By sticking with the status quo, New York Knicks chairman James Dolan is betting on anything but from his beleaguered basketball team.
According to a report from ESPN.com’s Marc Stein, Dolan gathered the troops, a number of them sidelined by injury, before the first practice following the embarrassing Christmas Day blowout by the visiting Oklahoma City Thunder. The message Dolan sent: Coach Mike Woodson will not be fired, so get behind him and turn this still-salvageable season around.
Knicks chairman James Dolan told New York players in a meeting Thursday that there are no trades or changes to the coaching staff forthcoming, ESPN.com has learned.
Sources close to the situation told ESPN.com that Dolan gathered the team before the first practice in the wake of New York’s embarrassing 29-point home loss to Oklahoma City on Christmas Day largely in an attempt to hush the growing speculation about coach Mike Woodson’s job security following the Knicks’ 9-19 start.
It’s believed Dolan took the step in an attempt to persuade Woodson’s players to band together and throw their full support behind the embattled coach to help dig New York out of the sizable hole it finds itself with essentially one-third of the regular season in the books, the sources said.
Despite its 9-19 record, accrued in no small part by a devastating number of injuries, the Knicks remain in the thick of the Atlantic Division race, just three games behind leader-by-default Toronto (11-15) and 2 1/2 games behind second-place Boston (12-17).
Ground can be quickly made up (or lost) starting tonight when the Knicks begin a home-and-home series with the Raptors at Madison Square Garden (7:30 ET, League Pass), where New York is just 4-11. Saturday night the teams will meet in Canada.
When Woodson spoke with reporters after Thursday’s practice, the first after the 29-point beat down by the Thunder, the coach said he still believes his team can reverse its fortunes and overtake the division:
“We won it last year, and I expect us to win it this year. 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. … Eventually we’ll get healthy, and we’ll see how it all plays out.”
A significant push in the health department would include the return of leading scorer Carmelo Anthony, who missed the OKC game with a left sprained ankle suffered in Monday’s win over Orlando. He remains day-to-day heading into tonight’s game.
Starting point guard Raymond Felton (groin) does not look good to play in the next two games and possibly beyond. Pablo Prigioni (fractured right big toe) announced after Thursday’s practice that he’s still not ready to go.
Without their best players, the Knicks might not stand much of a change no matter who is coaching the team. How critical is the two-game set against Toronto? After it, the Knicks hit the road for three games: at San Antonio (Jan. 2), Houston (Jan. 3) and Dallas (Jan. 5). Those squads are a combined 28 games over .500 and 26-6 against the Eastern Conference.
Then the Knicks return home to face Detroit (Jan. 7) and Miami (Jan. 9).