Hamilton: Mike Woodson doesn’t deserve all the blame, just most of it

Moke Hamilton, NBA Analyst

Has Mike Woodson seen his last game as the head coach of the New York Knicks?

Mike WoodsonLosing five of your last six games before the All-Star break, including losses to the worst team in each conference could finally force James Dolan to reluctantly pull the plug on the coach who once led a spirited revival.

In the NBA, memories are just as short as the leashes that head coaches find themselves on. Just ask the recently deposed Maurice Cheeks, now formerly of the Detroit Pistons.

Or, better yet, go have a chat with two other Mikes — D’Antoni and Brown.

When you are coaching all-time greats like Steve Nash and LeBron James, it sure is easy to look like a genius.

But when things go terribly wrong, like they did for Cheeks and like they are for Woodson, the coach usually takes the fall, and whether or not he should depends on both the circumstances behind his team’s plight and the spirit that his players exude as they wade through the mud of mediocrity.

And unfortunately, for Woodson, the only thing left keeping him around is the mercy of his owner, because Woodson has done absolutely nothing to help himself.

Years ago, as the head coach of the Phoenix Suns, D’Antoni won the NBA’s Coach of the Year Award in 2005. His tenure in Phoenix saw the Suns competing amongst the NBA’s elites. Brown, on the other hand, won the award four years later in 2009. His lack of offensive aptitude was easy to overlook since his Cavaliers managed to go 66-16.

In each instance, each head coach received per se credit for his team’s success, despite the fact that each team ran a motion based pick-and-roll system that benefitted greatly from the court vision and passing ability of Nash and James.

That is not to say that neither coach deserves some credit for their respective team’s success. One of a coach’s most difficult undertakings is to keep his team motivated, maintain his team’s trust and respect and get his team to buy in to what he is preaching and how he wants his team to play.

In that realm, D’Antoni and Brown both succeeded, but it is there that Mike Woodson has failed.

As Carmelo Anthony packs his bags for New Orleans and the Knicks sputter into the All-Star break at 20-32—12 games worse than the 32-20 record they had after 52 games last season—it does not take 30 more games to deem Woodson’s 2013-14 performance a failure.

Even if the Knicks go undefeated over their final 30 games, they will end the season four games worse than they did last season, despite the laughably bad Eastern Conference.

For these Knicks, things have gone terribly wrong. For the success of the Suns and Cavs, D’Antoni and Brown, respectively, got per se credit.

Woodson deserves per se blame.

All too often this season, the Knicks have looked sluggish and have played with a serious lack of effort. Wednesday night’s effort against the Sacramento Kings was the latest example. Without J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert, the Knicks certainly had a tough task ahead of them, but the Kings entered Wednesday just 6-19 on the road.

With the loss, the Knicks now join the Cavaliers and the Chicago Bulls as the only three teams to lose to the worst team in each conference.

The team’s offensive predictability is something that any defensive stalwart of a head coach can crack and Woodson’s questionable rotation decisions have certainly contributed to his team’s floundering this season. In overtime on Wednesday night, if it was not a pick-and-roll, it was an Anthony isolation. For better or worse, that is what Woodson has stuck with as his first, second and third option.

Mike WoodsonIn the coach’s defense, his team has dealt with injuries all season long and he himself cannot control whether or not Shumpert, Felton, Metta World Peace or anyone else clanks wide-open looks, but he certainly can be blamed for not finding a way to maximize the pieces at his disposal.

For Exhibit A on that front, see the Chicago Bulls. Over the past few years, no team has dealt with more injury issues than them—When was the last time Tom Thibodeau complained about injuries and blamed them for his team losing?

The aging San Antonio Spurs are having a tough time staying healthy. Have you ever heard Gregg Popovich bring up attrition whenever his team seems to suffer a setback?

Of course not.

Still, Woodson never turns down an opportunity to remind anyone that will listen of his team’s plight.

After the Knicks suffered one of their worst losses of the season, a game which was there for the taking, Woodson answered the very first question asked of him with a reminder that Shumpert had gotten hurt earlier in the game. As true as it may be, good leaders—one capable of turning things around over the season’s final 30 games—don’t make excuses. They lead.

