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SportsColumnistsAl Iannazzone

Knicks' flaws don't begin or end with Mike Woodson

Mike Woodson after a call in the first

Mike Woodson after a call in the first half of a game against the Indiana Pacers in Indianapolis on Jan. 16, 2014. Credit: AP / Michael Conroy

The Knicks haven't come close to living up to their own expectations this season, but they have provided writers -- and headline writers -- with plenty of material this season.

Carmelo Anthony described the Knicks as "the laughingstock of the league" in December. Tyson Chandler said they were "out-schemed" following a loss to the Nets. Beleaguered coach Mike Woodson called the season "kind of a disaster from a coaching standpoint" just a few days ago.

Let's not forget J.R. Smith trying to untie an opponent's sneaker in three straight games, defending his brother and threatening Brandon Jennings on Twitter and posting an Instagram with a message about "betrayal" after learning the Knicks were cutting Chris Smith.

These are the sights and this is the soundtrack of a season the Knicks hoped would be filled with cheers, banners and ticker tape. Instead, a lot of their hopes have been tattered and now they're just trying to make the playoffs as Woodson's job security becomes a daily topic of conversation.

It's inevitable that Woodson will have coach removed from his title at some point, whether it's before the trade deadline or after the season.

This may be an unpopular sentiment among Knicks fans, but Woodson deserves to see this season through.

He went 18-6 after replacing Mike D'Antoni two years ago and 54-28 last year. He's not doing anything differently. But the roster is different, and the remaining players not named Anthony have underperformed.

When a coach is fired, generally a team has a surge because the players know it's on them to play harder. It worked for Woodson in 2012, but one difference was Anthony and D'Antoni weren't seeing eye to eye. When Woodson stepped in, Anthony played harder and had a tremendous end to that season and carried the Knicks into the playoffs.

Anthony is one of only a handful of Knicks whose effort can't be questioned this season. It's hard to imagine Anthony playing much harder or much better under an interim coach.

Woodson's biggest failings are he runs too many isolation plays on offense and switches everything defensively. Players are usually out of place or scrambling, leading to open three-pointers. It's worked before. Not this year.

He probably should consider changing that.

But Woodson's players, especially on the perimeter, have to take some accountability. They have to do a better job of containing their man and just playing better overall.

Raymond Felton gets beaten often. Milwaukee point guard Brandon Knight caught Felton napping and scored a backdoor layup with 27 seconds left Monday and hit the winning three with the Knicks' point guard backing off him.

Opposing point guards have scored at least 20 points against the Knicks a staggering 19 times this season. The Knicks are 6-13 in those games. It's not all Felton because he's missed 16 games, but he is not having a good season.

Iman Shumpert also has been a disappointment. Too often he makes little impact on the game, even defensively, which is his strong point.

On the other end, the Knicks aren't getting much offense from their starters not named Anthony. In 19 games this season, only two starters have reached double-digits, and five times only one starter scored at least 10. Shumpert has been scoreless six times this season.

The bottom line is the Knicks have a lot of areas that need to be addressed and fixed, bigger than coaching.

The Dolan family owns controlling interests in the Knicks, Madison Square Garden and Cablevision. Cablevision owns Newsday.

Melo drama

Just to recap: In the last two weeks, Carmelo Anthony’s good friend Kobe Bryant and former coach and confidante Jim Boeheim said Anthony should do whatever he can to play for a team that can win a championship. Boeheim essentially said if Anthony doesn’t win, he’s going to be considered “a failure.”

Over that same time, Anthony said winning a ring is the only thing that matters to him and he”s “going to do what I got to do to get it.”

Could all of this be laying the groundwork for Anthony’s departure in free agency this summer, or a message to Knicks officials? They know they need to upgrade the roster, though. The question is can they by the Feb. 20 deadline?

Fast breaks

- Steve Nash celebrated his 40th birthday Friday, but he said he felt “like a kid, like a rookie” earlier in the week. A nerve issue in his back sidelined him three months and sparked speculation it could be career-ending, but Nash returned Tuesday. He had seven points and nine assists in 25 minutes against Minnesota. Nash played 28 minutes Friday in Philadelphia, and had 19 points and five assists.

- It will be a busy All-Star Weekend for Portland second-year guard Damian Lillard. He’s been chosen to compete in five events, and plans to become the first player to do that. He’s in the Rising Stars Challenge on Friday, the Skills Challenge, Three-Point Shootout and Slam Dunk Contest on Saturday, and the main event: Sunday’s All-Star Game.

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