Mike Woodson, New York Knicks Clinch Playoffs: Don't Flinch Now

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Mike Woodson, New York Knicks Clinch Playoffs: Don't Flinch Now
Drew Hallowell/Getty Images

Forget Phil Jackson—he is not returning to New York to coach the Knicks. He has a bad back, but a healthy legacy. Despite rumors that Jackson would like his career to come full circle, he will not tarnish his "Zen Master" image to resurrect the first team he played for. Circumstances are different for interim Knicks head coach Mike Woodson.  

Drafted by New York as the 12th overall pick in the 1980 NBA draft, Woodson returned to the Knicks in late August 2011 as an assistant coach to Mike D'Antoni. In their 2010-2011 season, the Knicks defense allowed the third-most points in the league, with 105.7 PPG. Woodson's job was to change that FM station-esque number and motivate the Knicks stars to play defense.

A few months after Woodson's hiring, interim general manager Glen Grunwald acquired Tyson Chandler, center of the defending champion Dallas Mavericks, in a three-team sign-and-trade. The Knicks sent Ronny Turiaf to Washington and Andy Rautins to Dallas. Chandler received a brand new four-year, $56 million deal, and the Knicks received a marquee player to build a defensive system around. 

It all looked pretty on paper and in training camp, but come the regular season, the Knicks' focus was never on defense. They were more focused on getting D'Antoni fired. Determined not to let that happen, D'Antoni resigned on March 14th.

Since that date the Knicks have won 15 of 20 games, improved to 10th in the league in PPG allowed, and clinched a playoff birth. All because Carmelo Anthony has bought in.

D'Antoni never wanted to acquire Anthony—wwner James Dolan pulled the trigger too early on a deal that gave up too much. Anthony never wanted to play for D'Antoni—and he didn't. 

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Maybe it's because Woodson is different. Maybe it is because Woodson is better. But for some reason Anthony is playing for the new guy. Anthony has averaged 26.2 PPG in the last 20 games. That stretch includes five 35-plus point performances. Whatever Woodson is doing is working.

Last time a star returned to the Knicks lineup, it did not go all too well. That was Anthony, returning to a Knicks team flaming with Linsanity. Soon, Stoudemire will return to Anthony's team. For the sake of Grunwald, and Woodson, let's hope this one goes better. Woodson's interim status depends on it.

 

Pete Barrett is a freshman at Gettysburg College. You can follow him on twitter @PeteBarrettJr.  

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