Mike Woodson played defense Wednesday night better than any of his players have this season.
Woodson's seat may be hotter than ever with the Knicks having lost 11 of 13 games before hosting the Bulls. But he looked cool and calm as he discussed what he's done while he's been the Knicks' coach, what he's had to deal with this season and his belief he can straighten out the season if given a chance.
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But Woodson said he won't go to upper management and plead his case.
"I'm not trying to convince anyone,'' Woodson said before the game. "I'm trying to take our team as it is and do the best job we can possibly do. Right now we've had our struggles. And I've always thought as a coach I can take any team and win. That's just how I feel, and sometimes that's not realistic. But that's how I feel as a coach.
"When I step out on the floor, I feel I can put us in position to win. It may be stubborn when I say that, but that's just how I feel.''
The Knicks have missed Tyson Chandler's presence, especially defensively. He's been out the last 17 games after breaking his right leg. It's unclear when he will return, but Chandler is hopeful it's before the New Year. That might be too late for Woodson if the Knicks don't start playing better and winning.
The Knicks lost by 41 at home against Boston Sunday and by 15 in Cleveland Tuesday night, dropping them to 5-15. That seemed to make Wednesday night's's game critical for Woodson and his future on the Knicks' bench. He can't afford many more performances where the Knicks fall behind big in the first and third quarters.
The belief is that the Knicks aren't prepared, aren't listening to him or Woodson isn't making the proper in-game adjustments. But his players continue to defend him.
"It's good, but at the end of the day I'm the leader of this team and if anybody is going to get us out of this hole, it's going to be me,'' Woodson said.
"When I took over this team [in 2012] the team was struggling and we were able to pull that team together. Last year we made a major jump from the first year. That's what I'm about. I'm not about anything else.
"We're not playing at the level we played at last year. We've done it in spurts. We've just got to get our core guys back, number one. We've got to get Tyson back and see what our team is really about.''
Chandler's health and being without Raymond Felton "for a little while'' because of a hamstring injury could buy Woodson some time. Woodson also has been limited with his big-man rotation because earlier in the season Kenyon Martin and Amar'e Stoudemire were on minutes restrictions.
But Woodson remains confident that if he gets everyone healthy, he can get the Knicks playing similarly to last season, when they won 54 games and their first Atlantic Division title since 1994.
"That's the frustrating part about coaching,'' he said. "I've endured the fact that I got restrictions on certain players. We went through that phase. We're kind of starting to grow out of that. Guys couldn't play back-to-back, now here's Amar'e being able to play back-to-back, and not having Tyson. Raymond's been on and off. He got hurt early and now he's hurt again.
"It's just been tough to actually see what our Knick team is really about. But I think if we're healthy, I think we're a good team. I think we can compete at that level. But we got to get back to that.''