The New York Knicks treated fans to a Christmas they’d probably rather forget. Short-handed, missing Carmelo Anthony and Raymond Felton, the Knicks fell to the Oklahoma City Thunder, 123-94, falling to 9-19 on the season. There was hardly anything merry to be found in Madison Square Garden as Kevin Durant said after the game, “It felt like no one was there.”
Yes, the somber, often silent MSG has been an upsetting part of this disappointing season, but even worse has been the team unraveling both on and off the court.
Beno Udrih criticized Mike Woodson after the game on his role, finger-pointing, and a lack of cohesiveness in the locker room. Udrih stated that he didn’t forget to play basketball over the summer, so he’s not sure why he’s struggling. He added that it’s not one person’s fault when a team loses, but he feels like he collects too much blame, specifically after he allowed Bradley Beal to score an easy layup in the loss to the Washington Wizards last week. He also added on Woodson, “Don’t just be a coach, be a person.”
Although Udrih hasn’t played all that well, his words hold a lot of weight; there aren’t many arguments for Woodson anymore.
Holding players accountable? Sure, he places blame on guys like Udrih or Iman Shumpert or Pablo Prigioni, but how often does he come down on J.R. Smith or Carmelo Anthony for being shot-happy, or Andrea Bargnani for not hitting the glass, or Raymond Felton for not being good at all this season.
A dynamic offense? After ranking third in offensive efficiency last season, the Knicks are 19th in theat category this year, which is actually an improvement upon their ranking earlier in the season.
A defensive coach? HAHAHA!
Consistency? The Knicks have played five different starting lineups in their last five games. Some of that has to do with injuries, which, of course, aren’t Woodson’s fault, but nonetheless, this team can’t develop any rhythm with a constantly evolving lineup.
The Raymond Felton-Pablo Prigioni back-court, which helped the Knicks to a 15-1 finish to last season, has only played 6 games and 76 minutes total on the season. In fact, Udrih cited the two-point-guard lineups as a reason for wanting to play with the Knicks when he signed with the team over the summer. Those creative, innovative lineups Woodson utilized so frequently last season have rarely been seen.
One of Woodson’s strengths, player management, now seems to be failing, too, as Udrih has made the strongest statements thus far this season. But he’s not the only one. Following that loss to Washington, Carmelo Anthony said, “If [Woodson] says it’s his fault, it’s his fault.” Amar’e Stoudemire has expressive grief over his minutes and the rotations; J.R. Smith got in a shouting match with Woodson after a loss a few weeks ago; Iman Shumpert’s relationship with Woodson is hardly desirable.
It’s a shame to root for someone to lose their job. Woodson, as a person, seems like a good guy, and for most of the season, the players have actively supported him. Nonetheless, this team doesn’t achieve anything by tanking and losing a lot of games — they have no draft pick this season. The Knicks’ best option is to try and win some games and sneak into the playoffs versus a seriously weak Eastern Conference. By winning the Atlantic Division, the Knicks could capture a top-four seed, in which they’d find themselves playing any number of weaker teams in the first round.
Currently, that doesn’t seem achievable. There are hardly any clear benefits for Woodson to remain the head coach. His best qualities have all gone out the window this season, and frankly, it’s time to move on.
Follow Scott Davis on Twitter.