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Thursday, October 23, 2014

NYT: Under Woodson, Genuine Signs of Improvement

My latest endeavor at the New York Times delves into whether or not the Knicks are just on a lucky skid or have actually improved. (Hint: it’s not a lucky skid.)

Just as important is how handily the Knicks have won those games. During Linsanity, New York won three games by 10 points or more, and none by more than 15. Under “Woodsanity,” the team has had seven double-digit victories and four of them were by more than 15 points. During this romp, New York has averaged an impressive margin of victory of 18.3 points, 10 points more than their previous streak.

Numerous studies show that teams are better defined by dominating inferior opponents than by winning close games, which means point differential is a better indication of a team’s strength than actual wins. In layman’s terms, during close games any team can end up victorious with a lucky shot or a fortunate whistle.

But it’s unlikely that a team could wander into a blowout by chance. The Knicks’ expected win percentage, a formula that estimates how many games a team would win based on its points for and against, with Woodson at the helm is 89.6 percent. (If New York played at that level for the entire season, its record would be 46-5 instead of 26-25.)

Go read the whole thing.

77 comments on “NYT: Under Woodson, Genuine Signs of Improvement

  1. danvt

    Great stuff Mike K. Nice to see NYT going to the real expert for analysis. I was ready to write NYK off after Coach D left. Mostly, I just couldn’t defend Melo anymore. However, he’s really put it together and, while he might never be the Lebron-esque player I fantasized about, he seems to be playing with heart and courage and NY can rally around those attributes. He’s playing like Eli Manning right now. Not necessarily the best player in the league but if he keeps his mind right and make the right play consistently NYK can have success.

    It’s fun to see the way the team has come together in the face of adversity this year. I could almost tell they’d play well without Stat. Not that they’re better without him in the long run but you could see a difference in Shumpert in particular. You could see him taking more responsibility. The way he stepped into his shot. Not forcing early in the clock but picking his spots and taking it with confidence.

    One more thought. Though our strength of schedule is difficult we might be able to take advantage of some teams late season ennui. Obviously, Miami has lost their edge a little. Their position is cemented and they’re just waiting for the playoffs. Maybe we get that game. Maybe one of the two against Chicago.

  2. xcat01

    Great article Mike, the Knicks are playing a more sustainable type of game now under Woodson then the hope we shoot 40% from 3pt line game under Coach Pringles.

  3. Brian Cronin

    Great article Mike, the Knicks are playing a more sustainable type of game now under Woodson then the hope we shoot 40% from 3pt line game under Coach Pringles.

    The Knicks shot over 40% in one game in the 8-1 Linsanity streak. The final game against Dallas, where they shot 41%.

  4. daJudge

    Loved it Mike. Great stuff and congrats. I know there is a tangible difference with the coaching change, but there are also less measurable differences. The Knicks are defining themselves with tenacious D. Too often, I felt the team was an amorphous wreck. They were a collection, not a unit. No real game plan and as such when they weren’t hitting, they didn’t do so hot. The thing with the defensive identity and game plan is that you smash-mouth the other team and can bring it even when the J isn’t falling. I think this is at least in part due to the coach, his philosophy, personality and his role as the players perceive him.

  5. JLam

    Yes good article Mike
    I have essentially split the season into three distinct Knicks phases First was the preLin D’Antoni era (you score 107, we score 108 ) team which was basically a lottery team. Then along came along Linsanity and it’s peak and trough The Linsanity team was a .500 team with playoff aspirations Then the Knicks reinvented themselves in the Woodson era A much better team than the previous two editions This current team is definitely a playoff team I have no doubt. Let’s see how deep in the playoffs we can get to.

  6. villainx

    Brian Cronin: The Knicks shot over 40% in one game in the 8-1 Linsanity streak. The final game against Dallas, where they shot 41%.

    I don’t understand why folks have to use facts and/or statistics in stating and discussing any arguments.

  7. JK47

    Woodson seems to have a common-sense approach to coaching, while D’Antoni was a dogmatic stick-to-the-system-at-all-costs type of coach. I don’t think Woodson is by any means a GREAT coach, but it seems the players are much more comfortable under him and have much better focus. D’Antoni was determined to run SSOL even if the team had lousy jump shooters and Toney Douglas and Mike Bibby as the PG platoon. He took a great scoring wing and tried to make him a “point forward” rather than just giving up the SSOL ghost and giving the guy the damn ball on the block like common sense dictates.

    D’Antoni was not much of a problem solver.

  8. daJudge

    I think race plays a factor with respect to the players ‘taking to’ Coach Woodson. While the NBA has done OK in hiring coaches, the record is hardly exemplary, particularly compared to the league make up. The lack of black coaches is IMO a direct result of negative stereotypes. Some of the players might be pulling extra hard for Mike Woodson to succeed, based on their own experiences and simple pride.

  9. ephus

    Very strong article. The difference between Linsanity and the current streak, in my opinion, is that Linsanity depended upon the heroics of Jeremy Lin, while this run seems to be the product of everyone performing within the system.