Instead, Woodson pivoted better than DeMarcus Cousins in the post.

“When Iman went down, that hurt, because we had a bad matchup problem with Timmy playing at the three spot,” Woodson said when asked what went wrong for his team.

“When [Shumpert] went out, I elected to ride Melo the rest of the way and we didn’t get it done,” he said.

In other words, when asked what happened, the first thing that Woodson elected to do was remind everyone that Shumpert went down. As true as it may be, winning coaches only mention injured players when specifically asked about them—not Woodson.

“We can’t go back and get this game,” he said. “Surely not having J.R. and Iman, when he left the game, that put us behind,” Woodson said before admitting he still believed that his team played well enough to win.

He thought wrong.

Back in 2009, when the Portland Trail Blazers were tearing up the NBA’s Western Conference to the tune of a 54-28 record, coach Nate McMillan’s rotation found an identity and was capably led by Brandon Roy, widely considered a prodigy at the time.

Mike Woodson

The following season, that 54-win team’s core of Roy, LaMarcus Aldridge, Rudy Fernandez, Greg Oden, Joel Pryzbilla and Nicolas Batum missed a combined total of 177 games, mostly due to injury.

A midseason trade saw two of the team’s other key pieces—Steve Blake and Travis Outlaw—traded to the Los Angeles Clippers for Marcus Camby. And despite it all, the Blazers followed up their 54-win season by going 50-32 the following year.

Capable leadership yields capable results. It starts from the top. Back then, McMillan proved that and since then, Thibodeau and Popovich have hammered the point home.

Wednesday night’s 106-101 loss to the Kings was just more of the same for these Knicks—Woodson’s Knicks. And although his removal may not yield more fruit, there is simply little reason to believe that he still has the faith of his locker room or the know-how to bail his Knicks out.

Even Anthony is getting tired of the questions about Woodson’s future.

“I’m not thinking about that at this point,” he said, not using the opportunity to give his coach a vote of confidence. “That’s been an ongoing issue, ongoing story,” he said. “Everyday it’s a new story. He’s still here and that’s what we’re dealing with,” he said.

Not exactly a ringing endorsement.

It took an overtime, but the well-rested Knicks were dispatched by the Kings, despite the fact that the Kings had played in Cleveland on Tuesday night before and entered play on Wednesday with a 6-19 road record.

Now, with just 30 games remaining in their season, the Knicks must go 20-10 just to avoid their 10th losing season since 2002. With 19 of those remaining games on the road and 14 of them against teams with winning records, it will be a tall task.

With the first 52 games of this season as a healthy sample, there is no reason to believe that Woodson is capable of leading such a turnaround. His players, for a long time now, have simply seemed to have tuned him out.

As All-Star Weekend approaches, the Knicks have been making calls and attempting to find a move that will bolster them in the present without sacrificing too much of their future. Maybe with Kyle Lowry or Andre Miller, the fortunes can change, but at this point, Woodson has given the public no reason to believe it is and it is quite likely that his players feel the same.

With Anthony’s deteriorating body language and passivity, for Woodson, the writing may be on the wall.

The life of a head coach simply isn’t fair. But if D’Antoni and Brown get per se credit.

Fair or not, Woodson has to shoulder the per se blame.


Moke Hamilton is the NBA Analyst for SNY.tv and, along with Lead Writer Harris Decker, hosts the Knicks Blog Podcast each and every Wednesday. Follow him on Twitter: @MokeHamilton

143 comments
tyquando
tyquando

OMG - it just him me. Coach Woodson hates Udrih because Udrih kept on yelling at him. Why would Udrih do that? It must be because Udrih played under Gregg Popovich and, so, knew that Woodson was being an idiot.

yoyo66
yoyo66

Enough with the "trade so-and-so for picks" insanity.


THE KNICKS HAVE THE WORST DRAFTING RECORD OVER THE LAST 25 YEARS,

THIS IS NOT SPECULATION, NOT CONJECTURE, BUT PROVEN STATISTICAL FACT.


