Knicks Eliminated From Playoffs By Heat, As Off-Season Questions Remain
Sports Illustrated’s Sam Amick on the busy off-season ahead for the New York Knicks:
“Know this about the Knicks’ 2011-12 season, which ended with their loss to Miami in Game 5 on Wednesday: They gave us plenty to talk about.
In lieu of the organization’s third championship (that’s 39 consecutive years and counting without one, for the record), the entertainment value was at an all-time high even if it included some unwelcome lows. A team may never have sparked this many storylines in one season — let alone one shortened by the lockout.
There was Tyson Chandler’s arrival and Chauncey Billups’ departure. An 8-15 start. Jeremy Lin saving the day (10 wins in the next 13 games) and Linsanity spreading the globe. Carmelo Anthony as villain, then as beloved son. The power forward formerly known as Amar’e Stoudemire. Coach Mike D’Antoni taking his seven-seconds-or-less ball and going home. Mike Woodson’s strong finish.
But now that it’s all over, it’s time to discuss the most pressing questions facing the Knicks as they head into the offseason.
• Who is going to coach this team?
Woodson looks to have the inside track on keeping the job long term. Woodson denied a report in Monday’s New York Daily News that he had begun extension talks with the Knicks, but a source close to the situation told SI.com that the coach has, in fact, been telling people that he has had preliminary discussions with team officials about his return. Though no one ever knows how things can change when it comes to owner James Dolan and his Garden, the signs are strong that the Knicks will retain Woodson rather than chase the likes of Phil Jackson or Kentucky coach John Calipari.
Woodson has no shortage of supporters within the organization, and his standing appears solid despite the Knicks’ poor showing in the first round of the playoffs. After D’Antoni resigned on March 14, the Knicks went 18-6 under Woodson. His successful use of Anthony while Stoudemire was sidelined with back problems is helping his cause, as is his season-long impact on the team’s defense. New York improved dramatically on defense after Woodson was hired as an assistant last offseason to help on that end of the floor, with Defensive Player of the Year Chandler leading a unit that ranked fifth in points allowed per possession.
The season-ending injuries to guards Lin, Iman Shumpert and Baron Davis have provided built-in excuses for why the Knicks weren’t more competitive against the Heat. The question now is whether Woodson is the right coach to take this group to the next level. He has sparked steady progress before, from 2004-10 in Atlanta, where the Hawks improved every year, winning 13 games in his first season and 53 in his sixth and last. Woodson lost in the first round once and the second round twice with the Hawks, for whom he went 206-286.
• Will they re-sign Lin?
Before we even get into Lin’s basketball impact, there’s the business aspect of his presence. Just 11 days after he received his first start and turned the Knicks’ season around with his phenomenal play, a Forbes.com headline read “Jeremy Lin: A One-Man, Global Economic Stimulus Package.”
His cultural appeal will be there no matter which fan base he’s playing for, but the folks in the MSG offices are well aware that he’s a keeper for their market. After all, it was no coincidence that their television-rights dispute with Time Warner was resolved in the middle of Lin’s memorable run. People wanted to see the second-year player in action, and a deal simply had to be struck.
As for the basketball minds in the building? Sources said they want Lin back, too. He’s still seen as the possible solution to this whole mess, a steadying force who can help all the pieces fall into place once this group gets more time to play together.
The Knicks are positioned to keep the restricted free agent because they can use their mid-level exception of about $5 million to match any offer for him and because the so-called Gilbert Arenas rule limits rival teams from offering more than that amount in first-year salary for players with fewer than three years of experience like Lin. But unless the Knicks can persuade Lin to come back for a cheaper price, there could be a ripple effect on the rest of the roster.”