NBA PM: Woodson Joins D’Antoni’s Staff
The New York Knicks finally have a defense.
Maybe not the kind that can stop Ray Allen or Dwight Howard, but now that the team has hired former Hawks coach Mike Woodson as an assistant, head coach Mike D’Antoni can deflect accusations that he ignores the defensive side of the floor. Woodson, after all, was a longtime assistant under legendary defensive coach Larry Brown and helped turn the Hawks into a respectable defensive squad during his six years in Atlanta.
But instead of anointing Woodson his “defensive coordinator,” to steal a football term, D’Antoni insists that Woodson’s responsibilities will spread to both halves of the game.
“The responsibility is that we’re hiring a good coach,” D’Antoni said during a conference call with reporters on Monday. “We’ll sit down the next month and figure everything out; how everybody’s going to play off each other and whatever we do.”
Even though teams like the Celtics have designated specific offensive and defensive assistants, D’Antoni sees that notion as a fallacy generated by the media.
“I don’t know where that came from other than people writing about it,” he said. “But he’s a good coach. We expect him to add, in a very positive way, defensively, offensively, big guys, small guys. Whatever we need as a Knicks organization for him to do, he’ll be able to do it. He’s an extremely talented coach.
“When the possibility came up, I had a full staff and I’m very content with who we have, but being able to add one more (for) player development, you know, things like defense, offense, and to have one more mind is a good thing,” D’Antoni continued. “So I jumped at the chance. I thought we got the best guy out there. I’m looking forward to working with him and we’ll sit down and get to know each other and get our philosophies on paper and try to make the Knicks a better team next year.”
And whether or not D’Antoni decides to give Woodson broad duties in an assistant’s role or if he charges him with turning around the Knicks’ defense (New York ranked 21st in defensive efficiency last season), it’s hard to argue with the hire. The Hawks improved every season under Woodson and he was nearly named head coach in Houston and Detroit this summer. D’Antoni says the team didn’t “need” a “voice,” but he’s happy with the one he’s got in Woodson.
“There was no question I was pursuing quite a few head coaching jobs this summer, Woodson said on the conference call. “And I interviewed with Houston. I interviewed with Detroit… (Knicks senior vice president) Glen Grunwald and Mike, and they showed some interest there and gave me the opportunity to come in and interview about a month and a half ago. I waited for the call. I was very excited. Mike took a couple of days to make the decision. I thought my meeting with Mike in New York was fantastic. We spent the whole day together, had lunch, talked basketball. I’m very excited about the opportunity. He took a few days to think about it and called Glen and told Glen that he was excited and wanted me to be a part of the New York Knicks. I was very, very, very excited.”
Obviously the Hawks offense was quite a bit slower than what Woodson will be dealing with in New York, but Woodson is perfectly fine making adjustments. Echoing D’Antoni’s beliefs that an assistant helps in all facets of the game, Woodson said he’d just add a little wherever he can.
“I look at what Mike’s done over the years. He’s an excellent offensive coach,” Woodson said. “I think he’s proven that over his tenure as head coach there. I just want add defense with Mike. I can help offensively, I think, some. And I can help with coaching players and continuing to develop young players and that’s what I’ve done here in Atlanta.”
And that’s where Woodson, who was drafted by the Knicks as a player in 1980, may make his biggest contributions. Woodson was praised for his ability to groom players like Al Horford and Josh Smith with the Hawks, and now that he’s coaching younger guys like Bill Walker, Iman Shumpert, Andy Rautins, Landry Fields and Toney Douglas in New York, he’ll have the chance to make that same impact again.
The problem with assistants’ job with the Knicks is that it’s an extremely delicate situation. D’Antoni is on the last year of his deal and if the team got off to a bad start next season, it’s easy to imagine Woodson getting the nod on an interim basis. It’s a situation both D’Antoni and Woodson are both cognizant of, but also not overly concerned with.