Anyone looking TO TRADE ANY SERVICEABLE KNICK for another Frederic Weis? Mardy Collins? Jordan Hill? Channing Frye? Michael Sweetney?


THE ONLY KNICK DRAFT PICK TO MAKE AN ALL STAR GAME APPEARANCE IN THE LAST 25 YEARS?


DAVID LEE. FOR ANOTHER TEAM! AS AN INJURY FILL-IN!


Count me and any one else who has a brain and has been paying attention out ON THE PICKS BS.


IF THERE IS A TRADE, GET A REAL NBA PLAYER BACK. 


letsgonets
letsgonets

Is there any chance we can be Nets fans? We, all of us, have watched this team for far too long. We have suffered for far too long. But it never changes. As long as Dolan owns this team, this team he is summarily ruining day after day, nothing is going to change. We hope. We pray. Every year, for something good to happen. We finally had a little bit of happiness that was taken away by jr smith. And what does Dolan do? He resigns him for three years to a lot of money!

I have never seen my beloved Knicks win a championship in my lifetime and I never will as long as Dolan is the owner. When your only hope for any happiness is to outlive your owner you know you're in trouble.

Our owner is laughing at us. He is taking advantage of us. And he sure as heck doesn't care about us. Yet here we are. I don't think I can do this anymore. I hate to say this, but let's go nets.

tifoso6
tifoso6

Woody is a terrible coach and should have been fired a long time ago.  But there is a lot of blame to go around. During the Dolan era we have had Layten,  Thomas, Walsh,  Grunewald and Mills. They range as GMs from terrible to maybe mediocre (Walsh).   But the constant thread is Dolan who never seems to do anything right.   This is Dolan's mess but Woody has made it a lot worse.  This team is seriously under performing.

omega_red
omega_red

Marc Stein: James Dolan WANTS to keep Woody rest of season. Does NOT want to make change now. But losses to Bucks & Kings leading into break ... ouch Twitter @ESPNSteinLine

omega_red
omega_red

The aging San Antonio Spurs are having a tough time staying healthy. Have you ever heard Gregg Popovich bring up attrition whenever his team seems to suffer a setback?

Of course not."


when anthony was out a few games with an injury and the team had free reign to prove themselves what happened? it's not the coach its the team! you can control what players do out there as melo repeatedly has said and so has J.R. even after being in his doghouse so give me a break with this nonsense, you guys love phil jackson but did he stop artest from throwing that elbow at james harden or the bully forearm that bynum sent to barea? and by all acounts he's the zen master right? the guy who could get guys to calm down by messing with their psyche? please.  As a coach he can only do but so much period. check out this interesting quote from ya boy pop about his injuries and losing. Certainly not how you make it out to be, injuries play a huge factor and thats why Dolan has been patient. 





Neither Popovich nor captain Tim Duncan could recall a time in their 16 seasons together in which the Spurs have been more injury-wrecked. “If you know somebody's injured, they're going to be out for the year or four months or something, you get your team together and you play,” Popovich said. “What's been odd with this, it's a different team every two games. We haven't been able gain any traction.” - See more at: http://hoopshype.com/rumors.htm#sthash.vVH9dQkl.dpuf

hashburry
hashburry

Dead man walking.


It is easy to blame him, but the Knicks have never been constructed priorly talent wise, and can anyone honestly say, outside of Melo (who can't carry a team) and Chandler (who is a role player) the Knicks don't have another player that should be starting in the NBA.


On a separate note, watched the end of Warriors/Heat last night.  LeBron and Curry play 45 minutes and yet have the "legs" to make shots at the end of games.  If Melo is too tired from minutes, which seems to be a common excuse here for his lack of late game scoring, he should either get in better shape or give the ball up and let someone else miss the last shot.

JayfromtheFix
JayfromtheFix

REPOST (to explain) and replies (:

PPL are gonna hate on my comment but hear me out first:


A lot of posters been talking about J Lin. Is he on the block? Does he play PG? i think both answers are yes. The next question is does he get paid 15 mil next year? does it expire next year? If both answers are yes then i say BRING HIM back. 


