Al Iannazzone joined Newsday in January 2012 as the Knicks’ beat writer, after covering the NBA for 11
The Knicks didn't lose only strong leadership when Jason Kidd and Rasheed Wallace retired. They lost a lot of their basketball smarts.
For evidence, one need look no further than their games this past week against the Wizards and Bucks.
Mike Woodson has been criticized for failing to call a timeout, settling his team and drawing up a final play against Washington on Monday. But if Kidd or Wallace had been on the floor, one -- if not both -- likely would have immediately signaled for a timeout after Bradley Beal's layup with 6.9 seconds left.
What's more, if Kidd or Wallace had been on the floor, the Knicks likely would have committed a foul on Beal, as Woodson had instructed the Knicks to do. They had one to give.
Kidd, Wallace and Kurt Thomas, for that matter, are long gone and not coming back. But with each Knicks loss, and the ways in which they are losing games, it has become obvious how valuable those players were to the team and Woodson and the impact they had on Carmelo Anthony and J.R. Smith.
There were several breakdowns on that fateful sequence Monday, from Beno Udrih not giving the foul and playing for the help, to Andrea Bargnani not being there to give it. But after Beal's driving layup, Udrih, as the point guard, should have called timeout instead of telling Bargnani what he did wrong.
As the Knicks' leader, Anthony also should have called timeout instead of urging Udrih to inbound the ball to him. Then Anthony didn't show much urgency as he brought the ball upcourt -- probably because he was waiting for Woodson to call a timeout.
The Knicks had nearly 40 years of NBA experience on the court, but you wouldn't have known it.
Two nights later, Bargnani made a huge gaffe that could have cost the Knicks a loss.
With the Knicks up two in the waning seconds of overtime, Tyson Chandler grabbed an offensive rebound and threw it out to Bargnani. Instead of taking time off the clock and waiting for the Bucks to foul him, Bargnani immediately launched a three-pointer and missed. The Bucks then forced a second OT, but the Knicks managed to prevail.
These things shouldn't happen and can't happen if you're supposed to be a legitimate playoff team -- which the Knicks are proving they're not.
With the Knicks leading the Pacers by three points in the closing seconds of regulation last month, Iman Shumpert fouled Paul George in the act of shooting a three-pointer. Woodson had told Shumpert to foul right away, on the catch. George made the three free throws to tie the score and the Knicks lost in overtime.
Anthony made a costly mistake against the Rockets when he intentionally fouled notoriously bad free-throw shooter Dwight Howard with less than two minutes left and the Knicks down by two. Because of the "away-from-the-play'' foul in the final two minutes, the Rockets were awarded a free throw -- which James Harden hit -- and the ball, and it ended up being a three-point trip that put the Rockets up five with 1:15 left in another Knicks loss.
Anthony called it "a bonehead play,'' and he was right. The problem is the Knicks have had too many.
The players have to know time, score and situation. Woodson and his staff have to make sure they do, too, and that they know the rules.
The Knicks aren't a young team, either. They don't have the wise graybeards like last season, but they're still veteran-laden. Experience doesn't always guarantee high basketball IQs, though.
Who shot? J.R.
J.R. Smith went from taking one shot in 26 minutes Dec. 13 in Boston -- in what seemed to be some type of protest -- to hoisting 23, including 17 three-pointers, in Milwaukee on Wednesday.
At least Smith realized he went a little overboard. Or did he?
After the game, he tweeted, "Lol. 17 threes tho. Had to say damn myself.'' But in his next tweet, Smith said, "But trust me give me that chance again I'll shoot it again!''
He'll likely get his chance. Mike Woodson rarely pulls Smith, even when he shoots the way he did Wednesday. Smith hit the jumper in the second overtime that gave the Knicks the lead for good.
"We need him to shoot the ball,'' Woodson said. "Hey, I'm glad he's back shooting.''
Van backs up Woodson
Former Knicks coach Jeff Van Gundy said it is "ludicrous'' that some people thought Mike Woodson should have been fired for not using a timeout in the Washington game.
"You don't cut a player or trade a player because they make a mistake under pressure in an NBA game,'' Van Gundy said. "Nor should there be an overreaction if there was a coaching mistake made.
"I think right now everybody has their sights set on what Mike Woodson needs to do better, but what really needs to happen is they need to get their roster intact. When they're healthy, they need to play a lot better.''