Sources: James Dolan talked to team

Updated: December 27, 2013, 9:51 PM ET
By Marc Stein | ESPN.com

Knicks chairman James Dolan told New York players in a meeting Thursday that there are no trades or changes to the coaching staff forthcoming, ESPN.com has learned.

Sources close to the situation told ESPN.com that Dolan gathered the team before the first practice in the wake of New York's embarrassing 29-point home loss to Oklahoma City on Christmas Day largely in an attempt to hush the growing speculation about coach Mike Woodson's job security following the Knicks' 9-19 start.

The discussion came amid increasing signs the Knicks' effort and focus under Woodson is waning on top of the significant injury issues that have plagued them all season.

It's believed Dolan took the step in an attempt to persuade Woodson's players to band together and throw their full support behind the embattled coach to help dig New York out of the sizable hole it finds itself with essentially one-third of the regular season in the books, the sources said.

When an emboldened Woodson met reporters after Thursday's practice, he promptly announced he still thinks New York can rally from its poor start to win the Atlantic Division.

"We won it last year, and I expect us to win it this year," he said.

Anything seems possible in the Atlantic Division, which entered Friday topped by the 11-15 Toronto Raptors. The Knicks are just three games back of Toronto and play the Raptors in a weekend back-to-back starting Friday night at home.

"The beauty about all of this that we're going through is nobody's running away with it in our division," Woodson said, "and I'm pushing our team to win our division still.

"Eventually we'll get healthy, and we'll see how it all plays out."

The Knicks did make a hard run at trading for Raptors point guard Kyle Lowry earlier this month, as ESPN.com reported, but ultimately balked at Toronto's asking price. New York has also talked trade with several teams about defensive specialist Iman Shumpert.

It's widely believed in coaching circles that the lack of an obvious option to take over as interim coach is key among the factors that has kept Woodson safe this long. If Woodson were to be dismissed in-season, New York would likely have to call upon on assistant general manager Allan Houston, who has no coaching experience, or veteran assistant Herb Williams to take over.

After defensive anchor Tyson Chandler suffered a leg fracture five games into the season, Dolan wanted to give Woodson time to coach with a healthy Chandler restored to the lineup before making any firm judgments. But guard Raymond Felton suffered a long-term groin injury earlier this week after Chandler's return, while an ankle injury forced star forward Carmelo Anthony to sit out the Christmas Day loss to the Thunder.

"I have a lot of confidence in Woodson," Dolan told the New York Post in a rare interview in mid-November, "and one thing I can say about Mike is he has the respect of all the players. They all respect him. ... When a coach loses a team … that's when a coach is kind of done."

Woodson on Friday declined to comment on Dolan's meeting with the team.

He was asked whether the organization feels the team should not be judged until it's fully healthy.

"I've always felt that way, absolutely. I don't think there's a team in the league that you can take key players out, they still survive," Woodson said. "We've had our ups and downs in terms of how we played, but a lot of it has to do with the fact that we've had a lot of injuries as well.

"I'm just anxious, my staff and I, to see where we are," the coach added. "I know if we do have a full deck, we got a chance to win basketball games. I truly believe that."

Metta World Peace was asked about Dolan's message to the players. The veteran responded as only he can.

"I'm not a player, I'm an alien," World Peace said.

ESPNNewYork.com's Ian Begley contributed to this report.

Marc Stein | email

Senior Writer, ESPN.com
• Senior NBA writer for ESPN.com
• Began covering the NBA in 1993-94
• Also covered soccer, tennis and the Olympics

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