Many critics and media types made the point last week after Mike Woodson was named interim coach for the Knicks that he would not necessarily transform them into a better defensive team because he had not done so as an assistant coach.
New York had been better defensively this year partly because scoring is down across the NBA. Also despite statistical improvements the Knicks defense wasn’t passing the eye test. They still had too many moments where their defense was subpar especially before and immediately after Linsanity. I do think, however, that Woodson will be more successful in making the Knicks a defensive team now that he is head coach.
Defense is a mindset and an attitude. If the coach views defense as secondary to offense, which Mike D’Antoni did, an assistant coach can only do so much. Since Woodson has become head coach you have clearly seen a difference in the Knicks. They talk defense all the time now. It is the first thing that comes up in postgame interviews by both the players and the coach. Woodson has specific defensive goals in mind, like shutting teams down to start games.
The sample is small but so far Woodson’s presence has made a difference. The Knicks are allowing only 89 points per game in the three games since Woodson has been hired. Even those numbers are deceiving since the Pacers racked up 42 points in the 4th quarter during garbage time in their blowout loss to the Knicks last Friday night. If the new Knicks defense is here to stay than New York suddenly becomes the team no one wants to face in the playoffs.
With the Knicks suddenly rejuvenated and the Bucks playing well, the odd team out in the Eastern Conference playoff race could be the Celtics. Boston has to play 13 of their last 22 games on the road, where they are only 7-13. They also have 12 games left against teams with a winning record, two games left against the Bucks and one against the Knicks. Boston will probably make the playoffs based on the championship will of their veteran leadership but a postseason berth is definitely not the guarantee it has been in past seasons.
Someone needs to explain to me what the Golden State Warriors are doing. First they deal their best trade piece, Monta Ellis, and a young athletic big man, Ekpe Udoh, for an injury prone center in Andrew Bogut and a washed up Stephen Jackson. To make matters worse they flip Jackson, who has one year left on his contract after this year, for an equally washed up Richard Jefferson but he is signed through 2013-14. I get that Ellis and Stephen Curry were not a natural fit as backcourt mates but Bogut isn’t a good fit either. Besides his injury history, he does not fit with Curry or David Lee’s strengths, which is playing in an up-tempo, fast break offense. Bogut is more of a plodding, half court player. Because of this trade, the Warriors are less athletic, more injury prone and have a worse cap situation. Not exactly what you are looking to accomplish when you trade your leading scorer.
If the Nets think there is any chance they are keeping Deron Williams now that Dwight Howard is guaranteed to be in Orlando for another year they are nuts. New Jersey err Brooklyn has nothing to offer Williams. The team has no other stars and there won’t be any stars available in free agency this offseason. Williams is on record as stating that he doesn’t want to be the man, that he sees himself as being Robin in an ideal situation with another star in the fold. That likely means his next stop will be Dallas but even if by some miracle he doesn’t become a Maverick there is definitely a better situation out there than being the face of a franchise destined for the lottery every year. The Nuggets and Blazers will both likely have enough cap room to sign Williams and they both could use an upgrade at point guard. Boston could trade Rajon Rondo in the offseason, which would open up a spot for Williams. It will take Williams being left with no other options before he decides to resign with the Nets and there are just too many places for him to go for that to be a possibility.
Ed. Note: And be sure to check our review of the 10 Worst NBA Rap Songs Ever.