Woodson not afraid to sit down stars

J.R. Smith has been vocal about his desire to start for the Knicks, at least in Iman Shumpert's absence.

While cynics think the Knicks are stockpiling players in their golden ages, head coach Mike Woodson thinks his new-look squad is simply golden.  

Some of the early commotions coming out of the Knicks’ camp, however, pertain to the starting lineup and who closes out games.

Woodson is not concerned with who wants to start and who’s playing ‘X’ amount of minutes, because all he cares about is the end result. And if that means a starter — or even a superstar — is nailed to the bench down the stretch, so be it.

“I’ve always coached that way, where sometimes the best player is sitting on the bench at the end,” Woodson said. “There were nights in Atlanta when Joe Johnson or Jamal Crawford was on the bench [down the stretch], based on how guys are playing in the game. It comes down to who wants it the most in crunchtime and who I believe can get it done down the stretch.”

That means someone like J.R. Smith, who’s been publicly pining to start at shooting guard while second-year sensation Iman Shumpert rehabs his torn ACL, will just have to grit his teeth and fall in line. Woodson has already said he’ll need Smith coming off the bench as a sixth man.

“If you look at the makeup of our team, there are going to be times when one guy is having a big night and will be left in there,” said Woodson. “But then there are nights when someone else will be having that big night who will stay in there, even though he didn’t play much the night before. … It could be anyone from Carmelo [Anthony], Amar’e [Stoudemire], Tyson [Chandler], [Raymond] Felton or even [Steve] Novak. We have guys that can play lots of minutes, guys to make shots on any given night. … We have guys that can play lots of minutes. But ultimately, guys just want to win.” 

It’s a delicate balance, noted Woodson, but thankfully his veterans have bought in. Felton was in compliance with his coach, which should be a good sign for Knicks’ fans, since there could be nights when Felton is the one who sacrifices minutes down the stretch. Felton, who’s in his second go-around with the team, will likely start the season at point guard when the regular season opens. But on any given night he could be the odd-man out during the critical points of a game, as Felton will have stiff competition for minutes from both Jason Kidd and even Pablo Prigioni.    

The seventh-year veteran said he’s fine with any scenario, because he’s all about winning.    

“Whatever coach decides to do is fine. If he decides to go with me one night at the end of the game, and then the next night it could be Jason more, that’s fine,” Felton said. “It can be anybody [benched down the stretch]. He could even sit Amar’e down because somebody is playing better, or could even sit Melo down because that’s how deep our team is.” 

While it’s highly unlikely that either Stoudemire or Anthony will ever be stapled to the pine down the stretch, at least Woodson has numerous options to go to with such an interchangeable roster.

Follow Knicks beat writer Tony Williams on Twitter @TBone8.


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