One of the most popular games over the last few days is looking at how bad the New York Knicks are doing, and deciding whether or not Mike Woodson is the one to blame for their 3-13 start, or is it something else, which is a combination of the circumstances (injury to Tyson Chandler) and a pretty bad roster?
There’s been talk about Jeff Van Gundy taking the job, but the current NBA analyst has denied any claims about returning to a position he held in the past. Woodson is still on his own in the fray of trying to make a defensive team out of a group of players who don’t want to play defense, or simply don’t know how.
Without Tyson Chandler, it leaves either Andrea Bargnani or Amare Stoudemire at center. The results, as you can expect, are close to laughable. The Knicks are allowing teams to hit 45.7% of their field goal attempts (around middle of the pack, slightly worse), but they’re close to last in the league when it comes to defensive efficiency, allowing 104.6 points per 100 possessions, with only the Jazz and the pathetic Brooklyn Nets doing worse.
It isn’t helping that Woodson isn’t making the best of lineup choices when it comes to his backcourt. The Knicks were 15-1 last season when Pablo Prigioni and Raymond Felton started together last season. This year, according to this post, they’ve had only 74 minutes on the court together. Prigioni isn’t a stats guy, but he’s a smart player who doesn’t make many mistakes. The Knicks might be worried about scoring options next to Carmelo Anthony, who is getting more and more frustrated, but surrounding him with smarter players might be a better decision for Woodson to make.
The big question is this – would another head coach do better than Woodson under the circumstances, which includes Felton in and out of the lineup with injury? He has made changes, like moving Anthony back to the small forward position, which happens to be one of the Knicks’ best lineups. His team doesn’t quit and usually doesn’t get blown out. Players haven’t given up, at least when the Knicks have the ball in their hands.
The real blame goes higher up the hierarchy, of letting a team turn into an expensive, old and unflexible unit, based around a superstar who will never win anything on his own. Woodson should be doing a better job, but it’s not quite time to fire him yet, because without Tyson Chandler, it’s quite difficult to imagine another head coach doing a better job than him.