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Six Pack: The Case for Woodson as Coach of Year
Posted By Tommy Beer On April 12, 2013 @ 12:00 pm In Main Page,NBA | No Comments
HOOPSWORLD’s Senior NBA Analyst Tommy Beer takes you through his most recent musings on the National Basketball Association in this latest installment of the NBA Six Pack.
1. The HEAT Have Earned the Right to Relax
The Miami HEAT clinched home court advantage throughout the postseason with their win over the Washington Wizards on Wednesday night. However, Miami has been the focal point of conversation among the NBA’s print media and blogosphere not due to their recent regular season success on the court; rather, the talking heads have spent this week discussing the Miami players that have been watching those wins from the sideline in street clothes.
Once Miami’s incredible 27-game win streak was snapped in Chicago back on March 27 (which, in retrospect, I truly believe will be viewed as a blessing in disguise for the HEAT), it became clear that that head coach Erik Spoelstra would immediately implement what has been termed a “maintenance program” for his best players. Spoelstra, with the blessing of team president Pat Riley, has given ample rest to his best players. LeBron James has sat out four of Miami’s last six contests, and apparently plans to forgo the final few games of the regular season as well. When it was made public that LeBron’s sabbatical would be extended, there was a fair deal of public outcry and accompanying criticism.
Now, I understand the anger that would arise from fans that paid hard-earned money to watch their favorite superstars in action. Fans that bought tickets many months ago have every right to complain.
However, at the end of the day, should Spoelstra and Riley’s primary concern be appeasing fans, or winning championships?
Wouldn’t Riley and Spoelstra be derelict in their duties if they didn’t do everything humanly possible they felt improved Miami’s chances of winning an NBA title?
If there are no rules in place, if David Stern and the NBA league office haven’t demanded each relatively healthy player play every game, how is it fair to criticize or second-guess Miami, considering they are playing within the rules in an effort to give their team every edge possible?
Same goes for the players themselves – specifically LeBron and Dwyane Wade. If a little extra rest in early April results in King James feeling slightly fresher and more energized heading into the postseason, why should he force his way into relatively meaningless regular season games?
Miami has played brilliantly for the better part of five months, and as a result, clinched the top spot in the East. Thus, they earned the right to rest, if they feel that’s best.
This situation is similar to the “controversy” that arose when the San Antonio Spurs rested many of their stars on a nationally televised Thursday night game in Miami. Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich was heavily criticized by some and eventually fined by Stern. But the same question remains: Why should Popovich care about anything other than what he believes puts his team in the best position to win an NBA championship?
The goal of any great franchise is to win a title. Period. It’s not to help sell tickets, or drive up ratings for TV networks. If a coach decides that resting his veterans for a regular season game in November gives them even a slightly better chance of winning a playoff game in June, then that coach should do what he believes is right, regardless of if it affects other people’s viewing experience.
The same can be said for Miami. They played hard enough and well enough from the very beginning of November through end of March that they earned the right to take their foot of the gas pedal for a week or two if they so choose.
2. The Case for Mike Woodson as Coach of the Year
On Thursday night in Chicago, with the New York Knicks attempting to secure their 14th straight victory, head coach Mike Woodson started Chris Copeland at center.
Copeland, a 29-year-old rookie who spent the previous five years bouncing around Europe, has tallied more three-point attempts than rebounds this season and is anything but a traditional starting center in the NBA. However, with injuries to Tyson Chandler and Kenyon Martin (not to mention Amar’e Stoudemire, Rasheed Wallace and Kurt Thomas), Woodson had little choice.
So, with Copeland slotted at the five, this starting squad made up the 23rd different starting lineup Coach Woodson has employed over the first 78 games of the season. This is what happens when your leading scorer (Carmelo Anthony), leading rebounder (Tyson Chandler), assist leader (Raymond Felton), highest-paid player (Amar’e Stoudemire) and best perimeter defender (Iman Shumpert) all miss at least 10 games.
Still, despite the seemingly endless string of injuries, the Knicks have already tallied 51 victories, with four games still to be played.
Looking at the big picture, a lot of credit should be heaped on the coach that has kept this team together all season long, mixing-and-matching his way to the second-best record in the Eastern Conference.
Little was expected of Woodson when he was tabbed as the interim head coach after Mike D’Antoni stepped down last March. Yet, over the course of 12 months, Woodson compiled a 68-32 record, which set a franchise record for the most wins in a coach’s first 100 games as Knicks head coach. In addition, Woodson guided the Knicks to their first Atlantic Division title since 1994.
There are plenty of talented and deserving coaches in the NBA this season, but it is difficult to argue (when factoring in injuries) that many others have done more with less than Woodson.
When you talk about the Knicks’ 2012-13 campaign, the exploits of Anthony will get top-billing (and rightfully so). However, Melo was struggling under D’Antoni, and has been reborn since Woodson took over. Woody seems to have finally gotten through to Carmelo, and Anthony is enjoying arguably the finest all around season of his career. Not only is Melo scoring at a remarkable rate, he’s also giving more of an effort on the defensive end, and has been a willing passer when the situation calls for it. And with all the Knicks’ bigs banged up, Melo has been a beast on the boards of late. Anthony is averaging 13.3 rebounds per contest over New York’s last four games.
