Mike Woodson’s first official practice as head coach already showed that times are changing, as the Knicks went through a strenuous session that lasted over two hours.
Woodson’s session featured much more structure on the offensive end, with little freelancing, and more traditional sets that ran through their two stars, Amar’e Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony.
That’s a far cry from the Mike D’Antoni practices where they frequently scrimmaged at a break-neck pace with most anyone who was open having the green light to hoist up shots. During D’Antoni’s reign, there was more emphasis on getting good, quick looks from anyone. But if Woodson’s offensive look during Thursday’s practice was any indication, there will be more isolation plays for Anthony and more venturing into the post by Stoudemire.
The fact that Woodson’s offensive philosophy is seemingly so different from D’Antoni’s free-spirited gameplan doesn’t mean he’ll totally eschew an uptempo game when it calls for it, the coach said. He noted that when he coached the Hawks they were also a halfcourt team, but he occasionally turned loose high flyers like Josh Smith and allowed him to run the open floor.
Woodson added that as long as guys seem engaged on the defensive end, he’ll allow for some creativity. Defense comes "first and foremost" though.
"As long as they’re into it [on the defensive end], we can tweak things offensively," said Woodson. "I think they responded well to our defensive session today. But we have a long way to go. … Like I said [Wednesday night] I hold everyone accountable."
Learning things as they go, said Woodson, is a tough task. The Knicks’ interim head coach said that is life in the topsy-turvy NBA, but added teams certainly won’t feel sorry for them.
"I’m doing a lot of things on the fly. I’m going to change as we go along but I don’t want to take away from what we’ve been doing," Woodson said, adding he’ll add some wrinkles to appease his stars. "Maybe we’ll post Melo and Amare more, [but] it’s hard to [completely] change right now."
If body language is any indicator, Anthony seems like he’s as happy as he’s ever been since coming from Denver last February. The All-Star swingman looked very comfortable Wednesday night, getting to his sweet spots and once again being the primary focus of the offense. Anthony has taken the high road since D’Antoni quit, but did allow that the fun is back in his game.
"We were back to playing basketball, back to having fun," Anthony said, also still sounding like offense will always be first and foremost on his brain. "It gets frustrating when you’re not making shots, though. We could play all the defense in the world and we could stop teams, but [the game] still means putting the ball in the hole."
»As expected, the Knicks didn’t make any moves before the 4 p.m. trading deadline. Not even the forgotten Toney Douglas changed addresses, so for the first time in three years the Knicks’ roster will stay intact for the stretch run.
»Lin said he texted D’Antoni late Wednesday night, mostly to thank him for the opportunity. As of the end of Thursday’s practice, Anthony said he had yet to reach out to his former coach.
»Rookie Iman Shumpert said he was grateful for D’Antoni because he was the coach who drafted him and turned him loose. Shumpert said he found out about the trade when he woke up from his post-practice nap on Wednesday afternoon and was shocked. Twenty four hours later and the rookie said it’s still kind of surreal and sad to see the guy who gave him his first NBA job depart abruptly: "It’s a little disappointing [because] for me coming into his system and playing right away. His system was so wide open and everyone was really excited about it. [But] you could tell [the mood] locker room has changed a little bit but that comes with any change. We just have to get through it and we will get through it. … Not sure where we go from here, but I do know we need to keep winning so we get to the playoffs."
Follow Knicks beat writer Tony Williams on Twitter @TBone8.