    During Linsanity, a big part of the offense was Jeremy Lin hitting improbable shots — super high-arching floaters in the lane, crunch-time three pointers and twisting drives to the hoop. Parts of Lin’s game seemed built to last — such as his drive and kicks to Novak and his P&R with Chandler — but others were dependent upon Jeremy Lin being an offensive talent at Steve Nash’s level. When teams started to double Lin on the P&R while rotating a third man to cutoff Chandler’s dive to the basket, the offense broke down.

    The great thing about the current run is that no one seems to be doing anything extraordinary — except perhaps Novak’s shooting touch. Chandler has been a beast, but in the defense/rebounding/dunk manner that is well within his skillset. Before Amar’e’s back went out, he was showing signs of regaining the offensive skills he had displayed for eight years. JR Smith has been exactly the streaky scorer that was expected, albeit with better defense. Last night’s performance by Shumpert was a revelation, but largely he has been producing on the defensive end. Over the past two games, ‘Melo has refound his scoring touch, but as Ruruland has been fond of telling us, this is exactly the sort of offense that he regularly provided in Denver.

    The biggest problem that I foresee for this Knick’s lineup is lack of size. I do not see how they could match up with the Lakers or Dallas. Fortunately, that problem could only come to bear deep into the playoffs.

  10. Jafa

    villainx: I don’t understand why folks have to use facts and/or statistics in stating and discussing any arguments.

    It is the nature of this blog to be data focused. You either state an opinion and use statistics to back you up or you highlight a data point and formulate your opinion from there. Either way, it helps limit the level of outrageous statements made on the blog.

  11. daJudge

    I agree with your points ephus. As far as the lack of size goes, perhaps a little more Jordan could help. Also, I think Jorts will be playing better and accordingly bigger. JJ will return soon. I believe Coach Woodson is more likely to develop the bigs. And your right, if we’re that deep into the playoffs, we’re cool.

  12. jon abbey

    Jafa: It is the nature of this blog to be data focused.You either state an opinion and use statistics to back you up or you highlight a data point and formulateyour opinion from there.Either way, it helps limit the level of outrageous statements made on the blog.

    I thought he was joking? not sure.

  13. danvt

    ephus: The biggest problem that I foresee for this Knick’s lineup is lack of size. I do not see how they could match up with the Lakers or Dallas. Fortunately, that problem could only come to bear deep into the playoffs.

    This comment is so last year. Like the people who say we’re challenged defensively still.

  14. danvt

    I’m not saying we’re as good as those teams. Just that it doesn’t have anything to do with size.

  15. Tony Pena

    daJudge:
    I think race plays a factor with respect to the players ‘taking to’ Coach Woodson.While the NBA has done OK in hiring coaches, the record is hardly exemplary, particularly compared to the league make up.The lack of black coaches is IMO a direct result of negative stereotypes.Some of the players might be pulling extra hard for Mike Woodson to succeed, based on their own experiences and simple pride.

    Idk man. People have described D’Antoni as a “big-picture” coach. I think that was the problem. A recently put together team of relatively young players needed more of a level-headed, teacher approach. Doug Collins, Tom Thibodeau, Rick Adelman, Scott Brooks would’ve sufficed.

  16. JC Knickfan

    ephus:
    Very strong article.The difference between Linsanity and the current streak, in my opinion, is that Linsanity depended upon the heroics of Jeremy Lin, while this run seems to be the product of everyone performing within the system.

    During Linsanity, a big part of the offense was Jeremy Lin hitting improbable shots — super high-arching floaters in the lane, crunch-time three pointers and twisting drives to the hoop.Parts of Lin’s game seemed built to last — such as his drive and kicks to Novak and his P&R with Chandler — but others were dependent upon Jeremy Lin being an offensive talent at Steve Nash’s level.When teams started to double Lin on the P&R while rotating a third man to cutoff Chandler’s dive to the basket, the offense broke down.

    The great thing about the current run is that no one seems to be doing anything extraordinary — except perhaps Novak’s shooting touch.Chandler has been a beast, but in the defense/rebounding/dunk manner that is well within his skillset.Before Amar’e’s back went out, he was showing signs of regaining the offensive skills he had displayed for eight years.JR Smith has been exactly the streaky scorer that was expected, albeit with better defense.Last night’s performance by Shumpert was a revelation, but largely he has been producing on the defensive end.Over the past two games, ‘Melo has refound his scoring touch, but as Ruruland has been fond of telling us, this is exactly the sort of offense that he regularly provided in Denver.

    8-1 Linsanity Streak and 8-1 Woodsonity streak both had very good defense in common. Reminder Lin actually 1-13 in 2nd half of Minnesota game plus Love went 32 pt 21 reb. But we kept them 11 pt in 4th QT and next game we kept raptors 12 pt in 4th QT. Lin would never had chance hit winner without outstanding defense.

    Defense kept you in the game.

  17. cgreene

    Tyson is my favorite Knick since Oak. Good things are happening. I was at both games this week. The vibe at MSG is great.

  18. ephus

    I agree that the defensive intensity was common between the Linsanity streak and the current Woodson streak. But on the offensive end, the performance appears more repeatable.

  19. daJudge

    Tony P, thank you for responding and I appreciate it. I know people are uncomfortable with talking about race. I’m not at all suggesting that it’s all about race, but I believe it is a factor. Perhaps small. Also, please, I am not saying a white/asian/Latina/ or other coach could not be successful with this team. That would be stupid IMO. I am just trying to raise an issue/factor/idea that has not really been mentioned by the mainstream or blogs and I’m not sure why. As an aside, I do believe that playing tough D is, in part, pride driven. What factor accounts for that recent trend?

