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Knicks have strange habit of starting players and then barely playing them

Mar 27, 2013, 11:03 AM EDT

Mike Woodson, Chris Copeland

The Knicks, as pointed out by Chris Herring of The Wall Street Journal, often start players like James White and Kurt Thomas and then give them very few minutes.

Herring uses a couple different benchmarks – five or fewer minutes, fewer than 16 minutes – but, either way, the Knicks lead the league by a wide margin.

Knicks coach Mike Woodson was asked about the practice:

“By starting them, you’re putting them on a stage to start in an NBA game, and guaranteeing that the player is going to go out and make the most of his minutes,” Woodson said. “Guys like [White] and Chris Copeland, they know they aren’t going to get 30 or 35 minutes, and that it might be only four or five instead. So they have to go all out. And [as a coach], you hope that helps get you off to a good start.”

I have no idea whether this is a sound strategy. But I absolutely love it.

Woodson was criticized in Atlanta for his simplistic Iso-Joe scheme, even though the Hawks had the NBA’s second-best offensive rating in his final season there. The problem was aesthetic more than anything. Fans don’t enjoy watching boring boring basketball.

But this is creative – maybe even innovative – and Woodson should get credit for thinking outside the box in an effort to help his team win more.

  1. thenew013 - Mar 27, 2013 at 11:36 AM

    I dont understand why some players and teams cant play their best every night? So you play harder if you start than if your coming off the bench even though your still getting the same amount of minutes. Its like the weak teams that play the Heat real tough. Had they played with that passion and intensity all season they would have a playoff spot and the NBA would be the most competitive league in all of sports.

  2. Mr. Wright 212 - Mar 27, 2013 at 12:12 PM

    Even if you don’t watch the Knicks every night, you can easily see why Woody does this (although there have been instances where I’ve barked at his substitution patterns, especially when Cope has been raining buckets in some games), White offers little to nothing offensively, and although he is athletic as anyone, he doesn’t get into proper defensive position when he’s out there. You won’t play for Woody if your defense isn’t on point. Cope can score like Vinnie Johnson, but up until recently (which is partly why he’s playing more; the other obviously being injuries) he had completely ignored his defensive assignments and focused on scoring. It is why he not only played for a few minutes in some games, and sat for two whole quarters before reentering the game in garbage time, but why he went THREE WEEKS without playing at one point.

    Bottom line is, Woody doesn’t play around with defense. If you are caught by him slacking off, he will sit you. He’s even sat Shump and Felton for long periods for the same thing.

  3. Mr. Wright 212 - Mar 27, 2013 at 12:14 PM

    And yes, for the most part, it really does work. Despite the lulls in January, and all the injuries, the Knicks still score 100 PPG, and have gotten back to their defensive ways since Melo returned, only surrendering about 89 PPG over this streak.

  4. musilly - Mar 27, 2013 at 2:08 PM

    Reading the headline, I was prompted to say something similar to what Woodson said.
    Slight twist:
    When the others see how HARD the short-minute role players are playing, they feed off of that energy. A guy who knows he’s got 35 minutes coming to him, he might take a few possessions for granted. The short-minute guys, they go hard and set an example for the rest of the team. In theory.

    • obeidl - Mar 27, 2013 at 5:59 PM

      This theory is nothing new from Mike Woodson. Anyone ever watch him while he coached the Hawks? Exhibit A:

      Royal Ivey
      05-06 73 games played 66 games started 13.4mpg

  5. badintent - Mar 28, 2013 at 1:51 AM

    Woodsen for Coach of the year. Since he took over the head coaching job last year, the Knicks are playing over .600 with mostly really old players.The Knicks may have the oldest roster in the history of the NBA. and still winning with it.

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