GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- As much as Mike Woodson wants to see the Knicks bring more energy and passion to the court, there's a caveat there.
With three Knicks among the league leaders in technical fouls this season, Woodson said Monday that he's been stressing to his players that they must do a better job of keeping their cool.
Woodson said they have to be better about directing their emotions at the game, not the opponents or the officials, as has been the case too often lately. "We've just got to let the officials alone," Woodson said.
Woodson's message came on the heels of a brief skirmish Sunday that resulted in a flagrant foul assessed against Carmelo Anthony and a technical foul given to Tyson Chandler. Anthony responded to an elbow from Spencer Hawes by smacking him in the back of the neck. That upset Hawes, who got in Anthony's face, which prompted Chandler to shove Hawes.
After the Knicks' 99-93 win over the 76ers at the Garden, Woodson said Anthony has "got to control his emotions," but Monday, the coach said it's not just on Anthony to stay composed in the heat of the moment. Woodson said it's on his whole team to become better at channeling their energy into more productive matters.
Anthony and Chandler have 10 technical fouls each and J.R. Smith has nine this season, putting them in striking distance of the 15-technical threshold that results in an automatic one-game suspension.
Just last week, Smith got into it with the Pacers' Lance Stephenson and later was ejected after an exchange with an official. "They're adding up," he said of the technical fouls. "Eventually -- or hopefully not -- but if you keep getting techs, you're going to start missing games, and we don't need that."
Far too often, Woodson has seen his players complain about calls or non-calls, which threatens to take their attention away from what matters most. "They're there to do their job," Woodson said of the officials, "and we've just got to be smart about what we do from a basketball standpoint. We can't buy into that. You just got to play."
The same goes when opponents get under your skin, the case Sunday night. Anthony wasn't available to speak with reporters after practice Monday, but Smith praised his teammate for holding back his emotions more often than not this season. "A lot of cheap stuff has been thrown at him,'' Smith said, "and he hasn't really focused on it too much."
Woodson has no problem with physical play; it's the reaction to opponents' physical play that needs some work.
"I want us to play physical and not back away because that's what good teams are supposed to do," Woodson said. "When teams play us physical, it's OK. We've just got to return the favor and let the officials do their job, and hopefully things work out for us.
"We've kind of been on the back side of that a little bit where we've lost our composure a little bit. We've got to back away from that because we can't win that battle."