Mike Woodson’s Flexibility

The key to Thursday night’s rather stunning win in Miami was the third quarter, when the Knicks blitzed the Heat out of the locker room and pulled away for the rout. Jared Zwerling over at ESPN New York had this little nugget from Mike Woodson about the offense:

With the scored tied at 53 heading into halftime, Mike Woodson talked to his team bout picking up the tempo in the third quarter to wear down the Heat. When the Knicks did, they got a jump on the Heat and went off for eight 3-pointers within a six-minute span. Overall, the coach doesn’t want the guys to stall the ball, but rather keep it moving. 

“That’s the key to us, I think, playing good offense,” he said postgame. “The ball’s got to move, flow from side to side and we’ve got enough guys that can make shots. I think these guys feel comfortable about who lets it go, so we’ve just got to put it in the bucket offensively.”

Brian DiMenna

I think even those who most wanted him to take over on the Knicks’ bench couldn’t have imagined the job that Mike Woodson has been doing this season.

Arriving in New York, Woodson brought a reputation as a defensive mind, but interestingly enough he’s overseeing the most efficient offense in the league. The Knicks haven’t functioned this well on offense since, well, ever.

Woodson has acknowledged that he learned a lot from his experience alongside Mike D’Antoni, as the two clearly discussed more than just facial hair. But this isn’t a post defending D’Antoni, or about what Woodson learned from him, but rather it’s about what D’Antoni might have learned from Woodson.

When you spend six seasons as a head coach in the NBA, you obviously develop strong ideas of how you like to do things, but that doesn’t mean it’s the only way to do them. Woodson saw some things he liked in D’Antoni’s schemes, incorporated them into what he already did and became a better coach for it. On the flip side, it’s D’Antoni’s rigidity that seems to continue to get him into trouble. When Carmelo Anthony doesn’t fit into your offensive system, it’s your system that may need adjusting. Sure enough, now we’re hearing rumors that Pau Gasol must be jettisoned in LA, another highly skilled player who’s suddenly ill-suited to his new coach.

These days, Woodson isn’t looking for the perfect players to run his perfect plays, he’s looking to maximize the roster he has. His brilliant use of Felton and Kidd is a testament to this approach, utilizing both players play making skills to run an attack that takes care of the ball like it’s a precious heirloom, turning it over precisely never.

So Woodson arrived to change the Knicks’ defensive culture, something he’s largely done, but it’s been his creative, free-wheeling offense that is carrying the day, and helping the Knicks race out in front of the Eastern Conference pack.

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