Mike Woodson wants to coach next season

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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.

Dwight Howard’s offensive rebounding defies convention

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Hawks president/coach Mike Budenholzer has the authority to set the Hawks’ priorities.

“Organizationally, fundamentally,” Budenholzer said, “transition D is more important than anything.”

Dwight Howard challenges that daily.

Howard has already built a Hall of Fame résumé:

  • Eight-time All-NBA center, including five-time first teamer
  • Three-time Defensive Player of the Year
  • Five-time rebounding champ

But the big man is doing something he’s never done before: Grab 15.2% of available offensive rebounds.

And he’s doing it at age 31 in a league that has increasingly deemphasized offensive rebounding. The NBA will set a record this season for lowest offensive-rebounding percentage for the fourth straight year.

Teams have just figured getting back on defense trumps crashing the offensive glass, the strategy emanating most prominently from the Spurs. Budenholzer, a former San Antonio assistant coach, brought the plan straight to Atlanta. The Hawks ranked 28th, last and last in offensive-rebounding in his first three seasons — in part for philosophical reasons, in part because they’ve lacked the personnel to do better. They’ve also been a below-average defensive-rebounding team each season under Budenholzer.

Then Howard signed and forced Budenholzer to adjust.

Atlanta has become an above-average offensive-rebounding team and far better with Howard on the court – a helpful crutch with ace 3-point shooters Kyle Korver and Jeff Teague traded. The Hawks are ceding more transition opportunities, though they remain very good at defending those.

It’s an obvious tradeoff, says Stan Van Gundy. The Pistons coach who coached Howard with the Magic sees the center in the rare class of players who deserve full autonomy to chase offensive rebounds.

“You don’t limit those guys,” Van Gundy said.

Howard has made the most of his freedom to chase rebounds. His 15.2 offensive-rebounding percentage ranks second to only Kenneth Faried among qualified players.

And, again, Howard is 31. Offensive rebounding tends to be a young man’s game.

Here’s top 10 in offensive rebounding this season, plotted by age:

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Player Team Age Offensive-rebounding percentage
Kenneth Faried DEN 27 16.1
Dwight Howard ATL 31 15.4
Andre Drummond DET 23 15.2
JaVale McGee GSW 29 15
Tarik Black LAL 25 14.8
Tristan Thompson CLE 25 14
Rudy Gobert UTA 24 13.9
Enes Kanter OKC 24 13.9
Kyle O'Quinn NYK 26 13.9
Willy Hernangomez NYK 22 13.8

Howard’s previous career-high offensive-rebounding percentage was 13.8.

The only other players to set career-high offensive-rebounding rates north of 15% after their age-30 season: Dennis Rodman (20.8% at age 33 with the 1994-95 Spurs) and Alan Henderson (15.6% at age 32 with the 2004-05 Mavericks). Both Rodman (Cooke County Junior College and Southeastern Oklahoma State) and Henderson (Indiana) played four years of college basketball, giving them less wear and tear on their bodies and fewer opportunities to post career highs at a young age.

Howard jumped to the NBA straight from high school.

Yet, he’s having a resurgent year in his 13th season. How is he doing it?

“One, I’m not super old,” Howard said earlier this season. “Two, my body feels great. I’ve been doing a lot of stuff to take care of my body.”

Known for eating legendary amounts of candy earlier in his career, perhaps Howard has made a breakthrough. His defensive-rebounding percentage (31.8) is the second-best of his career and ranks fourth in the NBA. That has helped him anchor the league’s fourth-best defense.

Howard has been subject to widespread criticism, and last season with the Rockets was a low point. This year, Howard has recommitted to the basics: Rebounding, defending, scoring inside.

“He’s got a big personality, but I think we all knew that,” Budenholzer said. “But it’s all in the right place. He wants good things, and I’ve really enjoyed coaching him.”

So much so that Budenholzer has compromised a core basketball tenet for Howard.

And it has proved a worthwhile decision.

JaVale McGee misses open dunk (video)

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Shaquille O’Neal said he’d stop talking about JaVale McGee, who has featured prominently on Shaqtin A Fool.

This missed dunk, a low point in the Warriors’ otherwise-impressive win over the Spurs, will test Shaq’s sincerity.

Grizzlies’ James Ennis fouls out then hits half-court shot (video)

AP Photo/David Zalubowski
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Against the Pacers last night, James Ennis missed all three of his 3-point attempts… that counted. And he makes this one after fouling out?

Mike Conley more than picked up the slack to lead the Grizzlies to victory.

Pelicans’ Dante Cunningham jumps on scorer’s table, Anthony Davis jumps on him (video)

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The Pelicans are effectively out of the playoff race, but Dante Cunningham and Anthony Davis are still competing — even if it looks a little silly.

That tone and a big game from DeMarcus Cousins (29 points, 16 rebounds, six assists) led to a 121-118 win over the Mavericks.