For the first time in a while, the Knicks gave their fans something to be proud of over the weekend.
Rookie guard Tim Hardaway Jr. scored a game-high 36 points in the NBA’s Rising Stars Challenge, while Carmelo Anthony set a single-game All-Star record with eight made three-pointers, scoring 30 points in all and helping the East All-Stars defeat the West by a score of 163-155.
But with head coach Mike Woodson’s job security in question and Thursday’s trade deadline looming, there’s a realistic chance that the Knicks as we currently know them could look a lot different in the coming days.
Woodson has a 92-66 record since taking over the coaching duties from Mike D’Antoni in 2012, though that might not be enough to overcome just how dreadful the Knicks have been this season. The team currently sits two and a half games out of the playoffs in a very weak Eastern Conference, and while Woodson isn’t to blame for everything, someone has to be held accountable.
Short on solid defenders and lacking consistent scoring options or any sort of depth, the roster certainly has its flaws – but the Knicks already replaced their general manager just weeks before the season started, so he’s not going anywhere.
From a coaching standpoint, Anthony is not only being overworked by Woodson, he’s also had to share the court too often with Andrea Bargnani. Pairing Anthony and Bargnani together created spacing issues on offense before Bargnani got hurt and caused the team’s defense to suffer from matchup issues.
Whether Woodson played the two together because he thought it was a good idea or if he’s being forced by management to justify trading for Bargnani is unknown, but it’s not working. When Bargnani returns to the lineup, they must be separated as much as possible.
On the few occasions when the Knicks have been able to keep things close in the final seconds this year, they have only one win in seven games decided by three points or less. The plays Woodson has drawn up in these situations often leaves Anthony standing too far away from the basket or without much room to operate. And even if Anthony does get a good shot off, his legs are often worn out from Woodson playing him too many minutes.
The Knicks have won just eight of 22 games on the road this year, and beginning Tuesday, the Knicks will play four games in five days – all on the road – and eight of their next 10 games will take place away from Madison Square Garden.
Should the Knicks drop the first couple games against the Memphis Grizzles and New Orleans Pelicans, further digging themselves into an even deeper hole before the trade deadline, Woodson likely won’t be keeping his job much longer.
Anthony’s ability to opt out of his current contract and become a free agent after the season puts even more pressure on the organization to be active in not only finding the long-term answer at coach, but putting enough talent around him to entice him to stay in New York. Anthony has said all the right things in public, though that doesn’t mean a thing until he is re-signed.
Trade talks have been quiet with the Thursday deadline approaching, yet after many from office executives from the around the league spent the weekend in New Orleans, something could come together quickly.
It’s hard to imagine the Knicks doing nothing to improve the team given their place in the standings. Aside from Anthony and Hardaway Jr., everyone on the roster should be available.
Unfortunately, the rest of the league doesn’t see much value in what the Knicks have to offer.
Center Tyson Chandler makes sense for a contender who needs a big man, though he is owed nearly $15 million next season and that is going to scare teams away. Bargnani and Amar’e Stoudemire also have big contracts that expire after next season, so any sort of salary dump might have to wait until the summer.
Iman Shumpert’s name has been mentioned in trade talks seemingly since he entered the league. But the Knicks held onto him for too long and now the market appears to have dried up. Shumpert is still playing under his rookie contract, so a team could be willing to take a chance on him if the asking price is low enough.
Metta World Peace and Beno Udrih have fallen out of the rotation, and even though Woodson can’t find any minutes for them, a playoff team might have interest in them coming off the bench.
If anyone makes an offer for J.R. Smith or Raymond Felton, it’s probably just a prank call.
After the deadline passes, the Knicks will play in Orlando against the Magic on Friday, and travel to Atlanta to take on the Hawks the following night before finally returning home next Monday.
The Knicks made things difficult on themselves before the All-Star break, and now the schedule is about to make their lives even harder.
Just a season after winning 54 games, changes must be made. Whether that means a new coach, new players, or both, continuing on the current path clearly isn’t the answer.