  20. JK47

    The Knicks have been playing pretty tough D all year long. They’ve been a top 10 defensive team for pretty much the whole season. But it’s true, they have kicked into another gear since Woodson took over.

  21. Tony Pena

    daJudge:
    Tony P, thank you for responding and I appreciate it. I know people are uncomfortable with talking about race.I’m not at all suggesting that it’s all about race, but I believe it is a factor.Perhaps small. Also, please, I am not saying a white/asian/Latina/ or other coach could not be successful with this team.That would be stupid IMO. I am just trying to raise an issue/factor/idea that has not really been mentioned by the mainstream or blogs and I’m not sure why. As an aside, I do believe that playing tough D is, in part, pride driven.What factor accounts for that recent trend?

    Didn’t mean to say that you implied that no other coach can be successful with this team. On some level, I’m sure some players relate to Woodson in the sense of coming from the same background and having a similar outlook on life. I’m just still a little bitter on MDA’s stubborness, that I think in his mind he thought this team was not good enough for him to bend a little and put 150% to make it work. And I’m also, I think jon abbey has mentioned this before, surprised nobody has made an in-depth analysis of Mike D’s tenure here.

  22. cgreene

    I was listening to Bill Simmons’ podcast with Steve Nash today and Bill asked Nash about MDA specifically wondering if he thought MDA’s style could win a title and why it worked so well in Phoenix. He did not ask Nash to comment on MDA’s resignation or anything to do with the NY situation. But Nash’s answer was interesting and something that confirms some people’s opinions about MDA’s system dogma being too rigid at the cost of wins. Nash said that he thought that yes the system could win a title and that he thought the Phoenix teams were title caliber. No surprise there. But he said that the reason the system worked there was specifically because they had the right personnel for the system and that it wouldn’t fit every team. So there you have it from the person who would know best. It’s not just about a system. It’s about a system and the players that fit it. MDA should have recognized right away that Toney Douglas couldn’t run it and that in order to maximize Melo he should play to his strengths. Thought that would be worth sharing.

  23. ruruland

    cgreene:
    I was listening to Bill Simmons’ podcast with Steve Nash today and Bill asked Nash about MDA specifically wondering if he thought MDA’s style could win a title and why it worked so well in Phoenix.He did not ask Nash to comment on MDA’s resignation or anything to do with the NY situation.But Nash’s answer was interesting and something that confirms some people’s opinions about MDA’s system dogma being too rigid at the cost of wins.Nash said that he thought that yes the system could win a title and that he thought the Phoenix teams were title caliber.No surprise there.But he said that the reason the system worked there was specifically because they had the right personnel for the system and that it wouldn’t fit every team.So there you have it from the person who would know best.It’s not just about a system.It’s about a system and the players that fit it.MDA should have recognized right away that Toney Douglas couldn’t run it and that in order to maximize Melo he should play to his strengths.Thought that would be worth sharing.

    The Nash/MDA relationship is far from what most perceive it to be.

  24. ruruland

    Tony Pena: Didn’t mean to say that you implied that no other coach can be successful with this team. On some level, I’m sure some players relate to Woodson in the sense of coming from the same backgroundand having a similar outlook on life. I’m just still a little bitter on MDA’s stubborness, that I think in his mind he thought this team was not good enough for him to bend a little and put 150% to make it work. And I’m also, I think jon abbey has mentioned this before, surprised nobody has made an in-depth analysis of Mike D’s tenure here.

    its no secret that many coaches of certain backgrounds struggle to connect with most players, because most players have a certain disparate background. George Karl has talked openly about it.

  25. cgreene

    ruruland: The Nash/MDA relationship is far from what most perceive it to be.

    Well he didn’t take any shots at MDA or imply anything other than that the system required the right players. He didn’t say anything about their relationship. Why do you say that?

  26. Z-man

    daJudge: Tony P, thank you for responding and I appreciate it. I know people are uncomfortable with talking about race. I’m not at all suggesting that it’s all about race, but I believe it is a factor. Perhaps small. Also, please, I am not saying a white/asian/Latina/ or other coach could not be successful with this team. That would be stupid IMO. I am just trying to raise an issue/factor/idea that has not really been mentioned by the mainstream or blogs and I’m not sure why. As an aside, I do believe that playing tough D is, in part, pride driven. What factor accounts for that recent trend?

    Funny, Judge, I was just suggesting something akin to this to a fellow KBer, but my take is that Woodson has more of a “father figure” personality that players like JR and Melo can relate to when he comes down on them. Probably 50% race and 50% Woodson just being a father-figure type of guy relative to D’Antoni. On the other hand, Isiah or Mark Jackson probably wouldn’t have done much with this group; and Woodson apparently had trouble with Josh Smith in Atlanta; so some of it is just the right guy at the right time and transcends race. Might be that Woodson would have had trouble with Melo and JR 5 years ago in Denver, but that all have matured (including Woodson) so that the relationship works now. Maybe D’Antoni’s imprint on the team made Woodson’s job as an offensive coach easier. Bottom line is that D’Antoni was not the right coach for this team; Woodson may not be the guy in the long run either, but he certainly deserves to stick around until proven otherwise. You could argue the race issue either way.

