Knicks Start Heating Up Amid Phil Jackson Rumors

If James Dolan and the rest of the Knicks' higher brass were aiming to light a fire under Mike Woodson's butt, then perhaps they've succeeded. 

At this point in New York's season, no one appears safe. And rightfully so, because they shouldn't be. The year has been an utter let down for the Knicks, with the team free-falling all the way through February. After rising up as the second seed last season, New York continues to fight for their postseason lives this year.

Much of the blame has to be placed on Mike Woodson's shoulders, but in a way, President & General Manager Steve Mills can be blamed as well. As the Knicks continue to struggle, Coach Woodson appears to be leading them into the ground. And Mills has failed to do anything about it, be it on the player, coaching, and/or personnel side of things.

With all that in mind, the latest rumors of Phil Jackson returning to the Knicks have started to come about yet again. Every now and then, there's talk of Jackson returning to the Big Apple. Such rumors pull on the heartstrings of fans everywhere before the Hall of Famer ultimately decides it's not the right time.

Jackson has opted not to return to New York when the going was good, so why on earth would he have a change of heart with the team floundering?

In any event, he's considering an offer to join the Knicks after all. First, there were rumblings that Jackson would step in to coach the team. Since, it's been reported that he's mulling a front office position, which could ultimately make Mills the odd man out.

Still, one would have to think that, eventually, if Jackson were in office, he'd give in and coach the team as well. There's nothing worse than building a team you believe is a winner, only to see another coach fail to capitalize on it and utilize the talent you've brought in. It might simply be reassuring for Jackson to (also) step in as coach, too.

So, alas, neither Woodson nor Mills would appear safe. Such uncertainty appears to have been exactly what the Knicks needed to get them rolling once again.

Following their 107-97 win over the Cavaliers on Saturday night, the team has now won three games in a row. 

A key to the team's winning streak has been Woodson's ability to make necessary changes and adjustments, all the while appearing a bit more hands on. He's locked in. He's a bit more focused. Frankly, he appears to have woken up once and for all.

Throughout the year, Woodson has preached the importance of a big lineup. Over the team's winning streak, the Knicks have in fact rolled out a big lineup. But that fact alone isn't as crucial as who has made up such a starting five.

It's all about going with the right players — guys who mesh well, can play off of one another. If something isn't quite working, and the team is in a rut, the coach should be able to roll with whoever has the hot hand.

This month, it's been Amar'e Stoudemire. He's averaged 16.2 points (on 60% from the field) and 6.6 boards in March. Needless to say, STAT is excited to be out on the court, not simply playing, but doing so alongside the team's other resident stars. This is where he belongs, even if it is for limited periods of time.There's plenty of chemistry there, and Stoudemire never lacks aggressiveness or confidence. 

Despite the forward's struggles, he truly feeds off of guys like Carmelo Anthony and Tyson Chandler, and vice versa. He fits in the starting lineup more than a player like Iman Shumpert, or even Pablo Prigioni (through I prefer the latter in the starting five over J.R. Smith). 

Who would have ever thought we'd be talking about Stoudemire as the potential X-Factor to any Knicks' season? Of course, the forward has had his respective battles with injuries and Woodson has been conservative with his playing time.

With the Knicks' season on the line (as well as Woodson & Mills' jobs, too), all bets are off. Now is the time to use all the weapons in one's arsenal. Woodson seems to finally understand that. 

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