Knicks head coach Mike Woodson gestures during the first half...

Knicks head coach Mike Woodson gestures during the first half of an NBA preseason basketball game against the Washington Wizards. (Oct. 17, 2013) Credit: AP

GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- With an eye on curbing the Knicks' troubling tendency for slow starts, Mike Woodson says he has been "tinkering" with the starting lineup during practice.

The Knicks coach was tight-lipped on Tuesday about the potential changes, saying he planned to sleep on it.

Woodson acknowledged only that when the Knicks (2-4) visit the Atlanta Hawks (4-3) Wednesday night, reigning Sixth Man of the Year J.R. Smith "possibly" could start and that Metta World Peace "could be under consideration, as well."

Whichever way Woodson goes with his latest new-look lineup, he can only hope it leads to a better first-quarter performance than what's quickly become the norm this season. The Knicks have trailed by double digits in the first quarter in three of their four losses.

"I'm hoping we don't start the game where we're down 15, 20 points right off the bat," Woodson said. "That defeats the purpose of practicing and doing all the things we do to try to prepare for a game, watching film and all."

Woodson's lineup has been in a state of flux since training camp when he spoke about possibly starting Smith over Iman Shumpert and moving Carmelo Anthony back to his natural small forward position.

But his dreams of a big lineup vanished when center Tyson Chandler broke his leg.

Woodson then went back to the two-headed point guard lineup that was so successful at the end of last season. With Raymond Felton and Pablo Prigioni, the Knicks won in Charlotte last Friday, leading Woodson to believe he had found his lineup.

Yet the blowout loss to the Spurs on Sunday -- in which the Knicks trailed by 18 after the first quarter -- has forced Woodson to re-evaluate everything.

"I'm trying to get a good rotation down and I've had some struggles with that," Woodson said. "I haven't found the rotations that I want yet. I'm going to keep working my butt off to get us where we need to be, and guys need to step up and play."

Starting World Peace at small forward would provide more toughness and defensive tenacity immediately, which players said have been missing in the first quarter. That move also would allow Woodson to keep Anthony at power forward, where he's a mismatch for opposing defenders.

But starting Smith would provide more offensive pop in the opening minutes, assuming Smith plays better than he did during his season debut on Sunday when he shot 1-for-9 and scored five points. "I just think I'm thinking too much instead of going out there and playing," Smith said. "So anxious to get out there and trying to do so well and ended up playing probably the worst game I've played."

Notes & quotes: Felton, who hurt his hamstring during the season opener Oct. 30, on whether it's affected his play: "I'm not 100 percent, but no excuses . . . I've got to play harder, plain and simple." . . . Woodson said Amar'e Stoudemire will not play Wednesday night.

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