BY CHAYIM TAUBER
The honeymoon is long over for Knicks head coach Mike Woodson.
The Coach who was praised and embraced by New York after the strong finish to last season and the fast start to this one on the heels of the disappointing D’antoni era; is very much under the hot seat right now.
That one of the great passers in the history of basketball, a ball-moving floor general, was being squandered as a shooting guard, has been largely overlooked all season. Jason Kidd was never a shooter. He’s developed a passable perimeter game in recent years but to have him off-the-ball and lurking in the corners waiting for a kick out is a spectacular misuse of his skill set. For that, Mike Woodson got a pass. “It’s the injuries,” they said. “He doesn’t have a choice.”
Chris Copeland, one of the few bright spots on the Knicks roster, has proven that he can put up points quickly and fairly efficiently. Though he’s a soft defender, he can spot up from the perimeter and can bang a bit in the post. He’s also young, cheap, and one of the few Knicks who hasn’t been banged up this season. With Amar’e Stoudemire out, Copeland seems like the logical replacement and yet, Knicks fans have been treated to starting lineups featuring the likes of James White and Kurt Thomas.
The misuse of Stoudemire and, the mishandling of the roster in light of his absence is yet another topic for which Woodson has to be taken to task.
The Knicks had a lead against the Miami Heat for the third time this season. Amare was 5-7 from the field with twelve points against a Heat team that seemed completely flummoxed as to how to guard him. With LeBron James focusing on and shutting down Carmelo Anthony, Knicks fans waited in vain for Amar’e to check in. Woodson refused to acquiesce and the Knicks flushed what would have been a huge victory for the team.
Then came the news. Once again, Amare’s knee had gotten the best of him; surgery once again. In his absence, Woodson had clearly decided he was going to ride his stars because he refused to sit Carmelo after Anthony asked out of a game. Say what you will about Anthony but he never asks out of games.
Anthony stayed in until his knee just gave out and he collapsed onto the court in Cleveland. Every Knicks fan’s stomach dropped at the sight but none more so than Woodson’s who knew full well that the onus was on him for this awful situation.
“Maybe I should have taken him out before he actually stumbled and took the fall,” Woodson said on ESPN radio. “But again, I’m thinking [during] the game, ‘Hey, he’ll play through it…but he was hurt. He walked out after he took the spill and he didn’t come back, and that’s not Melo-like.”
If the story ended there, we’d chalk up one bad judgment call on Mike Woodson’s part and move on. There was more.
Woodson exacerbated the situation by playing Anthony in the fourth quarter of a 20 + point blowout against Golden State. Not only were the Knicks very much out of that game,
But the medical report on Anthony was that his knee was “very stiff” and that there was enough fluid in the knee that they’d have to explore draining it with a needle. And yet, there was Anthony in the last five minutes of what would be a 29 point loss.
There was a point where Mike Woodson could do no wrong in this town, a point where he made Knicks fans forget that Phil Jackson ever existed. That time has long-since passed. The honeymoon is over for Mike Woodson in New York and it’s time he start feeling the heat.