MINNEAPOLIS (CBSNewYork/AP) — The losses, the distractions, the disappointments. They all keep coming for the New York Knicks in a season fast taking on the look of one that can’t end soon enough.
In the face of it all, coach Mike Woodson is steadfast in his belief that he’s the man to lead the Knicks out of the abyss.
“My thought process will never change in terms of me being the coach here,” Woodson said on Wednesday morning before the Knicks faced the Minnesota Timberwolves. “I still think I was the guy for the job. I still think I am the guy for the job and I’m going to continue to work in that area.”
The Knicks lost seven straight games to fall to 21-40 before beating Minnesota on Wednesday, a slide that has buried them in 11th place in the Eastern Conference with 20 games to play. Naturally, Woodson’s job status has become a hot topic while a team that started the season with big expectations unravels right in front of him.
“I don’t think they’re tuning me out,” Woodson said about his players. “They’re still listening. We’re just not getting it done on the basketball floor, and that’s the frustrating part about it.
“Because we’re in games, we’re competing and then all of a sudden we forget how to compete. That’s strange as hell to me from a coaching standpoint. We’ve got to just keep working through it. I’m not going to quit. That’s not my nature. I’m not going to do that.”
The problems have been many for the Knicks, who won 54 games last season and advanced to the Eastern Conference semifinals. They have had injuries to key players, J.R. Smith’s suspension at the beginning of the season and inability to replicate last season’s breakout year and their latest distraction — point guard Raymond Felton’s recent arrest on gun charges.
Felton is 12 for 40 from the field since his arrest, and Woodson said he spoke with his struggling point guard at length on Tuesday to try to help him through his troubles.
“I feel for Raymond because only he knows what’s going on in his heart and mind in terms of how he’s feeling and I don’t wish that on anybody,” Woodson said. “But again, my job as the coach is to shelter and pat him and try to keep him upbeat.
“He says basketball is his only out right now. To me, that says a lot. But again, someone put this situation behind him. It’s not going to go away. Right now, basketball, if that’s his love and his out, he’s got to show that on the basketball floor when he’s out there.”
That seems like a lot to ask, as does even thinking about the playoffs right now. The Knicks are 5½ games behind eighth-place Atlanta (26-33). They do hit a soft spot in the schedule with Utah, Cleveland, Philadelphia, Boston and Milwaukee all coming up.
That’s about the only hope the Knicks were clinging to Wednesday morning.
“I think this year has been an unexpected struggle for us,” forward Amare Stoudemire said. “We had high expectations going into the season. At the same time, it builds character. So you’ve got to stay optimistic and stay focused and positive about things and get things turned around.”
Woodson took part of the blame, saying he has “failed somewhat” to help his players navigate all the negative issues — on and off the court — that have enveloped the team this season. As the season has worn on, and the winning streaks have been few and far between, it appears the weight of expectations has started to stifle the Knicks.
“For us this year, we had high expectations going into the season,” Stoudemire said. “We had championship hopes. We had division champions hopes. So right now we’re struggling to get to the postseason. So we have to make that push.”
Now they’ve gone from a team that expected to contend to a team that is merely trying to survive.
“Right now we’re just in a struggling mode right now and the only people that are going to get us out of it are me and this team, these players,” Woodson said. “They (are) going to have to work their asses off to get it done.”
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