Well, that was depressing. Just a season after Mike Woodson took his money to the bank and lead an unconventional, twin-point guard with Carmelo Anthony as the power forward and Tyson Chandler playing all of the defense to 54 wins, a 2nd seed, and the New York Knicks first playoff series victory in forever and a half, Mike Woodson and his entire coaching staff have been released by the team. This means change for the Knickerbockers, who have missed the playoffs for the first time in four seasons, and the first time since trading for Anthony.
In a statement released by the team, Knicks GM (and general Zen overlord of basketball operations) Phil Jackson wrote that, “The coaches and players on this team had an extremely difficult 2013-14 season, and blame should not be put on one individual. But the time has come for change throughout the franchise as we start the journey to assess and build this team for next season and beyond.”
So, goodbye Mike Woodson. You had a great first year and a not so stellar second year. We wish you well in your next basketball gig. Here’s some things that should be different by the time the Knicks hit the hardwood next season.
The Triangle Offense
It’s coming. The Triangle — or the triple post offense, which has laid largely dormant since Jackson retired from coaching after a successful stint with the Los Angeles Lakers in 2011 — will be in Madison Square Garden. There’s no way it’s not coming back with Phil in charge of the basketball ops for New York. If you ever watched the Jackson-coached Bulls when they were busy winning all those championships in the ’90s, or the Pau Gasol/Andrew Bynum/Kobe Bryant Lakers of the late ’00s, you know how unfriendly the Triangle can be. With adept players, the Triangle is great. When it’s run with not so great players, it is not so great; check out Kurt Rambis and the Johnny Flynn Timberwolves if you want proof of that. (You don’t.)
With all of the smart money banking on Steve Kerr stepping in to the head coaching position sometime after the NBA Playoffs end (Kerr does color commentary for the NBA during the postseason), it’s a near certainty that the triangle will be revived, even if no one else in the league wants to touch it. Jackson’s reportedly a person who doesn’t seek much external validation, at least if you trust Shannon Brown, so the triple post won’t see much meaningful resistance in the front office. Whether it will work as well with A’mare and Carmelo as it did with Kobe and Pau remains to be seen, but it should at least be an improvement over Woodson’s traditional lineups (which were not great.) Does this sound like a guy who’s ready to lay the Triangle to rest?
Assets: draft picks and expiring contracts
While the Knicks don’t have a 2014 draft pick owing to the Carmelo Anthony trade (it was one of the assets that got sent to Denver), they’ll have one next season that can’t be traded. How is that an asset? The Knicks could use the player it turns into in a draft day trade. It’s not much, but it’s better than not having one at all, especially for a team that’s rebuilding.
They’ll also have Amar’e Stoudemire’s monster expiring contract, assuming he opts in to the final year of his deal — and he has 23 million reasons to do so. Expiring contracts are great because they allow for a monster bit of ballast in trades with teams that are stuck paying someone more money than they’d like to, and Amar’e’s contract is 23 million dollars that the Knicks could leverage out to bring Anthony more help in bringing Phil Jackson’s vision to life.
Of course, they could also simply keep Amar’e. Even though he’s a shell of the player that captured hearts and minds in Phoenix, Amar’e is still capable of proficient NBA basketball, and his newfound post game and adequate passing suggests that he could thrive in the Triangle. They’ll also have Andrea Bargnani’s 11.5 million player option to play with. They have options — more than what could’ve be said for Steve Mills this season.
The (probable) absence of Metta World Peace
That’s Tyler Hansbrough, scourge of the NBA. He’s a modern-day Bill Lambier, an annoyance that does nothing particularly well on a basketball court (by NBA standards, that is — he’s still better than you and the rest of us at hoops) aside from irritate the hell out of whoever he’s matched against. There’s an entire subset of pro players that fit into this category, of course, but Hansbrough is the worst. The worst, full stop.
As you’ve seen, the former Ron Artest stops him cold. That’s not usually what happens with Psycho T (a real nickname.) Usually, this is the kind of encounter that happens when a Hansbrough type is involved: technical fouls, ejections, and lots of posturing — check out the clip from last year’s playoffs right below. It’s weird to think of World Peace as a sobering influence, but he’s great at keeping the other team in line and helping to avoid watching his team turn into the perpetually picked on (à la Blake Griffin.) World Peace, the 35-year-old who was drafted all the way back in 1999, is a free agent with a hefty veteran’s minimum. If he doesn’t come back with the Knicks (although he did win a championship with Phil Jackson and the Lakers) the team will miss him — which is weird to say, but probably true.