“I think all coaches are on a one-year deal,” D’Antoni explained. “Now whether you get paid vacation, that’s different. But I think we all have to, you know, do something to earn another year.”
“Expectations are always high, regardless of whether you have a one, two or three-year deal,” Woodson said. “I’ve been in that situation before here in Atlanta. You’ve got to produce. That’s just the dynamics of our sports today. And I understand it wholeheartedly. I’m just happy to get an opportunity to get back in the game to coach and Mike has given me that opportunity along with Mr. (James) Dolan and Glen Grunwald.
“It was the first break I’ve had in 26 years,” Woodson continued. “It gave me an opportunity to reflect on what happened with me here over the past six years here in Atlanta. And it’s given me an opportunity to think about my next outing. And that’s going to be in New York so I’m chomping at the bit to get back to coaching.”
So nobody really knows what Woodson will be doing for the Knicks, other than adding his years of experience to a staff that D’Antoni insists was fine the way it was (D’Antoni: “I’m very content with who we have”). For a franchise that’s famous for infighting, power struggles and competing agendas, the Woodson hire should go practically unnoticed. It is, after all, New York, and the only thing more interesting than your current job is your next one.
Iman Shumpert Looks Bigger
Knicks first-round pick Iman Shumpert was drafted, in part, because of his size. At 6-6 he promises to be one of the biggest point guards in the NBA when the lockout eventually ends. The one issue was his bulk, but according to HOOPSWORLD’s Steve Kyler, that’s not much of an issue anymore.
“Knicks draft pick Iman Shumpert has added a good 10 pounds to his frame since the draft,” Kyler wrote on his Twitter account while watching Shumpert practice at IMG Academy in Florida. “Looks great shooting the ball.”
Shumpert’s ability to play point guard and shooting guard will make him a deadly pairing with both Chauncey Billups and Toney Douglas. With Billups, Shumpert is fast enough to defend point guards, but when he’s paired with Douglas he can switch over and lock down shooting guards.
Is Adelman Joining the Wolves?
Former Kings, Warriors, Blazers and Rockets coach Rick Adelman now seems poised to become the next head coach of the Minnesota Timberwolves, writes Jerry Zgoda of The Minneapolis Star-Tribune.
“I’d be very surprised at this point if that new guy isn’t Rick Adelman,” Zgoda wrote. “Adelman’s presence in Minneapolis last week for an interview with Glen Taylor, David Kahn, etc., means the team already has agreed to meet with his ballpark price, which is anywhere from $4 million to $6 million plus per year.”
Zgoda was told by a source that Adelman refused to interview until certain financial parameters were met. The fact that talks are still progressing tells Zgoda that bridge has been crossed and now it’s only a matter of time until Adelman is named head coach.
Check Out: Howard Beck
New York Times NBA writer Howard Beck depicted a stark contrast between the currently lockout and the NBA’s work stoppage in 1998. Mainly, players today are significantly more sympathetic when it comes to dollars and sense. In today’s piece, titled “Public Relations a Concern as N.B.A. Millionaires Spar,” Beck does a great job of bringing us back to 1998, and showing us how the players’ union continues to fight some of the negative press generated from that labor dispute. Beck is always worth a read.
More Twitter: Make sure you are following all of our guys on Twitter to insure you are getting the very latest from our team: @stevekylerNBA, @AlexKennedyNBA, @jfleminghoops, @TheRocketGuy, @EricPincus, @joelbrigham, @alexraskinNYC, @TommyBeer and @YannisHW.
NBA Chats: There are three NBA Chats scheduled for today starting with Bill Ingram’s weekly NBA Chat at 11am EST. Get your questions in early as Bill’s chats do fill up fast. HOOPSWORLD’s Anthony Macri will host his chat at 3pm EST. Coach Macri works with NBA players as a development coach and trainer, so toss in your questions for Coach Macri now. Jason Fleming will close out the day with his weekly NBA Chat at 8pm EST. You can always find the next NBA Chat here.