After loosely coaching the Knicks to a 9-21 start, Woodson was given the green light by owner James Dolan and general manager Steve Mills to tighten things up.
Those wondering why, wonder no more. Frank Isola of the New York Daily News has the details:
J.R. Smith is in many ways a charter member of Mike Woodson’s 'accountability club,' a new initiative the head coach started in 2014 at the request of upper management.
According to a team source, Garden chairman James Dolan and team president Steve Mills felt that Woodson wasn’t holding his players accountable amid the Knicks’ slow start, when they went 9-21.
All right, maybe Woodson's iron fist wasn't a gift so much as it was a decree. Whatever it was, it's working.
The Knicks are 6-2 in 2014, only a half-game outside the Eastern Conference's playoff picture heading into their bout against the league-leading Indiana Pacers. Holding players more accountable appears to have righted New York's capsizing ship, even if only slightly.
Chief among Woodson's New Year's resolution—yeah, let's call it that—is putting Smith on the hook for everything he says or does.
It started with his benching in the Knicks' victory over the Miami Heat. Infuriated by Smith's repeated childish behavior—most recently, Shoelace-gate—Woodson forced the reigning Sixth Man of the Year to watch on as his team won without him.
"At at the end of the day, he has got to grow up," Woodson said on ESPN New York 98.7 FM following Smith's shoelace incident, per Hoopsworld's Tommy Beer.
Although Smith played in each of New York's next two games—both wins—he found himself sidelined when the Knicks lost to the Charlotte Bobcats, stemming from what ESPN New York's Ian Begley called a confrontation with Woodson:
Knicks guard J.R. Smith was late to a team meeting Tuesday, sources told ESPNNewYork.com, which may have led to his benching Tuesday night against the Charlotte Bobcats.
Smith also had a run-in with coach Mike Woodson on Monday after he complained about his playing time in overtime of the Knicks' win over the Phoenix Suns, sources confirmed.
Sources say Smith expressed his frustration with Woodson during the game and the two had a brief, heated discussion over Smith's displeasure shortly after the game. Smith's tardiness Tuesday and frustration with playing just 45 seconds in overtime likely led to Woodson benching Smith on Tuesday against Charlotte.
Showing Smith who's boss is an accomplishment for Woodson. The coach has been his biggest supporter since taking the reins, and Smith has seldom rewarded Woodson for his loyalty.
Not long ago, it seemed this day would never come—the day when Woodson would grow a pair.
Will Woodson holding players more accountable make the Knicks better or worse?
The Knicks organization seemed to be the Smith family's personal butler, coddling J.R. while inexplicably retaining his brother, Chris, for more than a third of the season.
But no more.
Smith's brother is gone, and Dolan has uncharacteristically given Woodson a backbone, the ability to control his team and, most importantly, discipline—swish.
For a coach who's guided an $88-million contingent to a 15-23 start, that kind of power is priceless.