Knicks unlikely to make changes before must-win Game 5

J.R. Smith is a free agent after the season and a loss could mean his final game as a Knick. Credit: Getty Images
J.R. Smith is a free agent after the season and a loss could mean his final game as a Knick.
Credit: Getty Images

Knicks head coach Mike Woodson is fiercely loyal, which may be why he finds his team down 3-1 to the Pacers.

Woodson, a coach veterans love playing for, is banking on his aging squad to reward his faith by finally knocking down the open shots they used to. A strong believer in staying with the vets, no matter how badly they’re shooting, Woodson said following Wednesday’s practice he has no plans of tinkering too much with his rotation.

“I will never kick J-Kidd to the curb,” Woodson said of Jason Kidd, who has yet to even score this series. “Kidd has been a positive for our club, our franchise and these players that play around him. We all still believe in Kidd. My thing is that he still does the intangibles. He might not score the ball, but he still does the things that help you win.”

Contrary to Woodson’s statement, Kidd has taken away production from the team. Kidd’s plus-minus is a staggering minus-21 in the three losses.

The coach allowed that going big by starting Kenyon Martin over Pablo Prigioni in Game 4 ended up backfiring. Martin (five rebounds, three assists and two blocks) didn’t score in his 29 minutes, while Prigioni was only on the floor for 3:26.

Such an egregious swing and miss is likely what has given Woodson pause to do any more subtle changes, even though guys like Copeland and Steve Novak are itching to do get on the floor.

“We’re contemplating [going back to Prigioni], but I don’t know what I’m going to do yet. That smaller lineup has been great for us for two [or] three months. But I went away from that [in Game 4] to go big and a lot of that was based on guys not being in practice and not being too sure about Iman,” said Woodson. “I didn’t want to bring [Shumpert] off [the bench] because I didn’t want him going in stiff. That [smaller] lineup has worked for us this year, so there’s a strong chance we’ll go back to that. … Bottom line is, our backs are against the wall, so tomorrow night is a must-win.”

Despite things looking bleak, the Knicks still believe. Woodson said he’s “curious” to see how his team reacts, while Shumpert said he accepts the task of trying to achieve the rare feat of coming back to win a series after being down 3-1.

“I embrace the challenge. It’s one game at a time, but it’s been done before, so we just have to win,” said Shumpert. “We’re good. We’re back at home. Guys are getting shots up, and Rasheed [Wallace] is out here talking up a storm keeping us loose. I think being back home and seeing that ball go in for us will do us a lot of good.”

Woodson agreed that guys were loose during their morning session, crediting a veteran team that never seems to panic.

“I’m very curious because our backs are against the wall. It’s a must-win that we have to get tomorrow night. We haven’t had our backs against the wall too much this season so we’re being tested,” Woodson said. “But I feel good about going into tomorrow night’s game. And if we win tomorrow night, it’ll put us in position [to extend] this series and go back [to Indiana]. And then we’ll see what they’re made of. First thing, though, tomorrow is a must-win game.”

Knicks notes …

» Woodson said Amar’e Stoudemire’s production has been a nice surprise, but he doesn’t foresee the former franchise player contributing too much more than he’s already done, simply because of the minutes restriction the team’s medical staff has placed on him.

“He’s only played 10 [or] 12 minutes in his two games and his minutes have been pretty positive.”

» Since his declaration that had he played in Game 4 instead of being suspended the Knicks would’ve won and he’d “be fishing,” J.R. Smith has shot a mere 29 percent from the field. Woodson, though, put the blame at his feet and not the players.

“It’s not about all of that. I’m the head coach, so blame it on me. The bottom line is that if we don’t have the slippage at home in Game 1 to start the series then we’re standing here feeling pretty good about ourselves. Right now, my job is to get us out of that hole.”

Follow Knicks beat writer Tony Williams on Twitter @TBone8.


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