NBA Q&A: Mike Woodson

Posted by Unknown on Sunday, October 27, 2013 with No comments
Courtesy of Steve Serby 

Q:What did you say to your team at the start of training camp?
A: Our goal is still the same: We’re trying to win our division, and try to host [the] first round at home, and then build once we get in the playoffs. Our ultimate goal is to win a title. That’s what I’m in it for. I wouldn’t want anybody in that locker room to think anything less, or they’re with the wrong team. I want to win a title. And I want to win a title for the fans of New York [who have] been great for us since I’ve been a head coach here. So those are things we really gotta put our minds and bodies to try to get done.
Q: When you meet with the team right before the season begins Wednesday night, will your message be any different?
A: No, not really. In order to have a successful season, we gotta win at home, and we’ve been pretty good here in Madison Square Garden, and it’s gotta stay that way, because the parity around the league now is … it’s not easy, there’s no gimmes. I think on any given night you can beat by any team in this league. But I feel as though we’re talented enough to beat any team. … It starts at home, and then you figure out the road when you get out there.
Q: Why do you think this team is better than the one that lost to Indiana in the second round last season?
A: I don’t know if it’s better, I can’t say that right now, only time will tell that. I think we’re talented, but again we have new faces, new faces that [have] got to come together very quickly. We’re a little bit younger than we were last year on paper. So I like to think that in the long haul, we should be a little bit better basketball team, but only time will tell.
Q: Why will you be a better coach?
A: Because I put a lot of work into what I do, and I’ve had success in being able to reach players and get players to play at a high level, and it’s not gonna be any different this year.
Q: What’s the mentality you want your team to have on a nightly basis?
A: I thought last year when we started out the season, we kinda went through three phases. … When we started out last season with that team, we wanted to be a better defensive team, and we were the first 23 games, and we were scoring at such a high rate, so everything was working in our favor. A lot of that was because guys made the commitment, and that’s the same thing that’s gotta happen this year. We gotta establish ourselves on the defensive end first, and we gotta collectively rebound the ball as a unit. And then offensively — which we have a lot of offensive weapons on this team — we gotta make sacrifices, and not be selfish with the ball, and that’s everybody. Open guy gets the ball, and you gotta feel good about that open guy taking the shot and making it. That’s what great offensive teams do.
Q: Do you talk to them about winning a championship in New York?
A: Absolutely. … It’s not drilled in their head every day, but they know the ultimate goal is to try to win a title. If you’re in it for anything less than that, you shouldn’t be playing this game. If you’ve experienced it one time or another, that’s all you think about. That’s all I think about as a coach ’cause I experienced it as an assistant coach. I’ve got players on this team that have won titles, so they know the feeling, and … it’s a great feeling. So, guys that haven’t experienced it, why not push them to try to experience that? If you’re in it just to make money, and just to wear an NBA uniform, and live the NBA life, you’re [fooling] yourself because that ain’t what it’s about.
Q: Do you use visualization?
A: We have people come in and speak to our guys, and we’ll do that again this year. And a lot of that is just kinda in-house, where we’ve bonded in trying to figure out how can we get the ultimate prize? Only one team can get it, man. … Why can’t it be us?
Q: Who will you bring in this year?
A: Don’t know yet. We got some names.
Q: You talking about basketball people?
A: We’ve had people outside the realm of basketball … but successful people, and we’ll do the same thing this year.
Q: Tell me what each guy has to do to reach the next level as a player. Let’s start with Carmelo Anthony.
A: I thought last year, when I say he made a major jump, [it’s] because he made players around him much better. I’ve always said the great ones have a way of doing that, and Melo experienced probably his best season ever as an NBA player, and the organization and the fans benefitted from it. I think he’s gotta play at that same level, based on the fact that we got so many new faces again, and everybody’s gotta believe in Melo, and Melo’s gotta believe in the guys that are around him, to actually make this all work, it kinda goes hand-in-hand.
Q: Are you seeing more leadership from him?
A: He’s been more vocal this year, which is a good thing.
Q: Is that something you asked him to do?
A: We’ve talked about it, and there’s nothing wrong with him being vocal because he’s a major piece to the puzzle, and he’s earned that right to speak up when things are not going according to plan. That’s his job, he should do that.
