The Knicks have started the season 5-0, and all fans should be lining up to buy head coach Mike Woodson a steak dinner. After last year's lost season that was marred by a feud between star Carmelo Anthony and head coach Mike D'Antoni, with many going so far as to call the star forward selfish, Anthony has been a completely different player this year.
With star big man Amar'e Stoudemire out of the lineup recovering from knee surgery, Anthony has instead formed a great on-court relationship with sixth man J.R. Smith. The two are averaging a combined 45 points per game and are doing everything from hitting three-pointers, to driving the lane, to nailing mid-range jumpers.
As a result, according to Kevin Kernan of the New York Post, some of the older Knicks like Marcus Camby and Jason Kidd have done nothing but shower praise upon their new fearless leader. Even better, they've got big ambitions in their sights.
"I think each year he has actually been getting better and better as a player, but also as a person," Camby told The Post last night on yet another night Anthony led the Knicks in scoring with 25 points in a 99-89 win over the Magic at Amway Center to push the Knicks to 5-0. "He’s ready to lead us."
"I think he can lead us to a championship," Camby said. "He’s seen a lot of his peers in his draft class win one and that is driving him. He got his one in college, but he wants to win one in the NBA. He wants to win one for the city; we all want to win one for New York City."
That said, whether or not the Knicks win a championship this year, one thing is certain: Mike Woodson deserves to be named Coach of the Year. This team has responded well to him since he took over following D'Antoni's resignation last season, and its hot start in 2012-13 proves that last year's 18-6 finish was not a fluke.
Look at it this way. D'Antoni is an offensive coach, and his system succeeding relies on every player knowing his role via a strict playbook.
Unfortunately, Carmelo Anthony just isn't that type of player. Thus, he strayed from the set play and caused utter chaos on the hardwood, which led to the Knicks underachieving.
More importantly, when have the Knicks ever been a team defined by a fast-paced offense? Back in the '80s and '90s, the team's mantra was always tough defense and an offense that had its established stars. There was discipline, not a bunch of players shooting willy-nilly and almost having a contest to see who could throw up the most shots in the shortest amount of time.
Seeing as how Woodson played for the Knicks in his rookie season, albeit in extremely limited minutes, he knows the team's culture and history. This makes him all the more perfect for the job.
When the team practices, actual drills are run and the vibe isn't anything resemblant of a bunch of high school kids shooting around.
Long story short, Woodson came aboard and established from the get-go that, through his isolation game, Carmelo Anthony would be the go-to guy on offense. There would be no fast-paced and impulsive shooting, but a balanced attack that created mismatches and emphasized toughness on both ends of the floor.
As a result, Anthony and Smith are playing some of the best basketball of their careers and the Knicks are the best defensive team in the league.
More importantly, both men, not to mention all of their teammates, seem to legitimately enjoy playing for Woodson. They move freely up the court and don't appear as tense as they did playing for D'Antoni. Sure, they're playing to win a championship, but also because they love to play the game itself.
That all being said, it's amazing how quickly the Knicks have turned around just from Woodson becoming head coach. He has the team playing its best basketball since the late '90s and the fans are smiling for the first time in over a decade.
Based on those facts alone, there is really no reason to believe that the man shouldn't be the NBA's Coach of the Year.
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