Unable to find any other way to stop all the bleeding, Coach Mike D'Antoni resigned from his post with the New York Knicks, ending a three and a half year tenure that has certainly featured its ups and downs.
Much more to come on Knicks Journal's reaction to the move in tomorrow's posts, but for now, let's focus in on how the Mike Woodson era began.
Woodson, the Knicks' new interim head coach, is the man that the team hopes can effectively reel in the cattle in time to make a playoff run. Of course, the former 1980 Knicks draft pick was highly coveted in the beginning of the season to transform the team's defense. Whether or not he can truly solely take credit for the improvements to date, the time is now for him to show if he can lead this talented bunch back into the playoffs.
In Woodson's first game at the helm in the Big Apple, the Knicks let loose and exploded onto the court. With many players taking the hardwood with a chip on their shoulder Wednesday, the team certainly felt they had something to prove.
Because D'Antoni's resignation came only hours before game time, much of what the Knicks did on offense against the Blazers was reminiscent to that of the offense carried out by the former coach. The Knicks shot 50% from down town, connecting on 19 three point field goals. J.R. Smith led the way with 25 points, sinking seven long balls, and Steve Novak added 20 points, connecting on six bombs of his own.
The Knicks took command of the game early, taking advantage of the Blazers' woes. The bench stampeded for a total of 72 points, playing that high-octane, run and gun offense Knicks fans have come to know over much of the last four seasons. That said, the reason the bench was ultimately able to come into the game for so long and capitalize is due to the starting lineup securing a lead.
The first unit's success was propelled by the Knicks' two resident stars, and this is where things only begin to differ between D'Antoni and Woodson. A few isolation plays were indeed run for Carmelo Anthony, as he shot well, on his way to 16 points in just 24 minutes. What's more, along with getting his necessary touches, Anthony helped distribute the ball, dishing out 7 assists. Such fluidity and ball distribution led to Amar'e Stoudemire efficiently pouring in 17 points in limited time as well. As evidenced in tonight's matchup, perhaps allowing Anthony to (even if selfishly) get his touches early will motivate him to spread the floor and move the ball around too.
The Knicks played together Wednesday night, and that's the most important thing. There needs to chemistry and camaraderie amongst the players. Those levels will rise through the roof with a coach who motivates them enough to win. Fluidity on offense, ball distribution, spacing, etc. will all follow and come easy, at that, if the Knicks are in the right state of mind. That said, maybe it took removing a coach the players really liked but ultimately couldn't perform for, to make them realize that.
Whether or not Woodson is the right man to do this in the long run remains to be proven. One thing is for certain, however. Things will be changing with a new voice preaching loudest in the locker room. As evidenced tonight, offensive schemes have the potential to differ as well, with more isolation plays to elevate the likes of Anthony and Smith probable in the future. Having both performed well Tuesday, the former Nuggets teammates put on display a bit of what made them so successful together in Denver.
Baron Davis dished out 10 assists, and Iman Shumpert also added 16 points in the 121-79 victory. The Knicks will look to explore the Woodson era even further Friday as they open up back to back games against the Pacers.