Woodson questions Knicks' effort

GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- It isn't the big lineup, the interior defense or the injuries.

It's the effort.

That's what hurt the Knicks the most in their latest "embarrassing" performance at home, according to Mike Woodson.

In what has become a common theme this season, Woodson says his team didn't play with enough effort in its loss on Saturday against Memphis.

"I'm not happy, I wasn't happy [Saturday] with the effort," the embattled head coach said after practice on Sunday. "I thought we played in spurts again."

Woodson said it was "embarrassing" to watch film on Sunday of the 95-87 loss a day before. The Knicks were out rebounded by 27 and outscored in the paint by 32 against a Grizzlies team that had lost five straight coming into the game.

Those rebounding numbers aren't a huge aberration.

On the season, the Knicks rank 28th in overall rebounding rate (the percentage of rebounds available corralled by the team).

They get outrebounded by an average of 4.1 boards per game, which is the third-worst differential in the league, and rank 23rd in defensive efficiency.

Woodson sees effort as the main issue here.

"When guys are missing block outs, when we're giving up layups because we're not protecting one another from a defensive standpoint, that to me is all effort plays," Woodson said. "You show it enough on film, the tape today was embarrassing to watch. I know it was. It takes effort, and we didn't do that. I thought that was the difference [in the game] and then the layups we gave up."

Several players have backed Woodson here, saying the Knicks have lacked effort after losses earlier in the season.

J.R. Smith, though, says it shouldn't be an issue nearly two months into the year.

"It's way too deep into the season to even be having this problem right now," the Sixth Man said. "If anything, you normally have this problem right before All-star break or going down to the end of the season when you're secure in your spot."

The Knicks' spot is anything but secure.

They woke up Sunday morning with the fifth-worst record in the NBA and in fourth place in the awful Atlantic Division.

They've performed well below expectations, leading to rampant public speculation that Woodson's job is in jeopardy.

No one from the Knicks' front office or ownership has commented publicly on Woodson's status in recent days.

Team owner James Dolan gave Woodson a public vote of confidence Nov. 20. But the Knicks have gone 5-10 since Dolan's comments, including a 41-point loss to Boston on Dec. 8 and a 15-point loss to Cleveland two days later.

A source with knowledge of the team's thinking told ESPNNewYork.com earlier this month that Woodson is being evaluated on a "game-by-game basis" by upper management.

One thing the coach has going for him is that New York, somehow, is just three games behind the Atlantic Division-leading Celtics.

If everything breaks right for the Knicks on Monday in Orlando, they could be just two games out of first heading into a Christmas Day showdown with Oklahoma City.

"It's my job to push these guys, and I'm going to continue to do that," Woodson said. "... Hopefully when we come out [against Orlando, the lessons learned Saturday] will carry over to hopefully a win, because we can't keep making excuses for ourselves. We've got to start winning games."

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