Mike Woodson

Mike Woodson wants to coach next season


Mike Woodson, even after Phil Jackson took over and put the writing on the wall, never stopped campaigning to remain with the Knicks.

Woodson coaches basketball, and he wanted to keep doing it. Even after getting fired, he still wants to keep doing it.

Ian Begley of ESPN New York:

“Keeping my eyes on coaching,” Woodson said during a phone interview to promote his golf tournament. “I want to get back into coaching. So that’s my next move. So we’ll see what happens. … That’s a big goal. That’s what I’m going to push to do, absolutely.”

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Four teams – the Lakers, Timberwolves, Jazz and Knicks – already have vacancies, and the Pistons completed a season with an interim coach. More jobs will open, but after last year’s whirlwind coaching carousel, everything projects to be a little quieter this year.

Could Woodson land one of those jobs?

As much as Knicks fans don’t want to hear it right now, Woodson is an OK coach. The Hawks got better in each of his six seasons in Atlanta, and he immediately boosted the Knicks when taking over midseason for Mike D’Antoni and then helped New York sustain success the following year. Woodson has the third-best winning percentage in Knicks history, and his teams were hardly loaded with talent.

However, his allegiances to certain players – looking at you J.R. Smith and Andrea Bargnani – were problematic. His switching pick-and-roll strategy, with the Knicks’ personnel at least, was infuriating. And his isolation-based offense was unimaginative.

Woodson’s biggest problem is there are a surplus of good coaches available. George Karl and Lionel Hollins sat out last season, and Stan Van Gundy and Jeff Van Gundy are available, too. There are more intriguing college coaches – Kevin Ollie, Fred Hoiberg, Tom Izzo, John Calipari and, I guess, Roy Williams – than usual. And there are the typical crop of assistant coaches ready for their first opportunity.

Why hire Woodson if you can get a coach with a better track record? Why hire Woodson if you can get a coach with more upside?

Woodson is trapped in the middle, competition squeezing him from both sides.

If he wants to remain in the game, Woodson might have to settle for assistant coaching or coaching in college. He could definitely land a job at either of those levels.

I don’t think Woodson’s NBA head-coaching career is over, but he’s not quite good enough to land a third chance fresh off being fired – not in this buyers’ market, at least.

51Q: Does Ty Lawson vault the Rockets into the top tier of championship contenders?

DENVER, CO - MARCH 07:  James Harden #13 of the Houston Rockets controls the ball against Ty Lawson #3 of the Denver Nuggets at Pepsi Center on March 7, 2015 in Denver, Colorado. The Rockets defeated the Nuggets 114-100. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
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I see five clear upper-echelon championship contenders –  Warriors, Spurs, Clippers, Thunder and Cavaliers.

Do the Rockets belong in that group, or do they fill the next tier by themselves?

Ty Lawson – acquired for pennies on the dollar – could put Houston over the top.

But, really, this premise might not be fair to the Rockets. They earned the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference last season and reached the conference finals last season. James Harden finished second in MVP voting. Dwight Howard looked like a star during the playoffs. The supporting cast – Trevor Ariza, Terrence Jones, Donatas Motiejunas, Patrick Beverley, Corey Brewer and even Jason Terry – played better than anyone expected. Young players like Clint Capela, K.J. McDaniels, Sam Dekker and Montrezl Harrell could make a leap at any moment.

There’s a case to be made we should have taken Houston more seriously even before trading for Lawson.

I didn’t, though, and I don’t think many others did either.

I suspect one of the biggest reasons is the Rockets’ balance. Houston – 12th in points scored per possession, sixth in points allowed per possession – was one of only two teams to win more than 51 games last season without ranking top five in either category. Of the seven teams with so many victories, the Hawks – sixth, seventh – were the only other. Atlanta was a darling team, winning 60 games after going 38-44 the season prior. The Rockets’ modest win increase, from 54 to 56, drew less attention.

But balance shouldn’t be punished. Houston’s surprisingly strong defense should be celebrated. Lawson might push its middling offense over the top.

There are reasons to question that, though.

The biggest is Lawson’s sobriety. If he’s not focused and engaged, this all goes out the window. His comments about going to rehab only because it was court-ordered raise doubts, though they hardly foretell anything.

Let’s say Lawson’s off-court problems are behind him. How big of an upgrade is he? The Rockets already had a pretty good point guard who fit well with Harden in Beverley. Lawson is a clear offensive upgrade, but in the biggest moments, the ball will still run through Harden. At that point, would you rather have Beverley or Lawson on the floor? Beverley is a far superior defender, and his off-ball offensive game isn’t far from Lawson’s. Beverley is is a fine spot-up shooter, and Lawson’s strengths involve having the ball and creating. Lawson’s biggest boost could come when Harden sits, but that was fewer than 12 minutes per game last season.

Sure, a secondary ball-handler could ease pressure on Harden throughout a long regular season. Lawson and Harden can take turns running the attack.

But we’re talking about title contention, and in those high-leverage situations, it’s Harden’s show. How much does Lawson matter then?

The Rockets have a chance to win a championship. As good a chance as the NBA’s five best teams? I’m not so sure.

UNLV following Kentucky’s lead with combine for NBA scouts

Goodluck Okonoboh, Patrick McCaw
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Kentucky held a two-day combine last season for NBA scouts.

Now, LSU and UNLV are following suit.

Rob Dauster of NBC Sports:

The Runnin’ Rebels will hold their event on October 23rd and 24th at the Mendenhall Center, UNLV’s practice facility, sources told NBCSports.com. The expectation is that all 30 NBA teams will be in attendance.

LSU has potential No. 1 pick Ben Simmons and another first-round prospect in Tim Quarterman.

UNLV features lottery prospect Stephen Zimmerman.

This won’t replace scouts attending games and watching practices, but the fact that all 30 teams plan to attend shows how seriously the pro league takes these. No college team wanted John Calipari to have that competitive advantage in recruiting, so the smart ones are leveling the field with their own combines. Soon, more college teams will follow.

As the calendar gets packed, NBA teams might have to pick and choose which they attend. At that point, we might get little clues about which prospects they’re scouting hardest.