Mike Woodson and several assistant coaches on his staff fear they will be fired by the All-Star break, multiple league sources tell SheridanHoops.com.
Herb Williams is the leading candidate to replace Woodson on an interim basis for the remainder of the season as The Bergen Record first reported.
Sources say the All-Star break would be the ideal time for the Knicks to make a midseason change, if they elect to do so. The move would allow a new assistant coaching staff and Williams to become acclimated with each other while the team is off from Feb. 13-18.
On Friday, the Knicks crushed the Nuggets 117-90. On Sunday, the Knicks took a step back and fell to the Thunder 112-100.
New York returns home Wednesday to face Sacramento in the team’s final game before the All-Star break. Knicks management will then determine whether a new voice is needed to lead the team going forward after an underwhelming first half of the season.
On Sunday, the Detroit Pistons became the first team to fire a coach this season — Maurice Cheeks — which surprised one Eastern Conference scout.
“I was shocked Woodson wasn’t the first coach to go,” the scout said.
“This year has been, for me, it’s been kind of a disaster from a coaching standpoint in trying to get players to compete and play at a high level,” Woodson said Thursday during an ESPN New York radio interview. “That’s the frustrating part about it, because I know we’re better than what we’ve shown and we’ve still got a chance.”
That, in a nutshell, is the main reason why Woodson is in jeopardy of losing his job.
Woodson also acknowledged the reports of his demise circulating through the media.
“It’s been out there, it’s buzzing,” Woodson said during the interview.
After winning the Atlantic Division and earning the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference a season ago, the Knicks have already lost more games than they did last season.
New York is third in the Atlantic Division, 10th overall in the Eastern Conference standings and two games out of a possible playoff spot.
“At the end of the day, I’m the head coach of this team and somehow I’ve got to continue to push this team and get them to believe that we can make the playoffs,” Woodson said before Friday’s battle with the Nuggets. “That’s what we’re in it for. We were in it to win our division and that’s somewhat slipping away from us right now, but we’ve still got to push to get into the playoffs.”
A far cry from last season’s 54-win output, it’s concerning to hear Woodson say he has to get the Knicks to “believe” they can make the playoffs in a horrendous Eastern Conference.
Consider this, only the Heat and Pacers would qualify for the playoffs in the Western Conference.
The continuing struggles have left Carmelo Anthony dumbfounded, an alarming sign for a team hoping to sign him to a long-term contract this summer.
After a demoralizing loss to the Celtics four days later, Anthony called the loss a “good old fashioned ass-whipping.”
“What Boston came here and did, it’s an embarrassment to lose like that on our home court,” Anthony elaborated. “I think everyone should be pissed off.”
“I didn’t think we would be in this situation,” Anthony said after a 23-point loss at home to Brooklyn on Martin Luther King Day. “Honestly, I don’t really know how to deal with situations like this. I’m learning; this is a first time for me.”
Anthony and his teammates have also used the word “embarrassing” to describe their play often throughout the season.
Embarrassing was the perfect description for New York’s loss to Milwaukee on Feb. 3rd.
The Bucks remain the only NBA team without 10 or more wins.
Simply put, playoff – much less championship-caliber – teams don’t lose games like that.
After New York’s most recent home loss to the Portland Trail Blazers on Wednesday, owner James Dolan had a meeting with Anthony and possibly another player, according to the New York Daily News.
“At this point I don’t really know what’s going to happen, if something’s going to happen,” Anthony said after the game. “To be honest with you, I don’t know what rumors is out there. When I tell you I don’t read or look at that stuff honestly I don’t. If something was to happen then it’s out of my hands.”
Anthony’s postgame remarks occurred before his meeting with Dolan, according to the Daily News.
While speaking with reporters after Friday’s win over the Nuggets, Anthony downplayed his meeting with Dolan.
“I met with him, it wasn’t nothing serious,” Anthony said. “It was just generic conversation, just talking. I had tea. We had tea. That’s it. We didn’t really get into details about anything. It was just a conversation that we had.”
Regardless of whether Anthony wants any moves to be “out of his hands,” he’s the franchise player and will be consulted as such.
While only Anthony and Dolan truly know what was discussed during their meeting, Anthony did say the team needs to do more for Woodson on Friday.
“Yeah, we’ve got to help him,” Anthony said. “At the end of the day, he’s the coach. He has his focus, he has his game plan, his schemes and we’re the ones that have got to go out there and execute that. We can’t fight that. We’ve got to do it.
“Sometimes, our inconsistency comes from not playing hard, not bringing the energy, not doing the little things on the basketball court to win,” Anthony added. “Some nights we do. Some nights we don’t. But we’ve got to help him with that.”
Following the loss, Woodson was visibly upset and appeared to have reached a breaking point knowing his job is on the line while cursing at referee Danny Crawford.
While a case can be made that injuries and declining production from Raymond Felton, Iman Shumpert, J.R. Smith and Tyson Chandler are to blame for New York’s record, Woodson is also liable for this predicament.
One of Woodson’s questionable trademarks this season was his willingness to stubbornly stick with a lineup of Tyson Chandler, Andrea Bargnani and Anthony before Bargnani was sidelined indefinitely.
Woodson’s logic of calling this a “big” lineup has always been flawed due to Bargnani’s inability to play like a traditional bruising power forward.
Bargnani is a European stretch forward that looks like a fish out of water in pick-and-roll coverage and is one of the worst rebounding 7-footers in the history of basketball.
Equally as important, Anthony was moved out of the power forward position, where he finished third in the MVP voting.
This season, Anthony has carried the scoring burden as much as ever. Anthony averages a league-leading 38.6 minutes per game and has developed an alarming pattern where his field goal percentage decreases each following quarter of play.
On the other hand, it’s Woodson’s job to get his other four starters involved more on offense and rely less on isolation basketball with Anthony – especially down the stretch when teams know that’s the go-to play.
Anthony is a gifted one-on-one isolation player, but that doesn’t mean a down screen or pick-and-pop play can’t be called by Woodson to shake up the monotonous offense.
In fact, in the two losses to Portland and Milwaukee, Anthony has scored more points by himself than the other four starters combined.
Woodson also didn’t put Bargnani and Chandler in position to succeed on defense either by routinely switching on pick-and-rolls.
Opposing guards carved the Knicks up like a Thanksgiving turkey when Bargnani ended up at the top of the key on a switch.
He appeared to be stuck in quicksand against opposing point guards on the perimeter.
Chandler has been left out of his element away from the basket at times while a guard has patrolled the paint on switches.
As a result, the former Defensive Player of the Year, has publicly questioned Woodson’s insistence for constantly switching as opposed to traditional man-to-man defense.
With all this in mind, is Woodson the main culprit for New York’s nosedive this season?
However, Woodson is the fall guy for New York’s failure since he’s the most expendable piece of the current puzzle and no team would touch most of this underwhelming roster in a trade proposal.
Firing Woodson is the only current hope the organization has of lighting a spark under the team and making the playoffs.
If the Knicks fail to make the playoffs this season in the putrid Eastern Conference, with or without Woodson at the helm in the second half of the season, it will go down as one of the most disappointing seasons in team history.