Harris DeckerFirst of all, I don’t believe in hitting a man while he’s down. This is less about Mike Woodson and more about the people who have told me that it was the players, not the coach, that caused the Knicks to regress from a 54 win team to a 37 win team. Woodson was fired as the Knicks coach yesterday and he was the man to blame for the Knicks failures this season.
Case in point: Beno Udrih. On Monday night, I was enjoying some playoff basketball when Udrih came out of nowhere and hit a shot. He not only hit one shot, but two, three… He finished the game with 14 points on a remarkable 6-of-8 from the field. These weren’t shots with the game out of reach or with massive injuries sweeping the Memphis Grizzlies. These were quality minutes in the middle of a very close playoff game by a veteran rotation player.
With the Knicks, Udrih averaged 5.6 points, 3.5 assists and 19 minutes per game over his brief stint in New York. While he hasn’t been a game-changer on the Grizzlies, he is a quality piece. A role player. A guy that David Joerger trusts while giving his regulars a rest. In New York, Udrih played most of his minutes in mop-up duty or in place of injured point guards Pablo Prigioni and Raymond Felton. He was never truly a part of the offense and because there was no system, Udrih was left to scrap and claw for minimal production.
Now, surrounded by both talent and a defined system, he’s playing the exact role that Glen Grunwald had imagined for Udrih when he signed with the Knicks. He’s spelling the point guards and putting in solid minutes during the second and third quarters. Good teams have systems that allow any player to come off the bench and fit in. With Woodson’s (lack of a) system, it was all about a few key scorers and everyone else just standing around.
It hurts to watch guys like Beno Udrih thrive on other teams, especially when the Knicks are on the outside looking in. Still, this was more about people who don’t want to blame Woodson. The lower tier of players disappear when there isn’t a clear system. The superstars still thrive but it is the low guy on the ladder that gets hurt the most. Watching Udrih score against the Thunder last night assured me that it was more about Mike Woodson’s system than anything else in 2013-14.