NBA@2: Carmelo Ready To Lead New York?
As often as not, the knee-jerk reaction when an NBA team starts to fall well below expectations is to fire the head coach. Sometimes that’s the right move, while sometimes it’s just window dressing for a general manager who is trying to save his own skin. In the case of the New York Knicks, replacing Mike D’Antoni with Mike Woodson certainly seems to have been the right move at the right time.
Despite sky-high expectations for this season, the Knicks were struggling to stay in the Eastern Conference playoff picture under D’Antoni. He had a tenuous relationship with Carmelo Anthony, which didn’t help, but when the team started the month of March with a six-game losing streak it was the final straw. D’Antoni stepped down and Woodson was handed the reins of a team in turmoil.
As effective as a coaching change can be, the results usually don’t show up overnight. In the case of Woodson, however, he seemed to wave a magic wand and expel all the dementors that were haunting the team. The team has now won eight of their nine games under Woodson, including a back-to-back sweep of the Indiana Pacers, a tough road win in Philadelphia and a complete thrashing of the Orlando Magic – all solid Eastern Conference playoff teams.
That last win was all the more impressive because Amar’e Stoudemire was lost to a back injury before the showdown with Orlando. To his credit, Carmelo Anthony – once considered a pariah – has stepped into a leadership role under Woodson and is starting to sound like the great teammate no one was sure he could be.
“I wouldn’t call it pressure,” Anthony said of his newfound role during an interview with ESPN 1050 in New York. “It’s a lot of responsibility. It’s a team. I am not the only one on a team. A moment like this is where it becomes fun. I have been around this league for eight years. This is my ninth season, so I’ve been in situations like this before and it’s a very fun time. It’s a very fun situation to be in. Of course, we would like it a little bit better where we are not fighting for it to solidify a spot, but at times like this it becomes fun.”
With Woodson came a new sense of personal accountability for every New York Knick, which Anthony says has helped the team get back on the winning track.
“I think now guys – we were almost forced to come together as a team and we were under the gun when he (Woodson) came on. The biggest thing now is he holds guys accountable on the basketball court regardless of who it is like myself, Amar’e, Tyson (Chandler), Jeremy (Lin). Regardless of who it is he holds guys accountable. That’s big especially in this day and age.”
To his credit, Anthony passed on an opportunity to bash D’Antoni, saying the accountability method employed by Woodson is just a difference in philosophy.
“Well that’s not (D’Antoni). Nobody was expecting that from him. That’s not his personality. He did it his way, which nobody is saying was a bad way. It’s just two different people, two different personalities.”
Ultimately, the firing of D’Antoni seemed to wake the Knicks from their mid-season slumber, and together with a new structure under Woodson that helped lead to their newfound success.
“I think once Coach Woodson took over, like I said, we were kind of under the gun. Our backs were against the wall and we had to figure out a team identity that we have been searching for this whole short season. Right now it seems like we found that identity.”
The Knicks are far from out of the woods, as their April schedule is about as brutal as it gets. They are at Indiana and then at Orlando to start the month, then have a home-and-home with Chicago before taking on the Milwaukee Bucks. They also see Miami, Boston, Atlanta and the Clippers down the stretch. The Bucks are the only team in the East that could possibly knock the Knicks out of the playoff picture, sitting just 2.5 games back, so their head-to-head match-up will be incredibly important.
The Knicks have had a ridiculously up and down season. If they can keep it on an up note between now and the playoffs they could be ready to make some noise in the postseason . . .which would likely mean Mike Woodson is going to be a fixture in New York.
Dirk Nowitzki: Mavs vs. HEAT Round 2
Dirk Nowitzki talks with HOOPSWORLD about missing last season’s X-factor players, Lamar Odom’s issues, passing Charles Barkley on the all-time scoring list and the re-match between Dallas and Miami in this exclusive interview.
Aaron Brooks and the Phoenix Suns
The last significant NBA player who signed in China is almost ready to return, and this week Phoenix Suns GM Lance Blanks is meeting with Aaron Brooks as he plays in the Chinese Basketball Association Finals with the Guangdong Southern Tigers.
The question is whether or not Brooks can return and be an impact player for the Suns this season, or whether he will sit out and wait to become a restricted free agent this summer. Brooks was anything but an impact player after the Suns acquired him from Houston last season, and it’s not clear what kind of impact he might have now that the Suns are desperately clinging to the hopes of being a playoff team.
The fact that All-Star point guard Steve Nash told the Dan Patrick Show that he’s considering not returning to Phoenix next season has to have the Suns grasping for options – not only to help make a late playoff push, but also a Plan B should Nash, indeed, leave town.
Brooks is averaging 29.8 points and 4.5 assists in the CBA Finals, but his team is down 3-1 and on the verge of elimination. Once the Tigers’ season ends, Brooks will be free to return to the NBA.
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