Not because i think he will save the season, not because I'm a JLin fan but because he expires in 2015 at 15 mil?!?!?!?!  Thats 15 mil expiring along with Amares 23, tysons 14 and AB 11. I would trade for him to help build in 2015


tw22 Lin is being hidden/protected by the fact that the offense actually flows through Harden. Lin barely brings the ball up at this point. PLEASE STOP THE LINSANITY!



purehussle- Lin aiint better than felton

I never mentioned Lin was better than Felton, I never mentioned Lin will save the season. My entire point of this post was get Lin now at a small cap number and in 2015 he will be come a 15 mil expiring. This entire post was geared to rebuilding in 2015 not save this season. 
if this move was made say Felton for Lin, in 2015 we would have expiring contracts of Lin 15 mil, Tyson 14 mil, Amare 23 mil, Bargs 11 mil AND we wouldn't have Felton's contract on the books in 2015. Thats 63 mil worth of expiring in 2015 that can be used in trades for teams looking to start over.

Seth Nadler
Seth Nadler

Is it really such a bad thing if Melo does leave?

Brostoevsky
Brostoevsky

Right. Because the Knicks are so much better at getting 'real NBA players' back in trades

knickstape
knickstape

@yoyo66  they were purposely drafting some bad payers to save cap for LeBron at a point

knickgirl35
knickgirl35

@Melo @Chris @MeloStat301 @Knicks_Fanatic @bockers  yo. your name carmelo? if not then your fake name is corny as he((.

knickgirl35
knickgirl35

@tifoso6  the key is WOODY MADE THE SITUATION A LOT WORSE. kidd and rasheed won those games last year--NOT WOODY. that's why both kidd and rasheed are coaching now--because they did such a great job last year--those 54 wins are their resume.

Chris
Chris

@omega_red  no excuse for how badly this season has gone. WOODY SHOULD LEAVE NY!!

Brostoevsky
Brostoevsky

I'm not convinced Melo's clutchness has regressed (and yes, I know all the stats). He leads the league in minutes and has zero help around him. That is not an excuse. That is an explanation. He is visibly spent late in games.

There is a reason other coaches rest their stars prior to the stretch run of close games. That doesn't happen with Melo, so I give him an 'incomplete' this year.

Melo missing the final shot of close games is not in the top 10 reasons why the Knicks suck this year. A good team would be blowing out many of the teams these clutch opportunities are coming against.

Chris
Chris

@hashburry  he is the player who has played the most minutes----THROUGHOUT THE WHOLE SEASON! NOT JUST A COUPLE GAMES! THINK!

Sandro
Sandro

@hashburry

Melo improved his rebounding and regressed his clutchness.

The legs thing is just the common excuse people make to exculpate him.

kneggyknik
kneggyknik

@JayfromtheFix Actually lin is better than felton.  More clutch, more hustle, more heart and more slimmer. Guys rallied around him..he made mediocre players like jeffries,novak, and fields play above their ceiling.  Thats what its all about.  But, alas, it wouldn't work, melo did not want him here anymore.

zebeto
zebeto

@Seth Nadler ...i've been thinking the same thing lately ............eaither way ...we'll have the 2015 season to look upon with some hope....take next year sabatical .

kneggyknik
kneggyknik

@Seth Nadler At this point, no. He is not winning.  He is not making his teammates better and the ball just stops way to much at times.  Unless slacker mills gets another star in here,

MeloStat301
MeloStat301

@Seth Nadler Once in a generation type of player, that if u build right around can bring u a title? Yes...players like him aren't a dime a dozen in the draft or "prospects"...If he wants to leave, let him walk...only trade him if u have indication HE'S LEAVING...and melo is the type to indicate..see Denver.  When I mean indicate I mean in  personal convos, attitude, ect...not what is put out by the media.  Whatever is put out by the media u must take with a grade of saw.

hashburry
hashburry

@Seth Nadler  Like Branch rickey told Ralph Kiner  :I finished last with you, I can finish last without you".


