Saturday, May 8, 2010
Woodson speaks on lame-duck status
By Chris Sheridan
ATLANTA -- Unlike his lame-duck counterpart still coaching in the Western Conference playoffs, Mike Woodson does not know if ownership will want him back next season. His two-year contract expires in June, and there's a distinct possibility Woodson will be out of work if the Atlanta Hawks are swept out of the playoffs by the Orlando Magic.
"I wouldn't wish it on anybody," Woodson said Saturday prior to Game 3 of the Hawks-Magic series.
Woodson's situation is similar to that of Lakers coach Phil Jackson, who most recently said he was 90 percent sure he'd be back coaching the Lakers next season after his current contract expires. In Jackson's case, ownership's desire to have him take a pay cut will be a contributing factor as to whether he returns.
In Woodson's case, it'll be a question of whether the Hawks ownership group will even want him back.
Woodson was in a similar situation two years ago, but he solidified his job status by extending the eventual NBA champion Boston Celtics to a seventh game in their first-round series.
"Well, it's nothing new," he said. "I've been there before, a few years ago. It's what it is, I'm under contract until the end of June and I've still got work to do."
Under Woodson's leadership, the Hawks have improved every season, going from 13 wins in 2004-05 to 26 the following season, then 30, 37, 47 and 53 victories. Last season was the first time since 1999 that Atlanta made it to the second round, but they were swept by the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Another sweep could lead to a change, and Woodson (who has been linked to the open Philadelphia 76ers job in reports speculating on whether Larry Brown, who shares the same agent with Woodson, will take over the Sixers' team presidency) was asked Saturday if the uncertainty was taking a toll.
"I don't know, do I look that bad?" Woodson said. "Once this is all over we'll talk about a contract, but right now I've got Orlando staring me in the face.
"It doesn't make it uncomfortable. Again, I signed a two-year contract, I'm honoring my contract, proudly honoring it, and this has been a wonderful season for our ballclub. We're still playing and a lot of teams are home watching us play, and we still control our own destiny by hosting these next two games at home, and it starts today in terms of us trying to get back in the series."
Another player whose future in Atlanta -- along with his future earning power -- is being impacted by this series is Hawks guard Joe Johnson, who will be an unrestricted free agent in July.
Johnson scored just 10 points in Game 1 and 19 points in Game 2, and his playoff scoring average has dipped to 19.4 points per game on 41 percent shooting, including 25 percent (8-for-32) on 3-pointers. (Johnson averaged 21.3 ppg and shot 46 percent overall and 37 percent on 3s in the regular season.) The postseason production is less than one would expect from a maximum-salary player, which is what Johnson is now and what he wants to continue to be once he hits the open market two days after his 29th birthday.