Many NBA observers had great expectations for the New York Knicks when they signed Free Agent center Tyson Chandler to a long-term contract just before the NBA campaign began; however 42 games into the regular season and in danger of being knocked from the Playoff chase in the Eastern Conference, the Knicks were a team in a free-fall coming off a five game losing-skid and in danger of being knocked from the Playoff chase in the Eastern Conference, when former head coach Mike D’Antoni resigned his position.
His former assistant, Mike Woodson apparently was the new voice that the squad desperately needed, as he won his first four games as the bench boss and helped guide New York to a final record of 36-30 and capturing the seventh seed in the Post Season. Although the team lost their first-round match-up to the Miami Heat in five games; Woodson impressed the Knicks brain-trust enough with what he accomplished this past season that he had the interim label removed from his title on Friday. The “New York Post” has reported that the team signed the coach to a multi-year deal, although the terms of the pact were not revealed it is believed to be for three-years.
Knicks Team Owner James Dolan released a statement announcing the hiring. Dolan wrote “Mike took over the team under challenging circumstances and made it clear, starting on day one, that he was going to hold every player on our roster accountable. We saw a significant improvement since Mike took over and believe our team will only keep improving under Mike’s direction.”
New York was a team in turmoil under D’Antoni, as the coach wanted to run a point guard oriented offense; which was at odds with how All-Star forward Carmelo Anthony wanted the club to play. Anthony had always been the focal point of the offense during his days playing for the Denver Nuggets and felt restricted playing under the system that D’Antoni had imposed. The relationship deteriorated even further as point guard Jeremy Lin came out of obscurity to lead the team to success while Anthony was injured, ending the month of February back even with a record of 18-18.
The chemistry that had developed on the court while Anthony was sidelined soon evaporated and rumors of firings and trades flooded the New York tabloids, until D’Antoni resigned. Woodson was able to get all his players back on the same page ending the campaign with an 18-6 mark after taking over the squad,
The Knicks have a lot of questions heading into the off-season; especially at the point guard slot with Lin becoming a restricted Free Agent on July 1. He became a well-known name during his rapid rise this past season, but he is still an unproven commodity as he has yet to show he can perform at the level he did this year consistently. The history of the Association is filled with guys who looked unstoppable at first glance; but would prove to be quite ordinary once teams adjusted. Whether the team chooses to re-sign Lin or not, they desperately need to upgrade in their back-court.
Woodson was able to help the Atlanta Hawks finally escape being banished to the NBA basement in 2008 and they have made the Playoffs every year since. He showed that he was capable of running the Knicks during the stretch-drive and he deserves the chance to do it on a long-term basis.