Knicks

Schmeelk: Knicks Coach Mike Woodson Has Lost His Team

After Another Bad Loss, Only Question Now Is When He'll Be Canned
Mike Woodson and J.R. Smith (Photo by David Liam Kyle/NBAE via Getty Images)

Mike Woodson and J.R. Smith (Photo by David Liam Kyle/NBAE via Getty Images)

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By John Schmeelk
» More Columns

When the Giants won the Super Bowl in the 2007  season, one of the slogans donning the back of their T-shirts was “Talk is cheap, play the game.”

The Giants kept their mouths shut. They let their play on the field do all the talking.

That brings us to the New York Knicks.

Despite their struggles this year, the Knicks have sworn up and down that they love and respect head Coach Mike Woodson. They have said they don’t want him fired and that none of the team’s woes should fall on his shoulders. They say he holds them accountable and is putting them in position to win games. The team then proceeded to go out there and show little effort on their way to a record loss to the Celtics at Madison Square Garden, and then Tuesday fell by 15 on the road against the Cavaliers.

This roster is far from perfect. Woodson’s strategy, whether his defensive principles or lineups, have been mind-boggling. Injuries to Tyson Chandler and Ray Felton have taken their toll. Shots haven’t been falling like they did last year.

But above all else, the Knicks have stopped trying. Even with a lack of defensive personnel, they’ve been completely uninterested in putting the effort forward to improve.

Guards aren’t fighting through screens. That’s not skill or ability, that’s effort. Guys are switching lazily instead of staying with their man, which often takes more effort. Defense isn’t important enough to put forth that extra work.  Rather than rotating to open shooters, defenders simply stay planted in their spots and watch. That’s being lazy. Protect the rim? Nah, simply gaze at penetrators. Box out to grab defensive rebounds? Pity the thought! It’s much more fun to watch future ESPN top 10 plays from close up.

Woodson has lost this team and the players haven’t even realized it. The comfort they feel with their current coach is reflective of the effort they are giving on the floor. There needs to be some fear with any coach, whether it’s fear of his wrath or some other more tangible penalty, like losing minutes.

These players like Woodson, but I’m not sure they respect him. If they respected him, they would play harder. They certainly don’t fear him.

Woodson hasn’t done anything to earn this team’s respect either. Known for holding his players accountable, when’s the last time he did anything to punish his players for not playing hard? Does Carmelo Anthony get sat down for arguing with a referee instead of getting back on defense? Does J.R. Smith get benched for doing one of the three zillion bone-headed things he does every game? Nope. Does he ever even mention Amar’e Stoudemire’s lack of defense in postgame pressers? Nope. Instead Woodson goes after easy targets like Iman Shumpert, Tim Hardaway Jr. and even Pablo Prigioni.

Here’s the real comedy: Prigioni and Shumpert are two of the only guys on the team who actually prioritize defense over offense. Woodson always bemoans the team’s poor ‘D’ but then he never benches the guys who don’t guard anyone. He lets his favorites get away with whatever they want. That’s the easiest way to lose a team’s respect.

He’s done. It’s over.

Woodson is a dead man walking. He might be gone before the Bulls game tonight. Maybe it’ll come after the game, another blowout loss at home. He has lost this team, and it has translated to a lost season for the Knicks. Luckily for them, the Atlantic Division is so bad that they still have a shot.

But the only way to take advantage of it? Get a new head coach.

Woodson is leading them in one direction: nowhere.

You can follow John on Twitter @Schmeelk for everything on the Knicks, Giants and New York sports.

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