Woodson: Melo has to raise his game
May, 4, 2012
By Jared Zwerling | ESPNNewYork.com
GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- Friday afternoon's media session with Mike Woodson felt more like an exit interview than a look-ahead to Game 4.
Reporters' questions and Woodson's answers came across like the Knicks already got swept in the first round of the playoffs for the second year in a row.
The tipping off point was Woodson saying, "There's a lot of things that's got to be changed."
Woodson said his ultimate goals for the Knicks, if he's back next season as head coach (without the interim tag), is for them to place in the top four spots in the Eastern Conference and win the Atlantic Division, so they can host their first-round series and move on.
"Thatís important when you start out in a playoff series," he said. "You have to host at home."
In order for the team to do that, Woodson said a few things need to be addressed. The first centers around star player Carmelo Anthony. Simply put, the coach said Melo has to raise his game and conditioning level in the offseason.
"Expectations are not going to change here in New York, and they shouldn't, rightfully so," Woodson said. "[Melo's] got to do some things this summer to better his game, as well as Tyson [Chandler] and Amare [Stoudemire], and all the supporting cast that might return. If I'm the head coach, I've got to make sure that happens because that's the only way you're going to get out of the rut, in terms of being a first-round exit. [Melo's] got to change that. Us not winning a playoff game, that's got to change on my part, along with the guys that return."
Woodson specifically said Anthony has to get in better shape. While insiders have never questioned the training approach of his sidekick, Stoudemire -- visibly he always look fit and several veteran NBA trainers agree he has one of the strongest cores -- they did, however, with Anthony, especially coming into the shortened season.
"I think [Melo's] made major strides this year. When we started this journey, he made guys around him better and he was better for it," Woodson said. "I just think there's got to be a continuation. I've got to push him to be in better shape when you start the season. Everybody's got to be in better shape. There's got to be some changes for this team to really get to the next level."
There were times in the middle of the season where Anthony looked tired and didn't have his legs under him, even though his right-wrist injury was another cause for his poor shooting from February to mid-March. Now in the playoffs, the Heat's MO has been to wear him down and they've done that, not allowing him to catch fire in the second half and fourth quarter -- the latter where he's known to have his performances.
Melo's got the size to get by defenders at 6-8, 230, but sometimes he looks rugged and seems to expend too much energy driving to the basket. And as a result, he doesn't always bring it on the defensive end.
The second major thing that Woodson mentioned is on his summer schedule is to help Anthony and Stoudemire work together better on the court. In fact, so far they're 0-7 in playoff games, from last year against the Celtics to currently against the Heat.
"There is hope," Woodson said, referring to their playing relationship. "This summer will be very pivotal for a lot of the players that are on this team that will be coming back, in terms of a development stage. There's a lot of things that have to happen this summer. But if I am back, this summer is going to be very pivotal in terms of developing these guys."
"They've got to be better, and Melo has got to be better. I know a couple of those guys might have a shot at playing on the Olympic team. As an organization, it's my job or it will be my job, and the staff, to better this team and develop the players to the point where this won't happen next season."
While Woodson didn't address all of the questions surrounding the Knicks' future -- there was still Game 4 to talk about -- he discussed some of the ways how the meat of the team (Anthony, Stoudemire and Chandler) can step it up in Season 2. Woodson's straight-to-the-point messages was just another example of how he demands accountability. Will Anthony, Stoudemire and Chandler continue to buy in? Their support will bring Woodson back.
Beyond those "big pieces of the puzzle," which Woodson always says referring to the Knicks' Big Three, in order for the team to fill out their roster heading into training camp, they'll need a starting point guard (likely Jeremy Lin), an initial replacement for Iman Shumpert (free agency), a sixth-man scorer (would J.R. Smith sign for less?), a stretch four off the bench (would Steve Novak follow suit?) and a younger and more athletic version of Jared Jeffries (Shumpert once referred to Jeremy Evans as the prototype for that backup big man position).
The Knicks have been renting well, but the question is: Do they have enough money to own?