What Is Mike Woodson Doing, Folks?
JR Smith's gaffe at the end of Friday night's loss in Houston is hardly an isolated incident. There's been an unsightly pattern of mental errors committed by the Knicks, putting their chances of victory in jeopardy, and that must fall on the head coach.
The miscues began back in November, when Carmelo Anthony intentionally fouled Dwight Howard intending to implement the 'Hack-a-Dwight' strategy inside of two minutes. By NBA rules, this did not send Howard to the line but instead allowed the Rockets to pick their shooter and keep the ball. The Knicks would go on to lose by three.
Six days later, Iman Shumpert fouled Paul George on a three-point attempt with five seconds remaining and the team up three. This led the game into overtime against the Pacers, where the Knicks would again lose.
Then there was mid-December, where on the 16th of the month the Knicks failed to use a foul they had to give against the Wizards at the end of regulation, allowing Brad Beal to score the go-ahead bucket with six seconds left. With three timeouts in his pocket, Mike Woodson decided to let Carmelo Anthony catch the inbound pass and put up a wild shot, capping a 102-101 loss. After the game, players said they hadn't discussed calling timeout in the team's huddle prior to the Beal layup, and Mike Woodson downplayed the fact he didn't call timeout.
Against the Bucks just two nights later, Andrea Bargnani decided to let a triple rip, and miss, with the team up two in overtime and 11 seconds remaining. Instead of keeping possession and icing the game with free throws, the Knicks played another overtime period, and in his first game back, Tyson Chandler was pushed to log 37 minutes. The Knicks, however, would win this game against the 5-20 Bucks. Even without the Bargnani misfire, it was a questionable call to play arguably the team's most important player nearly 40 minutes in his first game back from a broken leg.
And then, through the next five games, Mike Woodson decided to continue on with an Anthony-Bargnani-Chandler big lineup that had statistically been one of their worst three-man combinations defensively.
This led us to the team's previous two contests, where players continued to lack awareness.
In what was a big win for the Knicks in San Antonio, Carmelo Anthony didn't remember the rules once again, catching an inbounds pass from Beno Udrih and nearly losing the ball due to his awkward positioning:
Tony Parker ended up committing a foul, but Carmelo nearly turned the ball over, which would have given San Antonio a chance to take the lead. Anthony was allowed to catch the ball and continue traveling backward, even though it would have taken him across midcourt (Rule 4, Section V, Article g.). Instead, he stopped his backward progress, then risked falling into the backcourt and committing a violation. Luckily this didn't happen, and the Knicks celebrated a massive win.
Then there was last night, where despite Tyson Chandler's best efforts (see below), JR Smith missed what was an awful three-pointer and allowed Houston to win the game on the other end of the floor with free throws. JR Smith would say afterwards that he thought the team was down by two, another ridiculous lapse in focus.
It often appears Tyson Chandler is a better coach than Mike Woodson. He's been the one to advise teammates when not to shoot, and he's also directed traffic on screens to try and space the floor better. And, sometimes, Andrea Bargnani hasn't understood what Chandler has meant, and it's created spacing issues.
Whether or not it's deserved, the blame for this string of mental mistakes must fall on Mike Woodson. And, as mentioned previously in this article, Mike Woodson has made other mistakes, whether it be lineup combinations or not calling timeout, compounding the faults of his team.
Yet, he continues to watch film with his team, hold practice, and huddle them up in-game. What is he doing during these times that his players aren't learning from their previous mistakes? You'd have thought, for sure, a shot like Andrea Bargnani's would never happen again, no less six games later.
This is the last straw. Most other coaches, with the exception of a few in the top-tier, would be fired at this point. The Houston loss was as bad as it's been this season in the fourth quarter (where they forfeited an eight-point lead), and that follows a stretch where the team lost four of five. One win (San Antonio) should not save Woodson's job.
It's never me who panics or overreacts and calls for a coach's firing, nor is it a comfortable thing for anyone to do, considering we're discussing someone's employment and ability to support his family. However, the fact these mental lapses have continued for this long is terrifying, and has to bring about a new coaching regime.
You have to wonder at this point what goes on internally with the Knicks and causes this total lack of basketball IQ. Players like Andrea Bargnani and Iman Shumpert simply need a good coach to utilize and aid them correctly, which could have at least earned the Knicks an extra few wins this season. After all, it was Mike Woodson who said he'd have to work with Bargnani and develop him into a useful tool for New York in 2013-14, and he's clearly failed at that goal to this point.
We've seen over the previous two nights this roster is capable of competing; it's time for someone new to lead them. At the very least, Allan Houston may be a better fit for this club while they wait for the likes of Jeff Van Gundy to potentially be available to them. The Knicks have historically made some poor decisions, however, so it remains to be seen whether or not the team will do what's necessary.
Kenny Ducey covers the Knicks for WFUV Sports. Follow him on Twitter @KennyDucey.
Screenshots courtesy of NBA.com/Stats