we’ll give teams trouble.”

"We’re all happy to see Amar’e have a resurgence here," he added. "It’s been a long, hard struggle for him, rehabbing and trying to get himself ready for this opportunity, and we’re happy to see that. The fact he missed a game the other night and was able to come back and play at the level he did last night was really a good sign."

Phil wants more Shump: Jackson was on hand to watch the Knicks crush the Nets on Wednesday. One guy who caught the new Knicks president’s eye with his defensive vigor was Iman Shumpert.

"I’m still a coach that believes in pressure, pressure defense, playing like we saw the Knicks play last night -- anticipation, turnovers become run-outs," Jackson said. “I was able to tell Iman today that’s what has to be seen on a basis that we’d like to see from game to game.

"It might not happen every game, but those are the things that break games open and give you opportunities to win when you have easy baskets. And defense can do that, so that’s a really important aspect."

It’s important for Shumpert to show Jackson what he can do, and that he can do it on a consistent basis. If the Knicks make the playoffs, Shumpert would have a golden opportunity to prove to Jackson the kind of impact he can have, particularly with defense and energy.

No coaching: Jackson reiterated that he has no intention of returning to the bench in the future. And he says he hasn’t felt the urge to do so while sitting in the stands as an executive now.

"No, I don’t, but I do know that I can’t be too vocal about what I see going on all the time out there," Jackson said. "If a flagrant foul happens, or there’s a couple of situations out there, with a post-up between Carmelo and Joe Johnson that was beyond the level of what is legitimate basketball, and I want to give my voice and my opinion to the referees, I don’t want to do that."

Phil did talk more at length about the benefits of the triangle -- just another reason to expect Jackson to bring in one of his guys to coach the Knicks and install the triangle next season.

Woody defense: Jackson said the Knicks’ improvement on defense is a major reason for their turnaround.

"I think Mike [Woodson] has a philosophy," Jackson said when asked about the Knicks’ defensive switching and past struggles with pick-and-roll defense. "It’s worked for him in the past. It’s worked for him in Atlanta. The big thing is you’ve got to have players buy into it. They have to believe in it.

"I think one of the reasons why they’ve been successful in the last month and a half, whatever this run has been, has been their defense has improved," Jackson continued. "Mike likes to switch with bigs a lot of times and ends up rotating from the other side of the court, trying to get bigs on bigs and smalls on smalls. You know, that’s his style. Players have to buy into it. That’s what coaching is about."

Jackson also praised Woodson for getting through tough times and handling all the speculation about his future.

Phil’s sked: Jackson said not to expect him to be with the team for every game for the remainder of the season. But if the Knicks make the playoffs, he will be there every game.

"My job is not to travel with the team," Jackson said of the regular season. "Mike is in control of this team, he’s the coach, he’s got that sculpt ahead of him, he knows what he is doing on the road. Steve [Mills] has chosen to go out there, and maybe Jim [Dolan] encouraged him to go out there.

"Steve has been away from the game a while so maybe that associated him back with the game," Jackson added. "So he has traveled with the team but I don’t see general managers going on the road. However, in playoff situations, yes, I will be there at all games."

Melo: Knicks control their own destiny

April, 3, 2014
Apr 3
12:25
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NEW YORK -- For at least the next day, the New York Knicks own the eighth spot all to themselves.

The Knicks’ 110-81 blowout win over the Brooklyn Nets combined with Atlanta’s loss to Chicago has Mike Woodson’s team in the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference by a slim .002 margin in winning percentage.

“It’s funny how things work, that we are in this situation right now having a chance to make the playoffs,” Carmelo Anthony said. “We control our own destiny. I am going to keep on saying that. We can’t worry about what Atlanta is doing or what anybody else is doing. We got to win basketball games.

[+] EnlargeCarmelo Anthony
Joe Camporeale/USA TODAY SportsIf Carmelo Anthony and the Knicks keep playing like they did against the Nets, they won't be denied a playoff berth.
“If we continue playing the way we’ve been playing, we’ll be there at the end of the season."

Melo is technically wrong about the whole destiny thing but he’s right from the perspective that if the Knicks keep playing the way they did against the Nets, they will make the playoffs in my opinion.

The Knicks (33-43) might be in the eighth spot right now but they aren’t quite in the driver’s seat yet. Atlanta (32-42) currently owns the tiebreaker over the Knicks with a better conference record of 22-22. The Hawks have eight games remaining, all against Eastern Conference foes.

The Knicks are 22-24 in the conference with six games remaining. They finish the season against Washington, at Miami, at Toronto, Chicago, at Brooklyn and Toronto. No other team in the league is facing a team with a winning record in each of its remaining games.

Meanwhile, just three of Atlanta’s remaining games are against teams currently above .500. They play Cleveland, at Indiana, Detroit, Boston, at Brooklyn, Miami, Charlotte and at Milwaukee.

The Knicks have to finish one game better than the Hawks in the standings due to the tiebreaker. But considering how both teams have been playing, Melo’s control-our-own-destiny comment makes sense.

If the Knicks keep playing like this and the Hawks keep playing the way they have, New York does control its own destiny by winning as many games as it can. Atlanta has lost seven of its past eight and it’s hard seeing the Hawks not dropping more games.

The Knicks have won 12 of their past 15 and are playing their best basketball when they need to most. Against the Nets, they came out with exactly the type of urgency, energy and motivation that they need to make the playoffs.

Keep this up and they won’t be denied the playoffs. With no first-round draft pick of their own, the Knicks only have one thing to play for -- the playoffs.

“Everybody would say the schedule is not in our favor,” Anthony said. “There’s nothing we can do about that. We got to go play.”

“Our backs are against the wall right now,” Anthony continued. “We control our own destiny. Sometimes we’ve been real inconsistent as far as coming out with energy and playing. Tonight was a total opposite. Everybody came out focused, locked in and we didn’t look back since the tipoff.”

Anthony was his usual steady self with 23 points and 10 rebounds. But his supporting cast was tremendous.

J.R. Smith played like the explosive sixth man of the year that he was last season, burying six 3-point bombs and scoring 24 points to go with eight rebounds and six assists.

Iman Shumpert set the defensive tone with five steals to go with his 10 points. Tim Hardaway Jr. delivered a gutty 17 points.

If Carmelo keeps getting this kind of help, the Knicks might not just make the playoffs but they could give whomever they face in the playoffs a little more trouble than expected. I'm not saying they can win a series against Indiana or Miami. But do you think the Pacers or Heat rather face the Knicks and an explosive scorer like Melo or an inexperienced team like Atlanta?

An elite scorer like Melo can go off and potentially win one playoff game on his own. Indiana or Miami would certainly want to finish their first-round series as fast as possible.

Tyson Chandler has repeatedly said that he believes the Knicks not only will make the playoffs but that nobody wants to face them if they get in.

“Without a doubt,” Smith said. “Especially on the defensive end, making plays, moving the ball, making shots, we definitely feel that way.”

And that is why Melo believes the Knicks control their own destiny. If they keep playing this way, they have a great chance of getting in no matter if the odds are stacked against them.

“It’s all on us at this point,” Anthony said. “It’s just, we know what we want. ... We should’ve figured this out earlier in the season, but it is what it is right now. We want to get to the postseason.”

And they are playing like they won't be denied.

SPONSORED HEADLINES

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