Q: Is he a 3, a 4, both?
A: He’s a basketball player.
Q: Are you going to use him at both spots?
A: I’ll use him wherever he wants to play. I think he can play any position in this league, that’s how talented he is. I haven’t made the decision on who’s gonna start, and if I’m gonna go big or small, that’ll all roll out on Wednesday.
Q: Why won’t the opt-out be a distraction?
A: ’Cause he’s a professional, and he wears a Knick uniform, and I think he’s committed — I know he’s committed to still try to get this thing done here in New York. Opt-out or no opt-out, I’m not concerned about Melo. He’s gotta worry about this season, and I don’t have no doubt that he’s gonna have another good year.
Q: You have no doubt that he’ll retire as a Knick?
A: If I had to bet my house on it, yeah, he’s gonna be a Knick for the rest of his life. I’m gonna make sure of that (laugh).
Q: You may be the reason that he decides to stay. I don’t want to put that kind of pressure on you.
A: You ain’t putting no pressure on me, pressure’s what you guys make of it. He’s gotta stay in a Knick uniform. He’s been great here. We love him. We need him here.
Q: J.R. Smith
A: I think J.R. made a major step, his accolades kinda proved that last year, but that was last season. He’s gotta grow in areas off the court first, before he even steps on the court. I think he’s had a little taste of success in terms of his own individual game, but that individual game has gotta turn at a more higher level, but more toward the team. He’s gotta realize that he doesn’t have to carry the weight all the time. I think he really has the tools to take another step from where he was last season. This game is a thinking man’s game, and a lot of times you can be as talented as you want, but if you don’t foresee things before you actually do it, then it doesn’t look too good. I think that’s an area where he’s gotta grow, and I gotta help him in those areas. … But he’s gotta clean his act up off the court before he actually steps on the court.
Q: What’s the next step for Iman Shumpert?.
A: Just reps on the floor, and trying to figure out his game. He’s a young player that’s untapped, that’s still in the learning mode based on these injuries. So he’s just gotta be patient, and be willing to be coached. He’s gotta be like a sponge. I think he’s one of those talented kids that is gonna be around this league time, but he still has a way to go in terms of where we want him to be from a talent standpoint.
Q: What’s the next step for Raymond Felton?
A: Just be a leader. He knows he can run a basketball team successfully. I thought the last two years, really, he made a major jump in terms of being able to run our ball club. I just think he’s just gotta continue to lead, and lead more vocal. That’s something he and I have spoke about, and it’s gotta come to the forefront. He can’t take a backseat to no one. Point guard is the toughest position on the team, I think, because everybody wants the ball, and he’s capable of scoring the ball as well. There’s a fine line with your point guard in the NBA, the good point guard, because your job is to try to make everybody happy, and that [stuff] ain’t gonna happen all the time. So you just gotta put the ball under your arm and say, “Hey, I’m running the show out here, and you guys just gotta follow my lead when I’m out here running the show, and you guys gotta respect that.” And I’m gonna back him on that.
Q: The next step for Tyson Chandler?
A: He had some tough injuries coming down the stretch run last year that really hurt us a team,‘‘cause he wasn’t fit. But we didn’t make excuses about that, he gave us what he had. Physically, he went back this summer and revamped … and I’m expecting him to play at that championship level that he did in Dallas. That’s what we’re gonna need from him on a night-in-and-night-out basis. He’s tasted it, he’s been through the battles, he knows the ups and downs of playoff basketball. I’m expecting him to help lead this team in that area because of the fact he has experience.
Q: Amar’e Stoudemire?
A: Just health for him. Of all the players that were on this team last season, I felt for him more than anybody, because I traveled that summer with him … the complications … where I saw the work that he put in. And I’m talking about it was a lot of work. Amazing work. But he was trying to define his game in terms of being a low-post player, which probably nobody thought he could have got to that. … His work with Hakeem Olajuwon and all the conditioning work that he put in, he didn’t get the benefits of it, and we got a short glimpse of it, and it was pretty good.
Q: He’s OK with coming off the bench?
