Excuses are flying as the Knicks continue to exist somewhere between temporarily lifeless and permanently panic-stricken. With each passing loss, an increasing number of fingers are pointed at Mike Woodson, blaming him for the team's dismal 3-9 start, their worst since 2009-10.
On the surface, the Knicks' omnipotent owner, Mr. Dolan, has shown support for the coach who rescued his team from a lockout-truncated debacle not two years ago.
Beneath the pompous exterior, however, we have no idea what maniacal plans he's forging.
In a one-on-one interview session with the New York Post's Mike Vaccaro, he gushed about the confidence he has in Coach Woody:
I have a lot of confidence in Woodson, and one thing I can say about Mike is he has the respect of all the players. They all respect him. And he treats them fairly and relatively equally, and that’s part of where the respect emanates from. And those are hard things to get from a coach. When a coach loses a team...that’s when a coach is kind of done.
Woodson deserves the faith he has garnered from his power-craved owner. He's done everything asked of him since taking the reins in 2012. From firing his agent to almost taming J.R. Smith to guiding the Knicks to their first Atlantic Division title in 10 years, Woodson helped liberate the Knicks from a self-contructed prison.
But now, less than two years since Woodson took over, Dolan has raised the bar, refusing to adjust it for New York's recent brush with disaster.
"I think this team can win a championship," he told Vaccaro.
There, while reciting lines from How To Be A Devious NBA Owner, Volume IV: Mastering The Exclusive Interview, Dolan set Woodson up for failure. He expects his team, currently sitting at 3-9, to win a title. If they fail to live up to his lofty, unrealistic beliefs, someone is going to pay.
That someone could be Woodson.
Once the beacon of hope for New York's sideline, he could be the fall guy, bearing the blame for a collective failure that won't be righted through his departure alone.
99 Problems and the Roster Is One
Handing Woodson his walking papers won't change the health of New York's struggling roster.
Tyson Chandler won't return any faster. Raymond Felton's hip won't suddenly be made out of indestructible steel. Amar'e Stoudemire won't transform into a durable version of himself, capable of logging 30-plus minutes a night without resting for the next 25 games as a result.
Bidding adieu to Woodson also won't change the makeup of the roster. Kenyon Martin will still be 35 going on 45 and J.R. Smith still 28 going on six. Andrea Bargnani won't emerge as defensive force upon Woodson's departure, Carmelo Anthony will always be at home in isolation and Pablo Prigioni will still be afraid to shoot.
Moving on from Woodson changes none of that. Nothing. Zilch. Zero.
There may be a coach who can get more out of Bargs defensively or Chandler offensively. There may even be another coach out there better suited to guide a minutes-capped Stoudemire.
But there isn't a soul out there who will change the structure of this team from the sidelines.
That happens through trades, which the Knicks cannot make without shooting themselves in the foot and blowing a large chunk of their future straight to hell. Or by signing free agents, which the Knicks won't, because God forbid the Smith family reunion not take place at Madison Square Garden this year.
Phil Jackson himself could walk through that door, punch Dolan so hard he's left with obnoxious championship-ring imprints on his face and the Knicks would still be the Knicks, the same defensively challenged, chemistry-seeking team we see now.
The Knicks don't know. Continuity is a foreign concept at the Garden. So is dancing.
Ridding the Knicks of Woodson, who is neither responsible for their instability nor good-looking enough to dress up like a glorified cheerleader, won't change that. Showing him the door actually promotes further inconsistency.
General manager Glen Grunwald is already gone. Before him, Mike D'Antoni was pushed out—I mean, resigned. And before him, Donnie Walsh, the cap-managing genius himself, couldn't take it any more, Twisted Sister-style.
Players are equally disposable. When they're not superstars, clients of CAA or related to the Smith family, they can be replaced.
Chandler goes down? No problem. The Knicks will just shop Iman Shumpert, both undervaluing him and overvaluing him at the same time. That kind of thinking has reigned supreme in New York even before Dolan allowed Isiah Thomas to fail so miserably that his name is now a verb. (See Isiahing: to screw up with disastrous consequences.)
It's this train of thought that led the Knicks to mortgage their future on 'Melo, a noble move in some ways; inexplicably impulsive in others. It's this methodology that has cost the Knicks more first-round draft picks than Chuck Norris has filmed bad TV shows.
People are objects in New York. Instruments the organization discards at the first sign of trouble.
Consigning Woodson to the unemployment ranks won't assure the Knicks of anything other than revolving employment.
That Guy Jimmy
Fire James Dolan.
I'm still waiting for that chant to ring true throughout the Garden. And I mean really ring. Not some puny-sounding rant from the guy not wearing pants in the upper level, but a tigerish chorus of fans demanding Dolan be held accountable.
That will never happen, of course—that last part. Dolan will never truly be held accountable for his involvement in ruining these Knicks time and time again.
As the owner, he lords over everyone and answers to no one. If Woodson goes, he'll still be there, prominently seated for the games, lurking in the shadows for the postgame pressers.
It will be he who aids and abets the hiring of a new coach. Who will one day put that new coach between a pit of closing walls and a ladder out that's too high to reach.
Who will still be a problem long after Woodson has paid the price for follies that can be traced back to Dolan himself.
Woody Isn't Perfect, Nor Is He a Worthy Scapegoat
Mike Woodson isn't perfect, close to perfect or even in the same area code as perfect. But he's not the sole proprietor of this unfolding catastrophe.
There are things that must be blamed on Woodson. The rotations need to be shored up, the Knicks cannot defend point guards, centers or the little engine that could, and they rank 21st and 28th in offensive and defensive efficiency, respectively.
Anthony said of the Knicks' rotations, via ESPN New York's Ian Begley:
I don't know. You got to ask Woody that. I'm not searching. We're not searching. But as a coach, I understand that could be a tough situation, to try and figure out what's the best lineups, who can play, who can't play. It can be a tough situation for him.
The rotations are especially on him. Twelve games into a pivotal season, he should have his starting lineup ironed out and his in-game cycles down to a science. 'Melo should be starting at the 4 and staying at the 4, where he had the best season of his career in 2012-13, not shapeshifting between small and power forward as Woodson tries to force traditional lineups on a team built to play small.
And yet, even that's not entirely his fault. The boys upstairs are demanding a say in the lineups, and it shows.
This product the Knicks are fielding is not Woodson's. It's Dolan's. This team is the result of a jockeyed vision, rewired countless times to appease the requisitions of a conniving owner and impatient fanbase.
"Panic word shouldn't even be an issue," Woodson said, per Begley.
Ignorance shouldn't be, either. Remove the starting point guard and starting center from any lineup in the NBA outside of Miami, and you'll run into issues. Conflicts. Adversity.
Fire Woodson, and the Knicks will succeed in doing nothing other than throwing another incendiary device into an already-raging, potentially devastating inferno.