  27. ephus

    cgreene: MDA should have recognized right away that Toney Douglas couldn’t run it and that in order to maximize Melo he should play to his strengths.

    I chalk this up to the lockout. The Knicks did not have a pre-season to determine whether TD was up to running the point for MDA’s speedball attack. Then there was the problem that once MDA recognized that TD could not run the system, he gave Bibby a chance before moving on to the ill-fated ‘Melo as point forward experiment.

  28. hoolahoop

    - The knicks are playing harder on both ends of the court.
    – They move the ball better and take less stupid shots.
    – More guys are contributing. Starters are not playing an exhausting amount of minutes.
    – They are winning games that are close in the fourth quarter.
    – Much better clock management.
    – The knicks are overachieving now, instead of underachieving as they were before.

    Can the coach have anything to do with it?

  29. cgreene

    ephus: I chalk this up to the lockout.The Knicks did not have a pre-season to determine whether TD was up to running the point for MDA’s speedball attack.Then there was the problem that once MDA recognized that TD could not run the system, he gave Bibby a chance before moving on to the ill-fated ‘Melo as point forward experiment.

    He tried TD, Bibby, Shumpert and Melo. And he lost a lot of games in the process. Then Lin fell into his lap and after the Linsanity business even he couldn’t really run it well. All the while Melo is playing terrible and the system is making it worse because he doesn’t get the ball where he is comfortable. See the thing about the MDA system is that unless it is being run with supreme efficiency it is a detriment. The speed allows other teams to get easy baskets. It causes guards that aren’t capable to play at a speed and make decisions that they don’t have the aptitude for leading to turnovers and other types of discombobulation. Last year Felton had the ball skills and speed to do it. Billups didn’t run it.

  30. daJudge

    Tony P., let me clarify because this issue is really important to me. I did not care for coach D’Antoni for many reasons, including the stubbornness and dogmatic issues you noted. My posts have reflected this on numerous occasions. I had many other issues with him including, but not limited to, my own bias against ABA/west coast style hoop. I do not want anyone to think that I am saying that Coach Woodson is succeeding because of the color of his skin. It’s really the opposite IMO. The thing is that I started wondering about the factors that contributed to his ability to motivate and communicate and this was a variable that I thought was relevant. I still do. The last thing I want to advance is some crazy theory that his success is not merit based. Nevertheless, I think the issue has not been properly vetted and frankly avoided. If it’s avoided, nothing advances.

  31. daJudge

    Sorry for double post. Z-Man, I also focused on the father figure issue, which is intertwined. I know personal vignettes are frowned upon on this site, but I also know how important and motivating father figures are in a coaching milieu. So we can abstract numbers and trends which are very important, but so is this gestalt, which is hard to quantify, but maybe we are observing it right now during this run.

  32. jon abbey

    well, my two cents:

    I’ve considered the race thing before this conversation, but I don’t actually think that has almost anything to do with what’s going on. D’Antoni, whether he was white, black or purple, had clearly checked out a while back, whereas Woodson is battling his ass off to try to maximize the potential of this team and to keep his job. that’s what I think the players are responding to, coupled with the fact that once D’Antoni was gone, there were no more possible excuses about the coach/system. put up or shut up, thus far they’ve been putting up.

  33. hoolahoop

    I agree that people avoid discussing race in a lot of situations, and there’s a great deal of political correctness infused in the discussions that are, in fact, taking place.
    On the other hand, people try to make race an issue where it doesn’t exist. That’s what I think you are doing.
    I think race has no role whatsoever as it regards to the knicks coaching situation, and more specifically to Dantoni and Woodson. Zero. Nada.

  34. daJudge

    OK, I’ll leave the issue. No problem. But hoolahoop, I’m not trying to “make” it an issue. You don’t think it exists, that’s cool. “Nada Zero”. Not worth the discussion. Go Knicks.

  35. Brian Cronin

    Yeah, remember when Lawrence Frank took over the Nets from Byron Scott? The Nets had checked out on Scott and he was checked out on the team and then Frank won 13 in a row. No one talked about race then, right? This happens a lot. Teams can’t dump the players, so they make a change elsewhere and it often inspires the team to play better.

    Discussing race is fair, of course. I think it applies a lot. Especially in the NBA. I just don’t think it is an issue here. Similar coaching changes happen all the time with similar results.

  36. The Infamous Cdiggy

    hoolahoop:
    I agree that people avoid discussing race in a lot of situations, and there’s a great deal of political correctness infused in the discussions that are, in fact, taking place.
    On the other hand, people try to make race an issue where it doesn’t exist. That’s what I think you are doing.
    I think race has no role whatsoever as it regards to the knicks coaching situation, and more specifically to Dantoni and Woodson. Zero. Nada.

    Brian Cronin:
    Yeah, remember when Lawrence Frank took over the Nets from Byron Scott? The Nets had checked out on Scott and he was checked out on the team and then Frank won 13 in a row. No one talked about race then, right? This happens a lot. Teams can’t dump the players, so they make a change elsewhere and it often inspires the team to play better.