A: I think Amar’e has grown in that area. I think he understands what had happened to him in terms of his physical condition. He wants to be part of it, he wants to contribute, and he is a big part of it. He was a big part of it last season, unfortunately, we couldn’t keep him in a uniform long enough. I think anything that Amar’e gives us — if it’s 10, 15, 20 minutes — I know it’s gonna be productive.
Q: Does Andrea Bargnani sometimes have to be reminded that he is 7-foot?
A: The thing with him, he’s been beat down so much, in terms of being in Toronto, and some of the injuries that he incurred while he was there, and the expectations, and I’m not gonna do that here. I think he’s a talented kid. His numbers indicate that he can play in this league. I’m gonna pat him, but I’m gonna push him too. But I want him to know that he’s talented enough to help us win. I just gotta get his mindset back in the right place, and he’s gonna help us as we start this journey.
Q: Tim Hardaway Jr.?
A: His upside is tremendous, I think. The fact that he’s a great young man who’s very coachable, I don’t foresee him ever not reaching his goal in terms of being a damn good player in this league. He’s gonna play, but I don’t know how much.
Q: What have you learned about Metta World Peace that maybe you didn’t know?
A: The one thing I did know is really he’s a tough kid. Physically, he’s a tough kid. He’s one of the hardest-working guys I’ve seen, probably does too much based on his age — before practice, during practice, after practice; he’s just a gym rat, that’s why he’s been able to stick this long. He’s got some championship pedigree behind him as well. … He’s a pretty good leader too, he’s vocal. I like his toughness. That’s one of the reasons this organization and I was really high on him.
Q: Does Pablo Prigioni helps with the basketball IQ you lost with Jason Kidd?
A: He’s probably the best-conditioned athlete on our team. His teammates love him because he’s always thinking pass first before shoot … almost to a fault sometimes. He’s a guy that just loves playing basketball, and that goes a long way with me in terms of his approach and how he views the game.
Q: Were your guys were too volatile with the referees last year?
A: I thought that hurt us some last year in some games that we had. I think you earn the respect around the league with the officials. They’re paid to do their job, and we’re paid to play. And I know a lot of times — and it’s not just our team, every team in the heat of the moment — will think things are not right, or you don’t get a call, you voice your opinion. Sometimes it’s in a volatile way that you just can’t do that. Even myself as a coach, it’s my job to make sure that these guys just keep their composure, just play, concentrate on playing.
Q: Do you like the fact people are picking you no higher than fifth in the East?
A: They did that last season. I can’t worry about what people predict and say. You got computers spitting out different wins and losses and things of that nature. The bottom line’s we still gotta play the game. I think our guys have a lot of pride. You don’t win 54 games and get to the second round and really have a legitimate shot of getting to the Eastern Conference finals [without being good], but it just didn’t play out the way we wanted it. But … overall it was a successful season. But this is a whole, entirely different season, and predictions are what they are. We’re still gonna go out and display it on the floor, and everything that happens between those lines is because we made it happen, it’s not because somebody predicted anything.
Q: Are the Heat still the team to beat?
A: Until you dethrone [them], yeah, they’re the team to beat. They’ve shown, with class the last two years, that they can get it done. Until somebody knocks them off that mountain top, they’re still the team to beat.
Q: What was your reaction when you learned the Nets had acquired Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce?
A: Good move. They’re a talented bunch, 11 or 12 players deep. You still gotta play the game.
Q: What intangible does your team need to have that maybe it hasn’t had?
A: A lot of good things happened for [last season’s] team because those guys made it happen. And that’s the only way it’s gonna happen this year, we’ve gotta will ourselves, and make ourselves into winners, that’s what it’s all about. And it starts at home. You gotta handle your business at home. I don’t care how you slice it, [opponents] come into Madison Square Garden, they can’t come in thinking it’s a show. They gotta figure out how to go somewhere else, and figure out a win. Because it can’t happen here.
Q: What would you tell Knicks fans about the kind of team they should expect to see?
A: However way we get it done, it’s all about winning. If there’s loose balls, you gotta get on the floor and take charges. Those are all the intangible things to help you win. We got smart, true fans that love our team, that know a lot about basketball, so you can’t trick ’em. So you gotta come in every night that you step out on the floor in this building, and give ’em something to cheer for.