This isn’t one of those, "Mike Woodson needs to win tonight against the Milwaukee Bucks to save his job," deals. We know that even if he makes it past the all-star break, if the Knicks don’t at least show some semblance of a well-coached NBA team, he’s going to be printing resumes at Kinkos while Indiana and Miami mix it up for Eastern Conference supremacy.
When a team plays as uninspired and unintelligent as the Knicks, it’s hard to just blame the team. Sure, Woodson has his hands full with a roster of dysfunctional cats who mesh about as well as vodka and milk. Injuries have wreaked havoc on his entire dream of having Amare and Melo average 50 points and 20 boards as they stunt on NBA squads together. As a matter of fact, any time Amare plays substantial minutes his knees swell up like balloons and he has to take time off. He’s almost useless at this point. It’s not his fault, but Father Time has swiped the wind from beneath his sails. Tyson Chandler’s always hurt now. Raymond Felton ‘s game has gone to Antarctica, and Melo’s trying but he’s obviously frustrated and looking at the front door.
But the Knicks needed that game against a very beatable Washington Wizards squad on Monday night. They came back from 17 points down, and Woodson should have been at his coaching best at a moment like that.
Losing games and playing erratic ball is something they’ve been doing all season, and it cost them a win again on Monday. But late in the game, it was really up to Woodson to help his team over this hump by executing his position to perfection. He’s been failing to do so for a while now. The Knicks should have won the Wizards game, but with 6.9 seconds left in the game and down 1, Woodson catches a brain cramp and basically pisses the game away. Instead of calling a timeout and setting up a play, he lets Melo freestyle and the Knicks all-star forward ends up bricking an off-balance jumper to lose by 1. Melo took a bad shot and seemed a bit bewildered during the final seconds. Backup point guard Beno Udrih missed a free throw that would have tied the game up and then let Bradley Beal waltz to the cup for the game winner, when the Knicks had a foul to give.
Woodson admitted after the game that he messed up and it’s his fault. “I probably should have taken the timeout at the end,’’ he said. “Beno grabbed it and the ball was in Melo’s hands before I could even react and I should have reacted a lot sooner once the ball went through, so that is on me.’’
ESPN and basketball analyst Tim Legler called it an “egregious coaching mistake” and a fireable offense.
“As a head coach. The first thing you do is look at the clock,” Legler said on espn.com. “With 6.5 seconds left, no way is any coach going to say play on when you have to go 94 feet. Take a timeout, take advantage of a rule that’s designed to give you a chance to tie this game, which is advance the ball to half court on a timeout. They elect not to...poor shot, they lose a game that they absolutely had won down the stretch and let it get away.”
As admirable and accountable as Woodson has been for his transgressions this season, his honesty is getting stale. New Yorkers would much rather he coached his ass off and gets some results. Woodson can’t make the kind of coaching blunders he made on Monday. He can’t allow NY to get blown by 41 by Boston after winning back-to back games (against Brooklyn and Orlando) and ending a nine-game losing streak. He definitely can’t take accept blame and then turnaround the next day and try to throw Melo under the bus.
“I’m going to be honest,’’ Woodson said. “I’ve let games go like that. In Atlanta…a couple of games where I didn’t call a timeout because they weren’t set. We threw it in and Joe Johnson was able to dribble down and hit a winning shot. Was I thinking that at the time? Well, when Beno Udrih stepped out and Melo begged for it and he threw it to him, I didn’t stop the play. I let it go on. I should’ve called a timeout, taking it out of their hands and advance the basketball [to halfcourt], but I didn’t.’’
Joe Johnson? Really Mike?
Before his recent explosion and the return of D-Will, Johnson has been the invisible man for the Brooklyn Nets. Melo comes to play every night. He may have a bad game here and there, but he doesn’t get shutdown.
By the time this season ends, a condition of Melo re-signing may be Woodson’s firing. It’ s not looking good for Woody these days, and who wouldn’t feel bad for the guy if he was axed. Woodson took over for the under-achieving Mike D’Antoni and went 18-6, leading the Knicks to the playoffs in the 2011-12 season. Last season, the bearded one scowled and masterminded the Knicks to a 54-win season, winning their first Atlantic Division title since 1993. He seemed to have a good grasp on the team, and until J.R. Smith’s ratchet relapse with Rihanna during the playoffs, Woodson was lauded for helping “ transform” the immature guard into an improved player and person.
Woodson’s iron fist has turned to silly putty. Somewhere along the way, he lost the ability to inspire his players, and he can’t be counted on to make shrewd, confident decisions in crunch time. One look at the clueless faces of the Knicks and their coach during the end of the Wizards game, and it’s clear that hanging on to Woodson isn’t going to fix the problem. They don't have a refuse-to-lose agenda.
There’s a gang of people who believe Woodson should be allowed to stay because he is a victim of an overrated roster and poor ownership. During his radio show on ESPN, host Don LeGreca supported Woodson, saying, “He couldn’t just forget how to coach in one season.”
Maybe not, but this is looking like one of those “change for the sake of change” situations, and the Knicks aren’t in a financial position to make major roster improvements at this juncture.
Woodson may be the same coach, but he’s getting opposite results. NBA Nation has him under a microscope. NY isn’t winning enough games to conceal the warts that may have been present last season, but never reared its ugly, infectious head.
Woodson’s increasingly annoying press conferences, admitting his deficiencies and mishaps, are also just bogus. Why should he still be coaching a 7-17 Knicks team if he himself admits his technician game is just as saucy as his players’ court hustle?
The Knicks organization surely had the fans fooled. They at least assumed that the Knicks were re-committing themselves to a level of basketball that didn’t make cats want to put bags over their heads when they entered The Garden. It’s all come crashing down so fast. Losing returned like a birth mark that you thought was surgically removed. Now it’s spreading to the head coach. The guy who stood so tall and prominently last season and was becoming one of the most respected chemists in the game, now resembles a down-trodden, defeated ex-champion collecting checks until that final knockout puts him out of the ring.
There’s no fight in this team. There’s no fire in the coach. There’s no guarantee Melo will even be back next season. Money Mike might just want to take the cheddar and run at this point, because he’s just as guilty of not earning his check as the rest of these suckers.