Neil Best first worked at Newsday in 1982, then returned in 1985. His SportsWatch column debuted on Sept.
GREENBURGH, N.Y. - Mike Woodson literally was backed against a wall by reporters here Wednesday, talking about the Knicks figuratively being in that position and looking as if he would rather be anyplace else.
"It's not about all of that," he said, shaking his head. "I mean, again, I'm the head coach. Blame it on me."
The problem with doing that is similar to faulting Smith or Carmelo Anthony or a supporting cast that is coming apart at the seams at the worst time. There is so much blame to go around that fingering any individual is a little silly.
But as Woodson said, he is in charge, and after all the deserved plaudits for guiding the Knicks to their best season this millennium, some peculiar decisions in Game 4 are fair game -- especially with more decisions to come in Game 5.
It began at the beginning with word he had ditched the starting lineup that carried the Knicks through early spring to "go big" by replacing Pablo Prigioni with Kenyon Martin.
That was interesting, and superficially logical given the Pacers' advantages in size and strength. But in reality it only played into the Pacers' strength, and further weakened the Knicks' already anemic offense.
Martin would finish scoreless in 29 minutes, joining Iman Shumpert as a starter who didn't score. Prigioni didn't score, either, but he played only three minutes.
"There were a lot of things playing into why I did what I did," Woodson said after offering a muddled explanation having to do with Shumpert's sore knee, "but that lineup has been good and there's a strong chance we could go right back to that lineup [in Game 5]."
That's wise, especially if it means more time for Prigioni, who was on the floor one fifth as long as yet another scoreless Knick, Jason Kidd, who has not made a field goal since April 23 and hasn't made a two-pointer since April 7.
"I will never kick J-Kidd to the curb, man," Woodson said, demonstrating both loyalty and stubbornness, traits that also seem to apply to Amar'e Stoudemire's continued participation.
The strangest coaching moment in Game 4 came early in the fourth quarter, when Chris Copeland made a three-pointer to get the Knicks within 10 points. Anthony then re-entered but rather than sub for Stoudemire he replaced Copeland.
"That didn't hurt us," Woodson said. "We outscored them the second half . . . The game was lost, I thought, in the second quarter."
It has been an odd series from the start for Woodson, who correctly has criticized his players for being outhustled yet hasn't been able to change that dynamic. Wednesday he correctly lamented that his guys got into a "shoving war" in Game 4 that he called "just ridiculous." It's on him to put a stop to that, too.
To be fair, Woodson mostly is grasping for answers at this stage, with few good ones available. He answered those posed by reporters after practice, but he canceled his weekly appearance on ESPN Radio. Co-host Stephen A. Smith said on the air it was the team's decision not to have Woodson go on. The Knicks declined to comment.
But really, there is not much more to say, and there won't be much more time to say it if Anthony and/or Smith don't get hot very soon, because the Knicks don't have other reliable offensive answers.
Woodson is 1-11 in second-round games as a head coach.
"Right now our backs are against the wall," he said, "and my job is to get us out of this hole."