They talk about needing a star in NY, but this team is unbearable to watch.  Will it be any different next year, because by the year after that, I really think the treads on Melo's tires will be getting pretty thin and then we'll have to watch the decline of another overpaid, untraceable player like Amare and wondering when the next rebuild takes place.  Outside of Miami, the truly elite teams, mostly out West, are young and hungry.  The Knicks are and will remain old, fat and entitled.

Sandro
Sandro

@Seth Nadler

Devastating as it would be, I'd rather lose him for nothing than re-signing to the max.

People would cry their eyes out if Melo leaves. We'll svck next season.
Come Draft Night, 2015, people will be happier than ever, when the Knicks select a Top 5 pick.

It's kinda like whenever your long time girl dumps you. You don't know what to do, get all crazy and shizz, but later when you find the next girl, you realize that you are way happier than before.

hashburry
hashburry

@Chris @hashburry  Again, then there should be an alternative to him hoisting shots if indeed his legs are spent.  And are you going to tell me he expends more energy than LeBron?  Or for that matter Curry who is small, plays almost the entire game and gets banged around like Iverson did back in his day?  Please already, Melo conveniently loses his legs in the fourth quarter almost every game.  Pass the ball for a change.

Chris
Chris

@Sandro @hashburry  You never played did you Sandro, you a 2k player? You talk like one, not a balla

MeloStat301
MeloStat301

@Sandro @hashburry No, all good clutch performers have stretches like this...see kobe and Michael for example..learn your history.

hashburry
hashburry

@MeloStat301 @Seth Nadler  I keep saying it, but Golden State would have been a great place to trade Melo.  They need a guy that can score from around the block and he would never get doubled with Curry on the floor.  Get a couple of their younger coming players and maybe throw in Amare somehow.

MeloStat301
MeloStat301

@Sandro @Seth Nadler If Melo leaves people wont cry..please.  The problem is, you don't find players like him dime a dozen in the draft.  He's a once in a generation type of player...you don't trade him for draft picks or prospects....ONLY if he indicates he's outta here...then I would consider a trade.

Knicks_Fanatic
Knicks_Fanatic

@Sandro @Seth Nadler 

2013 Top 5

1 Anthony Bennett

2 Victor Oladipo

3 Otto Porter

4 Cody Zeller

5 Alex Len

I'd be happier with Melo at the max, than anyone of those 5.

Chris
Chris

@Frank Gebel @Seth Nadler  With Melo we are 2 pieces + a coach, without Melo, we are 2 pieces, a coach and a superstar. Which of the 3 is the hardest to find?

andthenjohnsaid
andthenjohnsaid

@hashburry @Chris  curry is not in his 11th season, lebron is lebron u cant compare his physical ability to anyone ever in this league, besides iverson( who was full throttle every game all game as well)

hashburry
hashburry

@MeloStat301 @Sandro @hashburry  Melo is 2 for 20 in "clutch" situations at the end of games.  He never gets himself a good look which is part of the problem, another part is there is no one else that scares a team late for the Knicks, and yet another problem is Felton consistently gets him the ball in bad spots.  Beyond that, the Knicks are seemingly always terrible at the end of games, stop passing and Felton dribbles out every 24 second clock for no apparent reason.  But in the end, Melo comes up small.  And smiles about it.  I don't see LBJ smile, even when he hits the shot.  Weak.

hashburry
hashburry

@MeloStat301 @hashburry @Seth Nadler  Why does he have to indicate anything?  You can't trust Melo, he's shown he's me first with the way he left Danver and cost the Knicks dearly to begin with.  And there is no reason to say the Knicks will be better going forward with him.  I'd rather see most of this team gone.

MeloStat301
MeloStat301

@hashburry @MeloStat301@Seth Nadler Melo along with curry and Thompson would be a sight to behold...but only if he indicated he wants out, so far he hasn't in the media, and I'm sure personally he hasn't as well.

chudogz
chudogz

And a very good draft pick

Chris
Chris

@Sandro @MeloStat301 @Seth Nadler  You again make the false assumption that we would have won any games without Melo. How about the better question, how many games did Melo cause the loss??

