Knicks head coach Mike Woodson held a 24-minute conference call Sunday and extolled the virtues of the defensive intensity his veteran-laden team showed in their Game 1 win.
Woodson mainly discussed the importance of Carmelo Anthony’s supporting cast — especially guys like Jason Kidd and Kenyon Martin — saying they’ll be needed almost as much as his superstar player if they want to continue their playoff journey.
“Both of them are still relentless and savvy. I go back to that 2004 Detroit [championship] team when [the then-New Jersey Nets] had us against the wall big time,” Woodson said, recalling when he was an assistant coach for the Pistons. “That was really our championship series, because they were very good. And they still know how to get it done.”
Woodson quickly added they obviously need his stars, Anthony and J.R. Smith, but said whoever he calls to the floor has his full confidence.
“I have enough faith in anyone I’ve thrown out there this season to play, and for some reasons we get responses. And to me that’s the sign of a team,” Woodson said. “But we’re a better team when we have J.R. and Melo on the floor at the same time together.”
The Knicks have prepared for this playoff run unlike most teams. Instead of stockpiling young talent, they decided to go the route of acquiring guys who may be past their primes, but have much to offer in other ways.
“When you go back to when we first started the process, me, [team president] Glen [Grunwald], and [team owner Jim] Mr. Dolan had discussions in how we were going to build this team. And we were all of the mindset to build around veterans who can help us right away,” said Woodson. “We wanted guys who were serious about winning the title and putting forth the effort on and off the court. I’m very happy with the way guys have contributed one way or another to win basketball games. … Time will tell [how it ends] but we just need to go forward on our journey.”
Kidd and Martin were main contributors down the stretch in the Game 1 win, as they helped the Knicks hold the Celtics to a paltry eight points in the fourth quarter. Kidd disrupted passing lanes, dived for loose balls or played stellar help defense. Martin was his usual manic self, patrolling the lanes with the same ferocity and energy a guy 10 years younger than his actual age of 35.
“When you have Jason Kidd on the floor, and he’s been on the floor as long as he has, it makes a difference,” said Woodson. “J.R. and Melo are still in their primes — Raymond [Felton], too. But having Kidd and Kenyon on the floor at the same time gives us some stability. Those are winnable plays for winning basketball games and those were the reasons why we added those guys to our team.”
Woodson continued, adding if the Knicks get the same type of defensive effort in the early quarters, his team has a shot at something special.
“That’s what good teams are supposed to do — play defense. We’ve been solid all year, especially defensively in the fourth quarter. That’s the time you have to step up and make plays. The thing about playoff basketball is when you’re struggling to score the ball, you better make sure the other team is struggling, too,” said Woodson, adding the formula of adding old guys is paying off. “I was looking for defensive-minded guys, like Sheed [Rasheed Wallace], Kidd, Kurt [Thomas], Kenyon, even Pablo [Prigioni], who’s learned his way through this league. … If our defense is consistent, and everyone buys in, we’ll put ourselves in position to win a lot of games.”
Knicks notes …
» The Knicks don’t know if or when Amar’e Stoudemire will return, but Woodson said when he does Stoudemire will be welcomed back with open arms: “Amar’e is always going to be a big part of our team, without a doubt. He’s just progressing. When he’s going to play, I don’t know. But if he makes it back, he’ll be ready to help out and play and do what he was doing before he got hurt. It’ll just add one more good-to-great piece to the puzzle on the floor during our journey.”
» Woodson also thinks Prigioni (sprained ankle) may make it back by Game 2 on Tuesday night. And if he does, he’ll have no problem reinserting the 35-year-old rookie back into the mix, which will in turn allow more defensive flexibility: “If Pablo is put in, our starting lineup changes. So, when he’s in, we’d have Raymond on Paul [Pierce] and Iman [Shumpert] on [Jeff] Green, who’s a tough cover for anybody.”
» Tyson Chandler should get back to his normal ways sooner than later, according to Woodson: “It won’t take him long. I know [lack of conditioning] was a factor. I could tell the way he was moving. But that’s OK. That’s expected because he hasn’t played in a number of games. But that’s the point of having Kenyon, Camby and Earl [Barron] on the bench to play when needed.”
Follow Knicks beat writer Tony Williams on Twitter @TBone8.