    Discussing race is fair, of course. I think it applies a lot. Especially in the NBA. I just don’t think it is an issue here. Similar coaching changes happen all the time with similar results.

    I don’t think daJudge was trying to make race an issue. He was rather questioning if these collection of players are responding better to Woodson because he has a ethnic and social background that they may be relating to better. Discussion of race in the NBA is absolutely fair – but I agree with Brian 100%. I don’t think it’s an issue in this situation.

    Besides, since 2000, eight of the 12 NBA Championship teams were coached by either Phil Jackson or Greg Popavich – white coaches – ya dig?

  37. BigBlueAL

    This whole thing with Melo and D’Antoni still doesnt make much sense to me.

    Last season Melo played great after the trade and the offense was the best in the league in that time frame. Melo talked about how much better he liked D’Antoni’s offense because it was alot easier on his body since he didnt have to play “bully ball” and take a beating on his body. He sure seemed thrilled to be able to shoot 3pters whenever he wanted (he shot it amazingly well too) and he carried the offense down the stretch in close games making a bunch of big shots to help win games.

    So to start this season he is given even more responsibility in the offense and he sure never complained about it. Then he gets hurt, Linsanity happens and Melo talks about how much he couldnt wait to get back and not have to handle the ball as much. That is exactly what happens when he comes back but he struggles. Down the stretch in the Boston game he gets the ball all the time and wouldve been the hero if it wasnt for Pierce. Nobody is complaining at the time. They then lose 5 in a row and all of a sudden Melo hates D’Antoni and starts dogging it.

    I dunno man, something happened in a very short time frame that apparently did some serious damage in their relationship since it made D’Antoni quit. Of course I still say the schedule didnt help either lol

  38. art vandelay

    jon abbey:
    well, my two cents:

    I’ve considered the race thing before this conversation, but I don’t actually think that has almost anything to do with what’s going on. D’Antoni, whether he was white, black or purple, had clearly checked out a while back, whereas Woodson is battling his ass off to try to maximize the potential of this team and to keep his job. that’s what I think the players are responding to, coupled with the fact that once D’Antoni was gone, there were no more possible excuses about the coach/system. put up or shut up, thus far they’ve been putting up.

    +1
    D’antoni’s lame-duck status as coach I believe primarily lent itself to the players not respecting him fully as an authoritative figure since not even management was willing to endorse him. I think they knew the coach would be the first one put before the firing squad and once he wet, they would be square in the media and fan base’s cross-hairs…so basically like Jon said they then had to respond to the pressure or be vilified for it like MDA and his system were for abjectly failing. Woodson is an interim coach so he wouldn’t face the brunt of the blame for not turning things around..the onus was squarely on the players once MDA took off, and I think this primarily explains why they have upped their effort level, moreso than them taking a liking to a new coach or seeing him as a father figure per se.

  39. Brian Cronin

    Yep. It has happened many times in the past (heck, 1999 was a similar thing, as well. So was 1995-96 with Don Nelson). Some times the players respond, some times they don’t (Herb Williams, anyone?). Thankfully, this is one of those times when the players have responded. Which is awesome.

    By the way, it is not crazy at all to suggest that some of these players might respond better to a black coach. I don’t think that is the case here, but it is not weird to suggest it.

  40. jon abbey

    Brian Cronin:

    By the way, it is not crazy at all to suggest that some of these players might respond better to a black coach. I don’t think that is the case here, but it is not weird to suggest it.

    not at all, it might even be a small factor here, but I don’t think it’s one of the major ones.

    another is Houston and Walker giving Shumpert direct coaching, which has obviously paid off in the last few games as documented in those ESPN quotes, and also I think Chandler and Baron are like having two more assistant coaches on staff. city of Compton, represent.

  41. hoolahoop

    Of course there are exceptions, but for the most part, sports transcend race. When you play on a team, especially a physical sport (football, basketball) traveling team, a camaraderie develops like no other. Your coach and teammates are your brothers in arms that you go to war with. Race becomes transparent. You fight for each other. Sure, personality conflicts occur, but in my experience, race is usually not an issue.
    I just can’t see anyone on the knicks having a problem playing for Dantoni because he’s white, or playing harder for Woodson just because he’s black. These guys are pro’s playing for big money.

  42. ruruland

    Robert Silverman: Dude. You can’t drop a teaser like that and not say more. Care to elaborate?

    They’re just not super-tight like everyone thinks. It’s not a horrible relationship from what I understand, but they’re not going to go out of their way to re-connect. they clearly share respect for each other still, and I think that’s real.

    But they had issues.

    Some people think it was the Marion/Amar’e conflict, which resulted in Nash having a bigger say (with Kerr) in the Shaq trade then D’Antoni did (or he wouldn’t have been traded there)….Amar’e was the one who wanted see Marion go…(and Amar’e claims it was because he wanted to play alongside Shaq, which might be true)

    Marion was a high-maintenance player in those days, and Nash was always the one playing counselor/diplomat, not D’Antoni….

    Also, just as was occurring with Lin, MDA delegated a lot of responsibilities to Nash, both from a strategic and tactical standpoint, but from a locker room standpoint. The people who say Nash really coached that team at times are probably on to something. But I think their was amazing chemistry between them in the beginning, and it was pretty obvious because the Suns were great from the get-go in ’04, Nash seemed to have mastered the offense in a really short amount of time.

