Matchmaker, matchmaker: Is Mike Woodson a fit as the new, interim head coach of the New York Knicks? Yes, because his experience effectively managing players with different, contrasting styles during his tenure as Atlanta Hawks coach will help him construct an offensive system capable of utilizing both Jeremy Lin and Carmelo Anthony.
Former Knicks coach Mike D'Antoni resigned yesterday after an eight-game losing streak, leaving Woodson to take the helm and help New York try to salvage what remains of the season.
It's been a topsy-turvy month-plus for the Knicks: First, they were a beleaguered 8-15 team with no future, then they were the heart of Linsanity and Jeremy Lin led them on an 8-1 run and back into the playoff hunt, then Carmelo Anthony returned and the Knicks went 2-8 to end D'Antoni's Knicks career.
Clearly, there is a causal link between Anthony's presence and the Knicks' slump. But suggesting it is Anthony's "fault" is unfair: his style did not fit D'Antoni's offense. He is a high-usage player, high-volume shooter who likes to take the ball in isolation and make plays.
D'Antoni relies on talented, unselfish point guards to be the focal point of his offense. So it was never going to be a fit.
But Woodson is a different story. When you look at Anthony's style, he plays like a better version of the Atlanta Hawks' Joe Johnson in his prime. Specifically, both Anthony and Johnson like to manage the ball, shoot it frequently and thrive off isolation sets. Woodson's offense got the best out of Johnson in his playoff years with the Hawks. Now his offense can get the best out of Anthony.
Woodson should also be able to do more with Amar'e Stoudemire. The Knicks forward thrived under D'Antoni in Phoenix and last year in New York, but has struggled to deal with Anthony's style.
If Woodson can convince Anthony to embrace being more of a dominant wing player and less of an all-around ball-stopper, then his offense can feature Stoudemire in the post the same way Josh Smith thrived in his last year under Woodson.
So, where does that leave Jeremy Lin? Woodson has never coached a point guard talent like Lin, which is why he could be lost in the shuffle. The Knicks' new sensation is definitely the last, least familiar piece of the puzzle for Woodson.
Most likely, the Knicks coach will encourage Lin to focus more on his distributive instincts and less on constant drives and penetration. For all his positive qualities, Lin can be inefficient, overaggressive and prone to turning the ball over.
Instead, a healthy mixed offense—one where Lin sets the offense, uses his vision and distributes, but looks to Anthony as the primary scorer, penetration option and safety valve, will work well for New York.
If they can find that balance, the Knicks will be a very dangerous team in 2013.
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