This past season, the Knicks won 54 games in the regular season, built up a thirteen game winning streak, secured the second seed in the Eastern Conference, and came away with their first Atlantic Division title in nearly two decades.
After taking over for the struggling Mike D’Antoni last season, new Knicks’ coach Mike Woodson made sure to instill a new and improved defensive culture in the Big Apple. Many experts often say defense wins championships, and Coach Woodson seems to understand and believe in that very philosophy.
In addition to defense, Coach Woodson also made it clear heading into last summer that he believed veterans were also the key to an eventual NBA title. With that in mind, the likes of Jason Kidd, Marcus Camby, Kurt Thomas, Rasheed Wallace, and Kenyon Martin were all reeled in to pace New York’s second unit and provide that necessary leadership on a team in need of guidance.
Though everything looked good on paper and the mind set was right, age and some extra basketball miles on each veteran’s body led to a number of their obvious declines towards the end of the season. Though they each may have done something special to help the Knicks get to where they were, there’s no denying a number of those same veterans had difficulty (or displayed a plain and utter inability) to maintain such intensity all the way through New York’s postseason run.
Those same let-ups gave way to the Knicks’ more recent struggles in the postseason but that wasn’t the only thing that led to the team’s demise.
Coach Woodson’s own inability to make adjustments on both ends of the floor put New York in a insurmountable hole by the time their second round series against the Pacers got underway.
Clearly a coach his players relate to relatively well, Coach Woodson is the type of guy who enjoys displaying faith and trust in his players. His style of coaching allows playing each player enough to help them break out of any existent slump.
With 82 games in the regular season, there’s plenty of time to experiment and the pressure doesn’t mount as quickly. But in the playoffs, any necessary changes need to be picked up upon quickly. Woodson’s decision to stick with the likes of J.R. Smith, Jason Kidd, and even Tyson Chandler (in lieu of some other notable, capable, and perhaps just as deserving contributors) played a big part in sinking the Knicks much earlier than anyone expected.
Though the Atlanta Hawks opted to eventually re-tool their squad a bit and go in a different direction, the organization’s decision to let Woodson go was based on his playoff record. Unable to win in the postseason, the Hawks believed the coach had hit a wall.
The Pistons displayed a similar line of thinking when they fired Rick Carlisle in 2003 after back to back 50 win seasons. At the time, Carlisle wasn’t able to help his team go the extra yard and obtain that oh so coveted NBA championship. Detroit hired Larry Brown instead. He did help the Pistons win a championship. Ironically enough, Woodson was an assistant coach on that staff.
With a good number of the aging Knicks either declining and/or seeing their contracts expiring this summer, the team stands to look a little different next season.
Will 2013 go on to represent what turns out to have been Woodson’s best chance to win a title in New York?
Woodson helped the Knicks accomplish quite a bit this season, and clearly, his players are behind him. But if New York is truly committed to winning a title in the immediate future, they need to center their efforts around the duration of Carmelo Anthony’s contract.
After a promising year, Woodson, at the very least, deserves one more shot. Though the Knicks achieved great success in the regular season, Woodson showed some signs of weakness in the postseason. If he can’t prove such weakness was simply a fluke (or if he cannot learn from his mistakes next season), a change will have to be made.
The Knicks time is still now, not later.
But if Woodson cannot eventually help this team capitalize, he deserves to go. Nevertheless, he’s done enough to warrant at least one more season in the Big Apple to see if he can get things right before the clock really starts to tick and time runs out.