  43. ruruland

    art vandelay: +1
    D’antoni’s lame-duck status as coach I believe primarily lent itself to the players not respecting him fully as an authoritative figure since not even management was willing to endorse him. I think they knew the coach would be the first one put before the firing squad and once he wet, they would be square in the media and fan base’s cross-hairs…

    I’d say that would be plausible if we were only looking at a few factors, and not taking into consideration MDA’s history and personality. The real answer is that no one actually knows why EVERYONE has picked up their effort and no one ever will because it’s unknowable.

    But I think we can put a lot of the puzzle pieces together…. I don’t think there’s ever just ONE reason though.

    I do think that any time a coach is fired players look in the mirror. That’s natural, and I’m sure that plays some part in the turnaround. But I don’t think it’s anywhere near the primary reason.

    This notion, however, logically extended, would have you believe that the these guys are playing harder out of some kind of guilty conscience…..

    Seems quite clear to me that these guys are playing with a much higher purpose than that. And that higher purpose is derived from the kinds of things Woodson teaches, and the kind of attitude and style of play that Woodson’s personality personifies.

    There’s also a lot more to it than that from what I can gather. But I think that’s the most important factor.

  44. ruruland

    hoolahoop:
    Of course there are exceptions, but for the most part, sports transcend race. When you play on a team, especially a physical sport (football, basketball) traveling team, a camaraderie develops like no other. Your coach and teammates are your brothers in arms that you go to war with. Race becomes transparent. You fight for each other. Sure, personality conflicts occur, but in my experience, race is usually not an issue.
    hese guys are pro’s playing for big money.

    I disagree, quite a bit actually. The NBA has it’s own culture, and frankly, it’s a culture that most white people wouldn’t understand how to fit into, let alone manage.

    That’s not to say that there aren’t many successful white coaches who understand how to relate (and in some instances can relate) with African-American NBA players.

    Yes, there is always some overlap in personalities between basketball players and coaches that have absolutely nothing to do with race or upbringing — everyone in the NBA is competitive, everyone understands basketball. For just those two reasons alone, many white coaches garner respect….

    But, it’s just like the NFL and MLB even. On most teams, the white guys (like kickers, lineman and quarterbacks) have their own clique, fraternize in their way…. Yes, there’s always overlap and inter-mixing, and there’s always commonalities and a shared mission, and I think the divide is getting better, but it’s still there today.

    By and large, you don’t need to be a sociology or ethnic studies major to understand that black guys typically have more in common with black coaches, and therefore, a black coach’s message more often resonates..I think you’ll see that the general trend moving forward is more black coaches at all levels until more white people start playing basketball again.

  45. jon abbey

    ruruland: I think you’ll see that the general trend moving forward is more black coaches at all levels until more white people start playing basketball again.

    I respect your involvement with the game and actually hope that you’re right, but it’s not like basketball hasn’t been black-dominated for generations now, so not sure why you think things will start to change now as opposed to twenty years ago or twenty years from now.

    the only black coach of any of the eight teams who currently would have home court in the first round is Mike Brown, and I don’t think he’s really covered himself in glory thus far. I think if the existing black coaches have more consistent success, then you’re more likely to be right sooner.

  46. Tony Pena

    ruruland:

    Seems quite clear to me that these guys are playing with a much higher purpose than that. And that higher purpose is derived from the kinds of things Woodson teaches, and the kind of attitude and style of play that Woodson’s personality personifies.

    There’s also a lot more to it than that from what I can gather. But I think that’s the most important factor.

    +10

    The playing for their paycheck notion also implies that they had quit on D’Antoni, and I dont think that was ever the case. The (specifically Melo) sabotaged MDA theory is borderline ludicrous imo. I think there was frustration because of the losing, which might have led to the focus not being there 100% of the time and at times questionable body language. But I saw everybody trying during the losing streak, the entire in fact, but just not being succesful. STAT is a perfect example. His hustle has never really been questioned, yet somehow Woodson instantly had him playing decent D (I personally think he told him to JUST stay in front of his man). It’s strategy.

  47. JK47

    A few things happened when Woodson took over:

    1. The schedule got easier. Look at the Knicks’ opponents in the losing streak that got D’Antoni canned: @Boston, @Dallas, @San Antonio, @Milwaukee, Philadelphia, @Chicago. I mean Jeezus that is a brutal run of opponents. A couple of those were heartbreaking losses in which the Knicks actually played pretty well. Since Woodson has taken over the Knicks have had 6 out of 9 games at home. They’ve played some good opponents, but nothing like the opposition they played at the end of D’Antoni’s run.

    2. Woodson made some necessary adjustments, putting Amar’e then Melo into situations where they were more likely to succeed. He slowed down the Knicks’ pace, heavily emphasized gang rebounding and allowed guys to just play the way they play. Woodson seems to have a better feel than D’Antoni for doling out minutes and exploiting/preventing mismatches.

    The Knicks have the horses, even as banged up as they are right now. To me, Woodson’s approach seems to be grounded in common sense– forget the exotic schemes and theoretical dogma– just go out there and D up as hard as you can, make the extra pass and get your teammates’ backs.