Another player enjoying a career year is J.R. Smith. The enigmatic Smith has also had his fair of share of run-ins with previous head coaches, but has been on his best behavior and playing the best basketball of his professional life under the firm hand and tutelage of Woodson. As was detailed in this space last week, Smith has been extremely efficient and economical on the offensive end, sparking the Knicks and helping to propel New York during their impressive 13-game surge.
As a team, New York ranks third in offensive efficiency, behind only the Miami HEAT and OKC Thunder. Initially hired as a “defensive coordinator,” Woodson’s ability to keep the Knicks’ offense humming all season has been remarkable.
Another one of Woodson’s primary objectives at the start the year was taking care of the basketball. With just a week left in the season, NY leads the NBA in fewest turnovers. The Knicks average just 11.8 turnovers per contest; no other team in the NBA averages fewer than 12.5 TO’s a night. They’ve been even better of late. The Knicks have committed 13 turnovers or less in 16 straight games. Meanwhile, they’ve forced at least 12 TO’s in 23 of their last 24.
J.R., Melo, and many other Knicks have lauded their head coach all season, pointing to his leadership and guidance as a crucial factor in their continued success.
All things considered, it’s clear a strong case could be made that Woodson deserves not only credit from his players, but plenty of votes for Coach of the Year.
3. Instagram Post of the Week:
Courtesy of the aforementioned J.R. Smith: @TheRealJRSmith #LMFAO What is going #LMFAO What is going on? So we win the division an Woody thinks he can wear anything he want! http://instagram.com/p/X7fB-INfHN/
4. Tweets of the Week:
* @netw3rk: Heat Check. RT @SpikeAlbrecht: @KateUpton hey saw you at the game last night, thanks for coming out! Hope to see you again
* @KeithLipscomb: Good time for Luke Hancock to have his first back-to-back games with 12+ pts since January 2011 while at George Mason.
* @pourmecoffee: One Shining Moment pic.twitter.com/sKbvN9rWfg
* @SherwoodStrauss: Someone put together an awesome compilation of the Warriors elevator play. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iUS4vUh4M6I
* @alexraskinNYC: Last time #Knicks won the Atlantic, Ewing–their highest-paid player–made $3.8 mil. Now Felton–6th highest paid–makes $3.48 mil.
* @kobebryant: #vintagevino. Lillard is the real deal #mambasalute
* @SeanDeveney: First awards season novelty has arrived: Larry Sanders blocks from @Bucks. pic.twitter.com/WejJoif8a2
* Bonus: GIF of the Week: Rick Pitino / Dodgeball
5. Dunks of the Week:
Brandon Bass bangs on Brook Lopez: [youtube_sc url="http://youtu.be/IWRX_MzXidw"]
LeBron alley-oops to himself of the glass: [youtube_sc url="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=unli4-6n0dw"]
Terrance Jones block leads to a James Anderson poster: [youtube_sc url="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xHjVop5aQhU"]
Terrance Ross with the Dunk Contest-worthy 360 in a game: [youtube_sc url="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PrlRgnOrIuE"]
6. Elias Sports Bureau Stats of the Week:
* The HEAT clinched the best record in the NBA with their win over the Wizards. Having the best record in the league does not give you a free pass to the NBA Finals. Over the previous nine seasons, only once did the team with the best record in the regular season reach the NBA Finals that season: Boston in 2007-08.
* Kobe Bryant poured in 47 points in the Lakers’ win at the Rose Garden in Portland. It was the most points by a visiting player in Portland since Larry Bird scored 47 in an overtime game on Valentine’s Day in 1986. The last visiting player to score that many points in a non-overtime game in Portland was Purvis Short on November 11, 1984.
* The Lakers’ victory over the Trail Blazers coupled with the Mavericks’ loss to the Suns eliminated Dallas from the playoffs for the first time since the 1999-2000 season. The Mavericks had made the playoffs for 12 consecutive seasons, which was the second-longest current streak of its kind in the NBA, behind the Spurs, who have now qualified for the postseason in 16 consecutive seasons.
* Rookie Andre Drummond scored 29 points and grabbed 11 rebounds for the Pistons Wednesday night. The last Pistons rookie with that many points and rebounds in game was Grant Hill, who had two such games in March 1995: 31 points and 11 rebounds at Golden State on March 19; 33 points, 16 rebounds against Boston on March 25.
* Nikola Vucevic scored 30 points and grabbed 20 rebounds and Tobias Harris scored 30 points with 19 rebounds for the Magic in their overtime win over the Bucks. It’s only the seventh time in NBA history that a pair of teammates each had at least 30 points and 19 rebounds in a game. Bob Pettit and Clyde Lovellette did it for the Hawks in 1960, Dolph Schayes and Johnny Kerr for the Nats in 1960, Ray Scott and Bailey Howell for the Pistons in 1962, Gus Johnson and Walt Bellamy did it twice for the Bullets in 1964, and Willis Reed and Bellamy did it in 1967.
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