Mike Woodson took the blame for the Knicks' failure to make the playoffs and apologized to their fans Sunday.
"You can point the fingers in a lot of directions,'' he said. "At the end of the day, I'm the coach and I didn't get it done. It's just that simple. There's a lot of factors that came behind it, but you can't sit here and complain about it now. We didn't get it done. Being the coach, I just apologize to the fans. They pay their hard-earned money to come see us play and we didn't come into this season expecting this.''
The Knicks were officially eliminated from playoff contention Saturday night when the Hawks beat the Heat. Expectations, especially from within the organization, were that this team would contend for a title. The Knicks won 54 games last season, but after Sunday night's 100-89 win over the Bulls at the Garden, they're 35-45 with two games left.
Despite that, Amar'e Stoudemire said the lofty expectations weren't unrealistic. "They should have been a little bit higher, if you ask me," he said. "On paper, we might be the best team in the league. We've got great players on this team who accomplished so much. We just couldn't put it together."
That's why Woodson is expected to be the fall guy for the Knicks' disappointing season. He has one year remaining on his contract, but new president Phil Jackson is expected to hire a coach he knows well who is well versed in the triangle offense.
"There could be a lot of changes," Stoudemire said. "That's the unknown factor."
Carmelo Anthony will become a free agent in July, and he could bolt for a team that has a better chance at winning a title. This is the first time in his 11-year career that Anthony won't be in the postseason. "It's hard now," he said. "It's hard for me to accept that. It's hard to kind of be happy in these times. It's just a hard situation for me right now."
It's possible that Anthony already has played his final game as a Knick. He said he likely will have an MRI on his strained right shoulder, and it doesn't make sense for him to push it with the Knicks out of the race.
Tyson Chandler, Raymond Felton, J.R. Smith and Stoudemire also could be playing their final games with the team. Jackson has to decide who fits his system and whether he will stick with the initial plan of not losing the flexibility the Knicks have in the summer of 2015, when LaMarcus Aldridge, Kevin Love, Rajon Rondo and perhaps LeBron James will be free agents.
If Anthony re-signs and the rest of the core stays, the Knicks might not be much better next season. "Not making the playoffs is not an option,'' Stoudemire said. "That's not an option for us. We're definitely looking to make the playoffs every year. This year's been a struggle, but if I return healthy and ready to go, I'm sure we'll make the playoffs.''
It wasn't until recently that the Knicks started playing like a team with that goal. They have won 14 of 19, but down the stretch, they didn't get the help from the Hawks they needed.
"You never want to depend on somebody to help you get in the playoffs,'' Woodson said. "That ain't what it's about. I don't like begging for anything and I don't want our players begging for help. As a unit, we just didn't get it done. We dug a hole and we were desperately trying to get out of the hole. It was a good fight. I'm not knocking anybody in that locker room because they fought to get us to this point. We fell short.''
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