  48. ruruland

    jon abbey: I respect your involvement with the game and actually hope that you’re right, but it’s not like basketball hasn’t been black-dominated for generations now, so not sure why you think things will start to change now as opposed to twenty years ago or twenty years from now.

    the only black coach of any of the eight teams who currently would have home court in the first round is Mike Brown, and I don’t think he’s really covered himself in glory thus far. I think if the existing black coaches have more consistent success, then you’re more likely to be right sooner.

    I think the difference in overall historical success between white and black coaches is a far more complicated issue…. I think once you get past the great NBA coaches , all of whom are white and established their roots as coaches when discrimination was much more prevalent (allowing them to be chosen over black colleagues) you’ll find that success of younger white coaches and younger black coaches often favors the black coaches….

    It’s still too early to draw any conclusions because their hasn’t been enough black coaches in comparison to white coaches (and idiots like Isiah have a tendency to skew the numbers) and because you may notice that black coaches typically start out with awful teams (where management and ownership is more willing to go after less established guys, where the pool of black candidates is larger)

    When I make the comparison here, I’m talking as much about assistants as I am head coaches, too. And MDA’s staff was pretty damn white and old.

  49. BigBlueAL

    I do fear though Woodson’s offense putting up some clunkers come playoff time. Their defense will keep them in every game and I dont see them getting blown out in any playoff game even vs Chicago/Miami but I do see them having games where they wont score 90 pts.

  50. ruruland

    Can anyone answer why it says above my comment:”Your comment is awaiting moderation.”

    Did I say something wrong or something else happen? I get paranoid and I’m wondering if this has happened to anyone else.

  51. ruruland

    Tony Pena: +10

    The playing for their paycheck notion also implies that they had quit on D’Antoni, and I dont think that was ever the case. The (specifically Melo) sabotaged MDA theory is borderline ludicrous imo. I think there was frustration because of the losing, which might have led to the focus not being there 100% of the time and at times questionable body language. But I saw everybody trying during the losing streak, the entire in fact, but just not being succesful. STAT is a perfect example. His hustle has never really been questioned, yet somehow Woodson instantly had him playing decent D (I personally think he told him to JUST stay in front of his man). It’s strategy.

    Yeah. I don’t think it was conscious sabotage per se. I do, however, think many of the players on this team have more respect for a coach who teaches and stresses the defensive end of the court first. I think Melo is at the top of that list.

  52. ruruland

    BigBlueAL:
    I do fear though Woodson’s offense putting up some clunkers come playoff time.Their defense will keep them in every game and I dont see them getting blown out in any playoff game even vs Chicago/Miami but I do see them having games where they wont score 90 pts.

    More than an MDA offense hypothetically would?

    Why do you say that? Woodson’s offense is much more diverse than MDA’s. Secondly, inside-out ball is often superior to high pick and roll in the playoffs. Why? In the playoffs, more physical on-ball defense is allowed, making it much harder to get to the rim from further out. It’s much easier to eventually create the penetration through entry-passes and consequent double teams.

    Melo’s ability to establish position with his strength and body is more reliable than Lin’s ability to beat a more physial defense.. A lot of his fall down and embellish contact plays won’t be called in the playoffs. Melo doesn’t play the flop game, the kind that playoff officiating rewards less often.

  53. Brian Cronin

    Can anyone answer why it says above my comment:”Your comment is awaiting moderation.”

    Huh. That was odd. I have no idea why your comment was tagged for moderation. Probably some fluky thing. I approved it, so it is visible now. You can drop me a line if it happens again and I’ll be sure to approve it ASAP (cronb01 at aol.com).

  54. ruruland

    Brian Cronin: Huh. That was odd. I have no idea why your comment was tagged for moderation. Probably some fluky thing. I approved it, so it is visible now. You can drop me a line if it happens again and I’ll be sure to approve it ASAP (cronb01 at aol.com).

    Phew, thanks bro. Love this board.

  55. ruruland

    Sorry for the barrage of posts, but Beck’s new notebook is quite relevant to our discussion. Interesting to note that being a coach was never something Woodson pondered as a player…. There are a few important implications there, anecdotal as they may be.

  56. jon abbey

    ruruland: I think the difference in overall historical success between white and black coaches is a far more complicated issue…. I think once you get past the great NBA coaches , all of whom are white and established their roots as coaches when discrimination was much more prevalent (allowing them to be chosen over black colleagues) you’ll find that success of younger white coaches and younger black coaches often favors the black coaches….

    It’s still too early to draw any conclusions because their hasn’t been enough black coaches in comparison to white coaches (and idiots like Isiah have a tendency to skew the numbers) and because you may notice that black coaches typically start out with awful teams (where management and ownership is more willing to go after less established guys, where the pool of black candidates is larger)

    When I make the comparison here, I’m talking as much about assistants as I am head coaches, too. And MDA’s staff was pretty damn white and old.

    yeah, I’ve made that point implicitly about D’Antoni’s staff, glad to have Darrell Walker on board.

    but you misunderstand me. I’m not questioning that there should be more black coaches, I agree with that. I’m questioning why you think there definitively will be, since I see no more signs of that than there were a few decades ago.

