Sunday, April 6, 2014
Offensively Inept Woody Should Be Out
You hear the rumors.
You see the back pages of the tabloids.
You know Mike Woodson will likely be done after an abysmal season, marred by subpar play even in the laughingstock Eastern Conference.
You know the isolation offense that he's constantly preached won't morph into the Triangle. You know the appeal of Phil Jackson will add intrigue and value to the Knicks, inexorably linking household names to the head coaching position.
During his (extended) stay in NY,Woodson has relied heavily on a limited offensive system featuring an isolation game featuring ball-dominating scorers.
Though it has allowed Anthony's scoring acumen to grow, the ball-stoppage and scoring woes have been back-breaking.
Melo needs help. He needs a Robin to his Batman, a Pippen to his Jordan, a lineup that can function and allow him to get his shot off deep into the playoffs.
Last season, a revival year for the Knicks' floundering franchise, Woodson thrived with a different look.
The Knicks of 2012-13, off to a scalding 18-5 start and winners of 50+ games for the first time in 13 years, were predicated on fluid angle-to-angle ball movement on the perimeter, countless pick-and-rolls, dribble handoffs, and a pack of manipulative post moves.
Of course, losing Jason Kidd and 3-point shooters and floor-spreaders such as Steve Novak in the off-season fractured this style, forcing Woodson to revert to his old and stagnant ways.
The Knicks' disciplined, wealth-sharing style took a turn for the worse during the 2013 playoffs. The Knicks looked like the scattered pieces of a puzzle, lacking the intricate parts.
And while he's been red-hot recently, J.R. Smith was mired in a below-freezing shooting funk during the 2013 post-season. The shots were falling short and lipping out and hitting the back rim and rattling in and out.
Despite Smith's shooting woes, despite Novak and Chris Copeland's availability, Woodson let Smith's brickfest continue as Novak and Copeland suddenly fell out of favor.
The lack of picks, the absent playbook, the suddenly punch-less offense diminished their chances. Woodson refused to make adjustments, going with what he knew and refusing to hit the drawing board.
The New York media, as responsible for the heightened pressure that comes with playing in the Big Apple as anyone, refused to take note. Instead, they churned out stories on Roy Hibbert's sublime play.
Hibbert, enlivened by a summer's load of MMA training and displaying an effective back-to-the-basket game, suddenly became Wilt Chamberlain with an extra inch and greater wingspan and a gold-and-white jersey.
Flaming Tyson Chandler as the scapegoat, magnifying his terse words regarding the Knicks' offensive ineptitude, became the more appealing story.
Remember how badly Pat Riley was sledgehammered for leaving John Starks in Game 7 of the 1994 playoffs, en route to a 2-for-18 brickfest?
With Rolando Blackman toting fresh legs, Riley kept Starks in the game as the legendary Knicks two-guard hunted for a bucket. Riley never heard the end of it from fans and the media.
Last spring, Woodson repeatedly left Smith in, even as the missed shots stockpiled.
Woodson never implored Smith to ditch the forced jumpers and attack the rim. Woodson never discussed the prospect of limiting Smith's minutes. He never entertained a method to jolt him out of a maddening slump. At the same time, Woodson never received even an iota of media scrutiny for his actions.
Smith has done a veritable 180 this season, recovering from countless incidents and early season struggles to become a 3-point ace. There was a suspension for marijuana use. There was erratic tweets. There was a knack for pulling bush-league antics like untying shoes, which only because he's JR Smith invited heightened criticism.
And while his antics have taxed and tested the patience of Woodson, while it seemed Smith would be jettisoned quicker than Metta World Peace and noted Woodson scapegoat Beno Udrih, he's re-discovered a lethal-when-hot stroke to pace the Knicks offense.
Smith netted 10 3-pointers during the Knicks' 102-91 loss to Miami, establishing a new club record. A week after hitting nine 3-pointers against Sacramento, Smith's let it fly while Carmelo was nicked up and laboring through a 4-for-17 dud. Smith has now tied the league record for most 3-pointers during a three-game stretch, sinking 24.
While Smith's resilience and recovery has been a feel-good story, the Knicks clustered offense continues to sputter.
Woodson escaped the wrath of the New York media during last year's playoff bungle, though he's hardly free from a gang of tabloid killers.
Conventional wisdom tells us his long, cold stares at the referees and spotty substitution patterns will be gone at the culmination of this season. Playoff berth or not, he's out.
Partly because of his relationship with Phil Jackson and partly at his desire to sink his toes into the head coaching waters, Steve Kerr has floated up in premature discussions of who will supplant Woody.
Is Woodson extending his stay on loaned time?
The offense continues to fracture under the isolation king. Sunday was indicative of this.
Again, the Knicks were too reliant on the perimeter game. Again, the Knicks needed to balance the floor and feed the bigs more. Again, the Knicks did not find the right shots, shooting a meager 37.5 percent.
Again, the Knicks were a jumbled and free-wheeling puzzle. They launched shots from all over South Beach, without a trace of fluid ball movement.
During the Great Woodson Love Fest of 2012, which heightened during NY's smoking 18-5 start, everyone began waxing poetic about Woodson.
He was peppered with praise. He was anointed as Gotham's defensive guru, responsible for revamping the ailing franchise and recharging the Garden's pulse.
He was a stern taskmasker who demanded his players take accountability. Woody was regarded as respected locker room figure who has supposedly won over his players, a sentiment James Dolan echoed during a rare interview with the NY Post.
The general belief, unless the Knicks can make a mad dash to the playoffs and pull off much-needed Magic from there, is that Woody has worn out his welcome.
Performances like Sunday's prove why. The Knicls' fatal flaw, lackadaisical offensive schemes was so glaringly obvious during Sunday's game, which saw the Knicks squander an early 13-point lead. The Knicks shot a paltry 13 free throws to Miami's 30, steering clear of the driving lanes.
Woodson is now the Marriot guest who is staying extra hours, when the front desk told him he's been out well beyond check out time. Playoff berth or not, it is time for the maid to clean Woody's room and open the door for the next in line.