| 5 years ago||
The NBA isn’t an equal-opportunity league when it comes to shots and minutes. Mike Woodson knows he has to treat each player differently.
But when it comes to holding players accountable — Woodson’s theme since replacing Mike D'Antoni on March 14 — that’s where all Knicks are treated equally. And that includes a certain All-Star forward.
When J.R. Smith passed up a sure layup and instead caused a turnover on Wednesday in Philadelphia, Woodson didn’t pass up the chance to make sure that Smith knew he had made a mistake. When Jeremy Lin committed a senseless foul in the final seconds of that 82-79 victory over the Sixers, Woodson immediately called the young point guard over to the bench to lecture him.
But when Woodson doesn’t hesitate to reprimand Carmelo Anthony for being late on a defensive rotation, as the interim coach did during Wednesday’s fourth quarter, the moment resonates with all 15 players on the roster.
“He’s a very challenging coach,” Anthony says.
Woodson is also undefeated since being promoted to head coach. The Knicks are 5-0 under him entering Friday night’s game in Toronto and are suddenly contenders to win the Atlantic Division. They are three games behind first-place Philadelphia and two games behind the Celtics, who face the Sixers Friday night.
Woodson has the Knicks caring about defense and sharing the ball. Wednesday’s 82 points represented the Knicks’ fewest in a win since 2005. It was also the second time in five games they had allowed just 79 points.
“He’s going to get the best out of everybody,” Anthony said. “His main thing is defense. Regardless of what we do offensively, he really doesn’t care about offense. He knows we’re a talented group of guys that can score the basketball but his main thing is defense. And it’s been showing these last five games.”
The Knicks had a seven-game winning streak under D’Antoni last month before reverting to their bad habits and showing just a passing interest in defending. The true indication of whether the Knicks are a serious player in the Eastern Conference will be how they respond to the first sign of adversity under Woodson.
Also, Anthony will need more than a five-game sample to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he has completely bought into the new coach. Anthony’s offensive numbers are down, which is troubling because his left wrist, which he injured in January, could still be bothering him. Plus, when the playoffs begin and the games slow down, the Knicks will be looking for Anthony to score on isolations and in the low post.
Under Woodson, Anthony is shooting 39% and has scored a total of 71 points. He nearly has as many a.ssists (22) as field goals (26) since the coaching change was made. The idea that Anthony was going to start firing up 20-plus shots a night with D’Antoni gone hasn’t materialized.
In 32 games this season with D’Antoni as coach, Anthony was averaging 18.2 shots. Under Woodson, that number is down to 13.4. But he is averaging nearly one a.ssist more under Woodson, including a deft touch pass that led to Amar’e Stoudemire's fourth-quarter dunk Wednesday. That basket with eight minutes left gave the Knicks the lead for good.
“I’m not concerned about my shot or anything like that,” Anthony said. “I’m just trying to do the little things to help us win. We’re on a five-game winning streak. As far as scoring the basketball or anything like that, I’m not too concerned about that.”
With Anthony making just five of 15 shots, Woodson ran more high pick-and-rolls with Jeremy Lin in the fourth quarter. Lin’s ability to get to the basket and draw fouls was the difference. Lin scored 16 points in the period, going 10-for-10 from the foul line.
Anthony went 1-for-5 in the fourth and his lack of scoring lately could become a major concern. Mentally, Anthony looks and sounds like a different player. Physically, however, he just doesn’t seem right.
“I don't know,” he said. “As far as my wrist goes, I don't really know. I don’t feel anything in the game. Maybe it’s something minor but I don’t feel anything.”
Jared Jeffries is not expected to play Friday after reinjuring his right knee on Wednesday. He is scheduled to have an MRI in New York either Saturday or Monday.