"Accountability" has been Mike Woodson's favorite word since taking over as Knicks head coach. He's vowed to hold every player on the team accountable. So far, so good, as the squad has burst out to a 3-0 record with him at the helm. All victories by double figures and all featuring a seemingly renewed commitment to defense.
Accountability was perhaps Mike D'Antoni's greatest weakness. D'Antoni's biggest problem is he simply expects guys do to the right thing. A player's coach in the truest sense, since at times, he essentially allows the players to coach themselves. Which doesn't work if any important players are setting a bad example.
This ultimately may have led to his undoing because D'Antoni did not hold a very important player, Carmelo Anthony, accountable. It's been widely speculated that Melo broke plays in what amounted to a bit of an on-court mutiny against his now ex-coach. And it was relayed to me that Anthony did things like skip shootaround and hit the showers before D'Antoni had a chance to address the team following games. That's clearly an example of a coach losing a player and, due to that player's influence, might've been tantamount to a coach losing his team.
D'Antoni also failed to hold himself accountable. Maybe his system was not the right fit for Carmelo. Still, it is up to the coach to best utilize his personnel. If he didn't believe Anthony would fit his strategy and proper adjustments were not made, then that falls under the 'stubborn to a fault' category. They've essentially been running D'Antoni's offense since he left, with some minor tweaks. Someone labeled an offensive guru should've been able to install such tweaks in order to pacify his star forward.
However, with D'Antoni gone, it's now past time for Carmelo to display accountability. He has no more excuses. It's difficult to ignore the sheer joy his teammates were playing with under D'Antoni in the midst of Linsanity. They were clicking, and nothing on Earth was more fun to watch. That came to an abrupt end upon Melo's return to the lineup. The team played better without him, both offensively and defensively, before and after he came back. That's not my opinion, that's a fact. The numbers back it up. And fitting in has not been his only issue. Regardless of system, Anthony has played poorly. He's averaging career lows in points, field goal percentage and Player Efficiency Rating. Paltry production compounded by impossibly bad body language at times, visible to anyone with a ticket or television.
Perhaps Woodson is exactly what he and the Knicks needed. A tougher, more regimented leader who holds every player to the same standard. A coach Carmelo feels has his back, unlike the previous one. A boss he trusts to be accountable.
I've certainly seen a renewed pep in Anthony's step since Woodson took over. Pep which has enveloped the entire team in this recent three-game run, particularly on the defensive end. (I don't think I'd be the first person to point out D'Antoni's reputation in that regard.) New York has held opponents to just 94.3 PPG, while scoring 111.7 during what some are already dubbing Woodsanity. Which has seen Carmelo and his teammates truly play as a unit, with a democratic approach to scoring.
The Knicks' coaching change could turn out to be the right move for the wrong reason. The early returns have been extremely favorable. But if the team's rollercoaster season takes another dive, there's one guy fans will hold accountable more than any other. And it won't be the coach.
Robin Lundberg isn't just our FanSpeak guy and a dedicated Knicks watcher, he's also the co-host of Ruocco & Lundberg on ESPN New York 1050.