Mike Woodson says Celtics are a measuring stick for Knicks
GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- The Celtics have lost four straight, are one game under .500 and trail the Knicks by six games in the Atlantic Division.
But that didn't stop coach Mike Woodson from acting as if Thursday night's game in Boston will be a measuring stick for his first-place Knicks and not the reeling Celtics.
"We've got to see what we're made of," Woodson said twice in a four-minute session with reporters after practice yesterday.
The Knicks (25-14) lost to Boston on Jan. 7 at Madison Square Garden, 102-96, in the teams' first meeting of the season. It will long be remembered for the sight of Carmelo Anthony waiting near the Celtics' bus after the game to confront Kevin Garnett after the Boston forward reportedly made derogatory remarks about Anthony's wife. Anthony was suspended for one game by the NBA.
Anthony said he and Garnett -- who will be starters for the East in next month's All-Star Game -- have spoken and put the incident behind them. But Boston's inventive fans probably will have a good laugh while reminding Anthony of it Thursday night.
"The fans are the fans," he said. "This is my 10th season. I've been going to Boston a long time. It's always been a hostile environment in that arena. It's a big game, a divisional game. Boston-New York -- it's never going to be an easy game."
It'll be tougher for the Knicks because of their point guard situation. Jason Kidd will start against Boston's Rajon Rondo, but Woodson said backup Pablo Prigioni is questionable because of a toe injury he suffered Monday.
Top point guard Raymond Felton is not expected to return from his broken pinkie until Saturday's game at Philadelphia. Woodson gave a contradictory answer about Felton's availability for Thursday night; at one point he made it sound as if Felton was a possibility, saying, "We'll see how he feels tomorrow and then gauge it."
Asked later if Felton has been ruled out, Woodson said: "He has been ruled out, yes." Yet things can change in the morning if the player feels better, the need is great enough and the medical staff signs off. Felton left the gym without speaking to reporters.
If neither Felton nor Prigioni is available, backup point guard duties will be shared by Anthony, J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert, who likely will be limited to 20 minutes in his third game back from serious knee surgery.
"You got Rook [Shumpert] and Rook can play some point," Woodson said. "J.R. and Melo, they're capable of handling the ball, but that's not their position. So we've got to eventually get back to our original point guard [Felton] with Kidd coming off the bench, he and Pablo doing their jobs off the bench. So we'll eventually get there."
The Knicks are 4-6 in their last 10 games and lost to the Nets Monday at the Garden. Woodson wants to see his team step up Thursday night and win against a wounded -- but very dangerous -- opponent.
"That's got to come [from] within," Woodson said. "We let a game get away at home and we've got to give Boston credit. They did the necessary things down the stretch to secure the win and now we've got to see what we're made of. We've got to go to Boston -- this will be our first trip there -- and it's going to be a hostile environment. But, hey, that's NBA basketball. That's how it should be."