NEW YORK — When you are playing devil’s advocate and you cannot even get through a devil’s advocate question, you know you have struck a nerve.
Especially if the subject of your line of questioning immediately goes on the defensive the way Knicks coach Mike Woodson did Sunday afternoon when I tried to play devil’s advocate in the interview room.‘
This could be a column giving credit to LeBron James – especially on the defensive end – and his teammates on the Miami Heat, who came back from a 16-point deficit to defeat the New York Knicks 99-93 on Sunday, avenging a pair of 20-point defeats earlier this season.
This column is about blame.
Not shame, mind you, just blame.
Because Mike Woodson is the coach of the New York Knicks, and he is entitled to decide who plays and who sits, based on what he feels is best.
And on Sunday, Woody chose to sit Amar’e Stoudemire for the final 7:56, removing a player who should be one of his primary offensive weapons, explaining that he wanted to match up better with the small lineup Miami was using.
Stoudemire had a very nice seat for the rest of the ballgame, watching the Heat outscore the Knicks, 16-11, the rest of the way as New York’s offense consisted of too many turnovers, too many chucks from J.R. Smith (3-of-14 on 3s) and not enough of anything from Carmelo Anthony (24 first-half points, then just four in both the third and fourth quarters against the stifling defense of James).
The one advantage the Knicks have over the Heat is size. In fact, it was accumulating as much size as possible that was the foundation of Glen Grunwald’s rebuilding effort last summer, when he put together a roster with one thought in mind – build a team that can beat the Heat.
But what did Woodson do with that edge?
He benched it, which was a mistake.
“At that particular time I didn’t (re-insert Stoudemire) because they were small, and I went with Tyson against (Chris) Bosh, and they played small around Bosh, so we just tried to keep the matchup,” Woodson explained.
To which I followed up, prefacing the question by asking Woodson to elaborate why Stoudemire wasn’t the right fit. (No, I am not a coach. But I have heard enough coaches explain that you should always try to play to your team’s strength and assert your will rather than coach reactively.)
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In other words, if you’ve got a big guy making $20 million who poses a matchup problem for Miami when playing alongside Chandler, choice No. 1 should be to exploit that advantage.
“I’m not saying he’s not a good fit, I’m just saying that’s the way I decided to go because they were small,” Woodson said.
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