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Mike Woodson still thinks Knicks can win Atlantic title

Knicks coach Mike Woodson reacts on the bench

Knicks coach Mike Woodson reacts on the bench during the second half against the Oklahoma City Thunder at Madison Square Garden. The Thunder won, 123-94. (Dec. 25, 2013) Credit: AP

GREENBURGH, N.Y. - As practice was breaking up Thursday, Knicks coach Mike Woodson and general manager Steve Mills were chatting while Carmelo Anthony stood in a corner talking with assistant GM Allan Houston and assistant coach Herb Williams.

The 9-19 Knicks have plenty to discuss and figure out.

They've been out of sync in so many games this season, including their 29-point home loss to the Thunder on Christmas Day. But Woodson believes the Knicks are close and will repeat as Atlantic Division champions.

"Do I see some light at the end of the tunnel? I do," Woodson said. "I think eventually we'll get to where we need to get as a ballclub. And I'm basing that on our last 12 games. Eventually we'll get healthy and we'll see how it all plays out.

"The beauty about all of this that we're going through is nobody's running away with it in our division and I'm pushing our team to win our division still. We won it last year and I expect us to win it this year."

The Knicks still are only three games out of first in the Atlantic Division. The weakness of the division and injuries to key players probably have helped Woodson as speculation continues to swirl about his job security. "The bottom line is I'm the coach of this team," he said. "I have very high standards in terms of what I do and what I expect players to do. And it starts with me."

The Knicks have a chance to gain some ground Friday night when they begin a home-and-home with division-leading Toronto at the Garden, but it's unclear whether Anthony will play.

Anthony, who didn't practice because of a sprained left ankle that kept him out of the Christmas Day game, didn't speak to the media. Woodson called him "day-to-day."

Point guards Raymond Felton (groin) and Pablo Prigioni (fractured toe) won't play, and if Anthony is out, the Knicks will have to find ways to score.

Since Anthony left the Orlando game in the third quarter Monday, the Knicks have been outscored 169-125.

"Everybody has to make plays," J.R. Smith said. "It's not like we're going to forfeit because he's not there or they can't play. We've got to play. And if we want to win, we're going to play the right way."

Smith and Tyson Chandler again came to Woodson's defense, saying that if the Knicks would listen to him and follow his game plan, there wouldn't be any questions about his job.

"I feel like it's unwarranted," Chandler said. "The decisions that we made, some of the mistakes that we made, didn't fall on Woody's shoulders. We have to then take it upon ourselves as players, and there's been several situations, whether it's been game plan, whether it's strategy, where each player is in the right position to succeed, and we haven't succeeded."

Smith added, "Whoever is in that head seat, we've got to pay attention to him, we've got to listen to him and we've got to know that he wants the best for us. So when we go out there and play like we did [Wednesday], it doesn't look like that. So we've got to do a better job of policing one another as teammates."

Notes & quotes: Woodson said he hadn't spoken to Beno Udrih after the guard expressed frustration Wednesday about being singled out in the media. Woodson has been critical of his play recently . . . Prigioni tried to run but said he's still sore. He hopes to return during the Knicks' three-game Texas trip, which begins Thursday.

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