New York Knicks v Denver Nuggets

Knicks coach Woodson blames Beno Udrih for ill-advised three-pointer from J.R. Smith


For the second time this season, a member of the New York Knicks launched a shot late in the game that showed no regard for how much time was remaining, the score, or the game’s overall situation. And the team’s head coach, Mike Woodson, wants to pin at least part of the blame for this most basic of mistakes on someone other than the shooter.

The play unfolded like this: The Knicks were tied with the Rockets with under a minute remaining, and New York inbounded the ball with 16 seconds left on the shot clock. After a miss from Beno Udrih, an offensive rebound from Tyson Chandler and a reset of the offense, Udrih got it back and kicked it to J.R. Smith at the top of the three-point arc with 21 seconds left.

What’s supposed to happen, here, is that Smith holds for the game’s final shot, where the worst case scenario is a miss that sends it into overtime. But Smith immediately launched a three, similar to what Andrea Bargnani did a few weeks earlier in Milwaukee.

Smith was happy to take the blame afterward, posting to his Twitter account that any “slander” directed at him for the error was indeed well-deserved. But Woodson felt others should share in the responsibility for Smith’s mistake, and said as much at his team’s shootaround on Sunday.

From Frank Isola of the New York Daily News:

When Woodson was asked about it on Sunday he said: “Again, I’ve been around this a long time and you think you’ve seen it all and something creeps in throughout the course of a ballgame and you shake your head and say ‘wow.’ But it happens. It happens in all sports no matter what level it is. Unfortunately, he went blank. What are you going to do? You can’t go back and get it.” …

“The bottom line is you look at his shot but did Beno have to throw him the ball?” Woodson added. “You gotta look at that.”

The implication is that Udrih, as the point guard, should have known to hold the ball for one shot as opposed to passing to a wide open player in position to shoot. On the Knicks last possession, Udrih missed a potential game-tying shot at the buzzer.

This, quite honestly, is completely ridiculous. But in the dynamic the Knicks have created in the Woodson-Smith pairing, it was almost a predictable response.

Smith is believed to be a fragile talent that needs to be coddled to a certain extent to gain maximum results, and Woodson to his credit has had a knack for doing so, seeing J.R. play himself into a Sixth Man of the Year award last season.

But while Udrih certainly has his issues, passing the ball to an open teammate in an end-of-game situation isn’t one of them. Smith should have known the score, and this gaffe is all on him no matter how Woodson has chosen to spin it in the days that have followed.

James Harden: “I am the best player in the league. I believe that.”

James Harden, Stephen Curry
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James Harden was the MVP last season — if you ask his fellow NBA players.

The traditional award (based on a media vote) went to Stephen Curry (in the closest vote in four years), and that was the right call (in my mind). But from the time it happened Harden did not buy it. And he still doesn’t buy it. In the least — and he’s using that as fuel for this season. That’s what he told Fran Blinebury over at

“I am the best player in the league. I believe that,” he said. “I thought I was last year, too.”

Well, it’s a more realistic claim than Paul George’s.

“But that award means most valuable to your team. We finished second in the West, which nobody thought we were going to do at the beginning of the year even when everybody was healthy. We were near the top in having the most injuries. We won our division in a division where every single team made the playoffs.

“There’s so many factors. I led the league in total points scored, minutes played. Like I said, I’m not taking anything away from Steph, but I felt I deserved the Most Valuable Player. That stays with me.”

That’s very Kobe Bryant of you to turn that into fuel. Defining the MVP Award is an annual discussion that nobody agrees on.

I could get into how Harden was the old-school, traditional stats MVP, how that ignores how Steve Kerr used Curry, and how that opened up the Warriors’ offense to championship levels. Curry put up numbers, but he was also the distraction, the bright star that Kerr used to open up looks for Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, and others. Curry’s strength was not just what he did with the ball in his hands, but his gravity to draw defenders even when he didn’t. Did the Warriors stay healthier than the Rockets? No doubt. Should Curry be penalized for that?

It’s simple for Harden — if he can put up those numbers again, if he can be the fulcrum of a top offense, he will be in the discussion for MVP again. And, if he can lead the Rockets beyond the conference finals, nobody will talk about that MVP snub anyway.