With the Knicks currently sitting at 29-15 (good for half a game out of first place in the Eastern Conference), Coach Mike Woodson has undoubtedly made strides with this team to help prove he's the right man to lead them to something really special.
Woodson's been able to shift the Knicks' ship in the right direction by preaching higher intensity on the defensive end of the floor. Led by Tyson Chandler, New York continues to respond as they rise up as one of the better defensive teams in the league. There's no doubt Woodson's influence has been felt and embraced.
Still, though Woodson may indeed be the right man for the job, there's no denying that traces of old coach Mike D'Antoni's offensive beliefs still remain.
With past D'Antoni disciple Raymond Felton back in town, it certainly would make sense. But that's not exactly all there is to it. The Knicks have so many skilled offensive weapons, each of whom who, without a doubt, enjoy being able to scoring the basketball. It'd be silly to run an isolated offense for the benefit of one or two players, when New York truly has the ability to hit opponents hard in a bevy of different ways.
D'Antoni's offense is one that a team readily rides or dies from. Teams will run that up tempo/run and gun style for better or worse. The Knicks' 96-86 victory over the Bucks on Friday night clearly had a stamp of solid defense on it as the home team outscored Milwaukee 22-13 in the game's final quarter. But it could also be argued that after a rusty start, the Knicks' offense finally clicked more so in the second half as well.
The likes of Carmelo Anthony, J.R. Smith, and Jason Kidd all seemed to struggle from the field early on. As the trio led their team in hoisting up long bombs from deep, it was clear that as long as those same shots weren't falling, the Knicks wouldn't come away with a victory very easily.
That's where D'Antoni's offensive style can hurt a team, obviously. But making the extra pass and acting quickly as they looked to exhaust the opponent seemed to work for the Knicks late in the game. Woodson may refer to such an extra pass as the "hockey assist," but whatever one goes on to call it, it's easy to understand that more ball movement is the key.
The Knicks act quickly in doing so. Speeding things up on offense and finding that open teammate as soon as possible makes it more difficult for the opponent to catch up. Frankly, whether that means passing it around the perimeter, or hitting big men like Chandler or Amar'e Stoudemire hard inside for a pass down low, keeping things moving (rather than taking time to plan a play out in the half-court set, allowing the offense to fall stagnant) has been undoubtedly beneficial in the flow of the offense for New York.
Coach Woodson deserves all the credit in the world for the Knicks' ongoing success this season. He's changed the basketball culture in the Big Apple without question. While it may be unfair to label a coach as an offensive or defensive coordinator, perhaps Woodson is all the better of a coach because he's been able to recognize what works and what doesn't with regard to getting his team to win. In some cases, as it's been said before, maybe D'Antoni's offensive style is part of what is getting them there.