The New York Knicks are currently a mess. Carmelo Anthony said it best: “We are the laughingstock of the league right now.”
As the losers of 9 straight there is not much for the Knicks to laugh about these days.
It has been reported over the past few days that a 10th straight loss tonight to the crosstown Brooklyn Nets — a 5-13 disappointment in their own right — could leave coach Mike Woodson unemployed. After 16 games it would be unfair to fire Woodson, and to his credit he seems to be undaunted by the rumors.
“I am not even going to entertain it,” Woodson said in a radio interview. “I will let you guys do all the entertaining and all the talking about that. That is not my job to even entertain that. “I got a job to do here in New York to try to get our team turned around headed in the right direction. That is what I am about.”
Woodson should get the opportunity to right the ship. The Knicks are only 3 games out of first place in the Atlantic Division. A first place finish in the division would guarantee the Knicks at least a 4th seed and home court advantage in the first round of the playoffs. That is to say, the season is far from lost.
Woodson is not without blame. As the coach it is his responsibility to find a team identity. Woodson has admitted the team still does not have a consistent identity, which is evidenced by his odd rotations. Woodson’s trust in J.R. Smith has backfired so far. Woodson has allowed last year’s sixth man to play through his struggles, but it has not paid dividends.
In truth, Woodson is a victim of a flawed roster. The weaknesses of the roster have been further exposed with the loss of center Tyson Chandler to a fractured leg.
Mike Woodson cannot make Carmelo Anthony, J.R. Smith, and Raymond Felton elite defenders. The defense has not been good. The Knicks are 27th in defensive efficiency. Their on-ball defense is bad, their help defense is slow, and their pick and roll defense is head scratching.
The offensive side of the ball has also been a glaring issue. The ball movement has been nonexistent at times, but with players like Carmelo Anthony and J.R. Smith — who isolate a lot — it is to be expected. In addition, Anthony (42%) and Smith (33%) are not shooting well. The Knicks were able to take advantage of isolation plays last year because they were making threes. They also benefited from playing a two point guard lineup. So far this season the Knicks are not doing either of those things.
In addition to the roster issues and injuries, Mike Woodson has to deal with the unpredictability of Knicks’ owner James Dolan. Dolan started the year by saying the Knicks can win a championship, which is unrealistic. The lofty expectations do not make Woodson’s job any easier, but the Knicks are better than the 3-13 product they have displayed thus far.
As Kenyon Martin said, the responsibility ultimately falls on the players, not Woodson. “The man does an excellent job with us. It’s not on him,” Martin said. “We’re just not getting it done on the court, so it’s on us.”
At the end of the day there is only so much Woodson can do. The players need to play better. If not, the Knicks will continue to lose games and they might lose their coach too.
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