With the vultures circling the New York Knicks locker room, Coach Mike Woodson’s players stepped up on behalf of their embattled coach in the Knicks 117 to 90 victory over the Denver Nuggets. This win was huge and possibly put some wind behind Woodson’s sail. What made this game extremely important was it came against Carmelo Anthony’s old team the Denver Nuggets. With the Nuggets holding the Knicks’ draft pick this season as part of the Anthony trade, a Denver win would have slung more than mud in owner James Dolan’s face. Remember Dolan was instrumental in the Anthony acquisition.
The Knicks played 48 minutes with passion and purpose against the Nuggets. The Knicks fell behind early 24-14 and the Garden was becoming restless. As Woodson still tries to find a starting five that works, it was the Knicks bench that helped ignite this victory. Led by Anthony’s 31 points and Amare Stoudemire’s 17 points off the bench in 20 minutes, the Knicks began to dominate the game after trailing 26 to 20 at the end of the first quarter.
It would have been easy for the Knicks to lie down last night, which would’ve most definitely cost Woodson his job. Woodson is a stand up guy, a guy who remains positive amidst the reporters bombardment of alienating questions. Woodson stood tall and adamant as he stated prior to the game, “it’s not too late’’ to mount a big playoff push and said “anything’s possible’’ when and if the Knicks get to the dance. Here was a man appealing to his owner, his players, that he is still the right man to finish the season.
Let’s be frank here: unless the Knicks go deep into the playoffs, this is Woodson last season as a Knick Coach. Woodson is fighting for his NBA legacy, his reputation, as a firing now could cost him his career as an NBA head coach. New York buried the likes of Don Chaney, and hall of famers Lenny Wilkins, Isiah Thomas and legend Larry Brown, none of whom have coached in the NBA after their respective stints as Knicks head coach.
With his season on the brink, Woodson will live to see another day as Knicks head coach.
Another Knick fighting for his job, his reputation and the future of his NBA career, Raymond Felton had a decent game. Felton whose defense cost the Knicks the Milwaukee game and was benched for the entire fourth quarter of Wednesday’s loss to the Trail Blazers, played as if he were a man possessed. On this night Felton played like he played prior to being traded to Denver. He increased his tempo on the court, instigating the fast break and darting to open space in the halfcourt to set up his teammates. Felton finished a positive 16, with 9 points, on 4-of-5 shooting, and eight assists in 28 minutes.
Mike Woodson was blasted by the New York Post as he called the season “a disaster’’ on Thursday with his job on the line. But tonight his players came to his aid, showing their allegiance to both Woodson and Anthony , by not allowing them to lose against Anthony’s former team. This win assured Woodson he won’t be losing his job before the weekend’s up.
Anthony, who went 12 of 21 on Friday, played with a keen sense of purpose as he helped his team move within two games of the eighth seed in the weak Eastern Conference. Friday the Knicks displayed wonderful ball movement and perfect chemistry, exploiting Denver’s interior defense. The Knicks front line was dominant. Tyson Chandler, Jeremy Tyler, Stoudemire and Anthony dominated Denver’s front line throughout the game. The emergence of Stoudemire and Tyler as erased any ill effects of the loss of Andrea Bargnani, the Knicks are now 5-3 since Bargnani tore his elbow ligament. Jeremy Tyler impressed with 12 points and 11 rebounds — his first career double-double — in 22 minutes, Stoudemire added 17 points and center Tyson Chandler had 12 points on 6-of-7 shooting.
Regardless to what many reporters reported at the time, the Anthony trade clearly favors the Knicks and was Dolan’s best move as owner. Nearly three years have elapsed since our Great Acquisition of Anthony. In spite of the Knicks record, Anthony is a star. He electrifies the Garden. It only took three teams, 13 players, four draft picks plus the right to swap a fifth and $6 million in cash to acquire him. Since the trade, the Knicks have gone 123-102, including last season’s 54-victory campaign, with three playoff trips. Regardless of their record this was a grat trade for New York, a city that needs a star to shine and again last night Anthony’s star shined the brightest.
Three players included in the Anthony trade still with the Nuggets are Wilson Chandler (17 points), Timofey Mozgov (four points, three rebounds) and Danilo Gallinari although talented is not on the court as he out for the season, still recovering from last season’s ACL tear. In the Anthony trade the Knicks acquired Chauncey Billups, who they designated as the club’s amnesty player. This gave them the cap room they needed to acquire Chandler. So in essence we gave up Wilson Chandler, Mozgov, Felton and Gallinari plus draft picks for Tyson Chandler, Felton and Anthony.
Like last nights win this was a great trade, Dolan needs to do WHATEVER IT TAKES, to keep Anthony and right this ship. For today, New York is the clear winner against Denver on and off the court.
Next up will be the OKC Thunder. We’ll see how the Knicks fare against one of the hottest teams in the league (and arguably the best player.)