Mike Woodson's Got a Deep Bag of Tricks

Knicks rebound in Milwaukee behind unlikely sources

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    NEWSLETTERS

    TK
    Getty Images
    Pablo points the Knicks in the right direction.

    In case anyone has put it out of their minds altogether, we offer a reminder that there were times last season when Mike Woodson looked to his bench and had to choose between putting Mike Bibby or Toney Douglas into a game. 

    And they weren't coming in for five minutes to replace some great point guard. It was Baron Davis huffing and puffing (and blowing no one's house down) out there on the court. 

    If Woodson had more expansive eyebrows, they likely would have curled up into some kind of sad formation to make it clear that the coach didn't want to live like that any more than you wanted to live like that. It was hard to watch, but, thankfully, that's the past. 

    Wednesday's 100-88 win over the Bucks was about the precious present and the joys of having a team deep enough to survive the absence of a key player. Jason Kidd was out for a second straight game and, based on Monday night, it was easy to think his absence would lead to stagnant offense and less opportunistic defense. 

    It might have, if not for Pablo Prigioni getting a lot more of a chance to spin than he got against the Nets. Prigioni did his best Kidd impression by hitting a couple of threes, stripping Brandon Jennings and moving the ball crisply around the offensive end to get open shots for his teammates. 

    When Prigioni entered the game in the second quarter, the Knicks were down three and they wound up being in front by 10 when the quarter came to an end. It was hardly all about Prigioni, but it didn't hurt a bit that they had an option other than Ray Felton firing wildly at their disposal. 

    The whole night was a testament to having options at your disposal. Kurt Thomas started, but played just four minutes because Steve Novak celebrated his return to his home state of Wisconsin by playing one of the best games of his life. 

    He played 40 minutes, hit five threes and even made a layup at the end of the slowest fast break you'll ever see outside of a nursing home basketball league. If not for Rasheed Wallace's misguided attempt to dunk a basketball from more than six inches away from the net, it would have been the most amusing part of the evening. 

    Smiles were in ample supply on a night when Carmelo Anthony needed to play just 30 minutes and Tyson Chandler scored 17 points on just four field goal attempts. They probably wouldn't have come so easily if Mike Woodson was still forced to scrape by with the bare minimum on his roster. 

    Now, though, he can go to a lineup of Prigioni, Novak, Wallace, Ronnie Brewer and Chris Copeland without greatly jeopardizing the team's chances of winding up with a win. We're not saying that you want to ride that lineup for 20 minutes a night, but riding it for five and resting the key members of the squad during a stretch of 12 games in 20 days is a good way for Woodson to wind up looking very smart. 

    That wasn't quite so possible when your best choice was Mike Bibby and prayer. 

    Josh Alper is also a writer for Pro Football Talk. You can follow him on Twitter.