Mike Woodson

Mike Woodson: ‘I don’t think I have lost the locker room’


The Knicks are looking increasingly frustrated. It starts with their star, Carmelo Anthony, frequently complaining to officials and trickles down to the rest of the players.

Sometimes, issues like that are self-contained among the players. But other times, it’s the sign of larger discord – players lashing out in rebellion of a coach they no longer trust to corral them.

Which is the case in New York?

The man whose job depends on the answer gives the expected response. Knicks coach Mike Woodson, via Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPNNewYork.com:

“I don’t think I have lost the locker room,” Woodson said during his weekly spot on “The Stephen A. Smith and Ryan Ruocco Show” on ESPN New York 98.7. “I don’t think I have lost players from an individual standpoint. What I have lost is a Tyson Chandler and a Raymond Felton, that is what I have lost from my starting team.

“And I don’t know if you can go on any roster and take two starters out of their roster and they still survive,” Woodson added. “They might play in spurts like we are doing today. I am not making excuses, but I would sure love to take my chances with Tyson and Raymond in my lineup.”

Woodson is correct that the Knicks’ talent problems, both due to injury and not, trump any issues with him connecting to players. But those two often go hand-in-hands, especially on a team team that, from the top down, has unreasonably high expectations.

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Losing exasperates small problems. Players who might bite their tongue if they disagree with Woodson are more likely to speak out now, and that  would only fuel wider distrust.

If Woodson has the locker room, he’s holding on by a thread, because that’s true of everyone coaching a team that is falling so far short of its goals.

LeBron James posts photo with Tristan Thompson, sends message to Cavs

2015 NBA Finals - Game Five
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Tristan Thompson is a man without a contract. By not signing the qualifying offer with the Cleveland Cavaliers he put himself in limbo, the rare NBA holdout. Right now his options are to sign the deal on the table (the Cavs still have the five-year, $80 million offer out there), get the Sixers or Blazers to offer him a max contract (which neither team has shown any interest in doing), or hold out and hope the Cavaliers make a better offer. If he holds out for the entire season he becomes a restricted free agent again next summer — exactly like he is right now.

Without signing the qualifying offer and the threat of leaving, Thompson hurt his leverage.

But he has a little leverage. He and his agent Rich Paul had one other card, and it got played Saturday.

Get it done!!!! Straight up. #MissMyBrother @realtristan13

A photo posted by LeBron James (@kingjames) on

LeBron James and Thompson share an agent in Paul. LeBron has largely remained silent through this process but if he wants something in the Cleveland organization, he usually gets it. And he wants Thompson back at practices.

LeBron’s leverage is going to be put to the test. The Cavaliers have let it leak they are not that concerned about LeBron leaving them next summer over this — and they’re right. The damage to LeBron’s brand if he broke the hearts of Cleveland fans again would be crushing, unless he leaves for a very good reason. Overpaying Thompson is not that reason.

However, LeBron’s comment could push the Cavaliers to try to find a compromise.

For the Cavaliers, a lot of how they view all this comes down to their tax bill. The Cavaliers already have $94.9 million in guaranteed salary on the books, putting them $10.2 million over the luxury tax line, at a cost of more than $16.25 million. What this means if (or when) they sign Thompson is his first $10 million in salary would cost them $28.75 million in tax and every dollar above that for the next $5 million costs them $3.75-to-$1. Look at it this way, by my count $14 million this year to Thompson would cost $43.75 million in tax — the total for Thompson at that price is $58 million. While that’s not all on Thompson it’s a lot of cash, and Thompson wants a max deal that starts at more than $16 million a year.

Owner Dan Gilbert is already going to pay the highest tax bill in the NBA this season, but if he balks at those figures it’s hard to blame him.


Hezonja throws down one-handed dunk in preseason debut

Orlando Magic Introduce 2015 NBA Draft Picks
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Mario Hezonja, the No. 5 pick in this year’s draft, has never lacked for confidence. The Croatian guard made his pro debut in the Magic’s preseason game against the Hornets on Saturday and did this:

Between Hezonja, Elfrid Payton, Victor Oladipo and Aaron Gordon, the Magic have a nucleus of young players that has the potential to be a lot of fun. Even if they’re still a few years away from contending, they’re definitely going to be a League Pass favorite this year.