  57. jon abbey

    it’d be interesting to know the percentage of white coaches that only get one chance and never get rehired as opposed to the percentage of black coaches. I’d bet without looking that the latter percentage is higher.

  58. BigBlueAL

    ruruland: More than an MDA offense hypothetically would?

    Why do you say that? Woodson’s offense is much more diverse than MDA’s. Secondly, inside-out ball is often superior to high pick and roll in the playoffs. Why? In the playoffs, more physical on-ball defense is allowed, making it much harder to get to the rim from further out. It’s much easier to eventually create the penetration through entry-passes and consequent double teams.

    Melo’s ability to establish position with his strength and body is more reliable than Lin’s ability to beat a more physial defense.. A lot of his fall down and embellish contact plays won’t be called in the playoffs. Melo doesn’t play the flop game, the kind that playoff officiating rewards less often.

    D’Antoni’s Knick teams the past 2 years have given the Bulls fits defensively. TrueHoop even did an article about D’Antoni’s offense vs Thibs’ defense the day of the last Knicks-Bulls game:

    http://espn.go.com/blog/truehoop/post/_/id/38653/how-the-starks-dunk-changed-nba-history

    Its pretty interesting. My concern about the offense is because I assume the Knicks will play the Bulls. If they somehow avoid the Bulls/Heat in the 1st round then Im not worried about the offense in the 1st round.

  59. BigBlueAL

    BTW Im not trying to be a D’Antoni apologist. I liked him alot and hated the way he left but Im beyond thrilled with the way the team is playing under Woodson and hope they continue. Hell if they somehow make a decent playoff run Im all for keeping Woodson.

    But to try to make it seem like Woodson’s offense is better and more successful than D’Antoni’s offense is laughable, even taking into account the current roster. Unfortunately D’Antoni was a bit too stubborn I guess, wished he wouldve been more flexible and more open to tweaking his offense to suit Melo a bit more and make him more happy. But he did just that last season after the trade and it worked. Unfortunately defensively the trade made them as horrible on defense as they were great on offense.

    Funny thing is on this site everybody bitched and moaned about the offense after the trade because it was too much Melo Iso yet it was successful as hell. Cant have it both ways I guess lol

  60. ruruland

    BigBlueAL:
    BTW Im not trying to be a D’Antoni apologist.I liked him alot and hated the way he left but Im beyond thrilled with the way the team is playing under Woodson and hope they continue.Hell if they somehow make a decent playoff run Im all for keeping Woodson.

    But to try to make it seem like Woodson’s offense is better and more successful than D’Antoni’s offense is laughable, even taking into account the current roster.Unfortunately D’Antoni was a bit too stubborn I guess, wished he wouldve been more flexible and more open to tweaking his offense to suit Melo a bit more and make him more happy.But he did just that last season after the trade and it worked.Unfortunately defensively the trade made them as horrible on defense as they were great on offense.

    Funny thing is on this site everybody bitched and moaned about the offense after the trade because it was too much Melo Iso yet it was successful as hell.Cant have it both ways I guess lol

    I hear you.

  61. Z-man

    There have probably been more, and more successful black coaches in the NBA than all other sports combined, even going back to Russell, KC Jones, Lenny Wilkins, and up to Doc Rivers today, but considering the demographics of the NBA, there’s still lots of work to do.

    I agree with Jon that D’Antoni might have checked out deep down as soon as the Melo trade took place. Billups gave him some hope, but once he started off the year with no PG option, he flailed around until Linsanity, gave too much freedom to Lin and when that was unsustainable, he ran out of cred with the star players.

  62. daJudge

    Thank you for the post cdiggy at #42 and I appreciate all the intelligent feedback on the issue I raised. Wow, some of you guys stay up really late. I respectfully disagree quite a bit with hoolahoop at #46, but I’m glad that you apparently had that color blind experience. I truly think we are quite far away from that type of experience in general. While stats do a good job in quantifying trends and predicting outcomes, explaining human relationships is quite another story. Player/coach, employer/employee, teacher/student, parent/child are IMHO very complex relationships where numerous factors interact for the individuals at issue. I was just raising one issue that I believe is in play and significant, both in its impact on the team and how we see it play out in our society every day. It was very interesting to see the varied reactions on this board.

  63. Spree8

    BigBlueAL:
    …Unfortunately D’Antoni was a bit too stubborn I guess, wished he wouldve been more flexible and more open to tweaking his offense to suit Melo a bit more and make him more happy….

    Ya… let’s stink forever and have everyone pull a “melo” when they don’t get what they want from the coach.

  64. jon abbey

    how about pulling a ‘D’Antoni’? it’s the coach’s job to maximize the potential of his roster, not try to cram people into a “system” that isn’t very good unless it has ideal personnel, which clearly wasn’t the case here.

  65. JLam

    Knick Trivia
    On the current team roster who is the oldest knick?
    1) Jared Jefferies
    2) Toney Douglas
    3) Mike Bibby

  66. Brian Cronin

    Knick Trivia
    On the current team roster who is the oldest knick?
    1) Jared Jefferies
    2) Toney Douglas
    3) Mike Bibby

    I thought this was a trick question or something, like Jared Jeffries was secretly really old. I am pleased that that is not the case.

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