Mel Brown
Mel Brown

@Sandro @MeloStat301@Seth Nadlerso, I guess this years record is on Melo.....not poor coaching, or poor role players...just Melo.  I ask this question...if we didn't have Melo this year how many wins would we have??  My firm guess....5 wins.

Sandro
Sandro

@MeloStat301 @Sandro@Seth Nadler

Okay, "you don't trade him for draft picks or prospects..."

Without Carmelo, you'd be a 20 wins team with draft picks.
With Carmelo, you're a 20 wins team without draft picks.

Seems legit.

bockers
bockers

@Sandro @Knicks_Fanatic@Seth Nadler Stop showing your STUPIDITY.I realize we need to reconstruct the team.You are talking about building a house w/o a foundation.


No Melo = no superstars are coming to the Knicks.When Chandler ad Shump bring back a player(s) of quality preferably a PG to build aroundwe will be in position for 2015.


Stat,Bargani ,Felton and JR Smith will be gone.

Felton and JR for picks or role players.

Sandro
Sandro

@Knicks_Fanatic @Sandro@Seth Nadler

You're a cap guy.

Dolan couldn't build a contender around Melo when he was making 20 mil. Do you think he will with Melo making 25?

Well, as I said before, you have Melo now, enjoy his performances and the record it provides.

I know that trading Melo is the better option for the future.

And you'll tell me I was right, either in the summer when he walks for nothing or in 2020, when he retires as a Knick without any Finals appearance for his career.

Knicks_Fanatic
Knicks_Fanatic

@Sandro @Knicks_Fanatic@Seth Nadler 

There is nothing wrong with Melo and I'm not a huge fan of his. The problem is Dolan. He controls the basketball operations at MSG. We have 20 wins because of Dolan, not Melo. 

Dolan guarantees the following; way over the cap, no draft picks, aging, overpaid injury prone veteran players, and a losing record. Other than a brief respite with Donnie Walsh changing the culture (picks, cap space,young players), we are back to the same old, same old.

Knicks_Fanatic
Knicks_Fanatic

@Sandro @Knicks_Fanatic@Seth Nadler 

You can't get Irving or Davis. You assume that by not signing Melo that automatically we get to pick a budding superstar. I'm trying to show you that isn't the likely outcome of a top 5 pick.

Sandro
Sandro

@Knicks_Fanatic @Sandro@Seth Nadler

Men, you rather have Melo at 25 mil than Irving or Davis at 5 mil and for me, that's the end of this talk.

You have Melo for almost 4 years now. Keep him.
He's doing some great things for the Knicks.

Knicks_Fanatic
Knicks_Fanatic

@Sandro @Knicks_Fanatic@Seth Nadler  

2011 Top 5

1 Kyrie Irving

2 Derrick Williams

3 Enes Kanter

4 Tristan Thompson

5 Jonas Valanciunas

I'd be happier with Melo at the max, than anyone of those, except maybe Kyrie Irving.

Sandro
Sandro

@Knicks_Fanatic @Sandro@Seth Nadler

LMAO.

Try to trade Carmelo Anthony for Anthony Davis.

Having Davis + Beal would beat having Carmelo 10 times out of 10. Specially considering their contracts.

Knicks_Fanatic
Knicks_Fanatic

@Sandro @Knicks_Fanatic@Seth Nadler

2012 Top 5

1 Anthony Davis

2 Michael Kidd-Gilchrist

3 Bradley Beal

4 Dion Waiters

5 Thomas Robinson

I'd be happier with Melo at the max, than anyone of those, except maybe Anthony Davis.

MeloStat301
MeloStat301

@Sandro @Knicks_Fanatic@Seth Nadler Loaded??  It was projected that way...I might be top heavy 1-3 now..Check again...wiggins emblid ect are under performing in college....what am I saying...the guy probably doesn't even watch college hoops.  Smh.

Sandro
Sandro

@Knicks_Fanatic @Sandro@Seth Nadler

Funny that you brought up one of the weakest drafts in history when next one is projected to be one heavy loaded.

Oh well, you have Carmelo now.
I hope you're enjoying the season.