<
>

Opening Tip: Big weekend for Woodson

This is a big weekend for the Knicks. And it could be an even bigger weekend for Mike Woodson.

At 9-19, the Knicks entered play Thursday just three games back of Toronto. That's how bad this Titanic of an Atlantic Division has been.

Believe it or not, if things go right in their home-and-home back-to-back against Toronto this weekend, the Knicks could end up one game out of first place by the end of the week. That may be enough for the public speculation over Woodson's job to die down a bit.

But if things go the other way for the Knicks, the public speculation over Woodson's job is likely to increase, thanks in part to the upcoming schedule. After Saturday's tilt against Toronto, the Knicks have four days between games. As many veteran NBA observers have noted, this would be an ideal time to implement a coaching change, if New York's brass decides that such a move is necessary.

Why then?

Because the four days between games would give the Knicks' next coach a chance to run a few practices. It would also allow the initial shock and hand wringing over the move to run its course before the Knicks take the court next.

Whether Woodson's job is in danger or not seems to be a matter of public opinion at this point.

Here's what we know:

• New York has performed well below expectations this year.

• No one from the Knicks front office or management has offered a comment on Woodson's status -- or anything at all for that matter -- since owner James Dolan issued a vote of confidence to Woodson on Nov. 20.

• The Knicks have gone 6-11 since Dolan's last public comments but are 6-6 in their last 12 games.

• A league 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.

Here are factors to consider when thinking about replacing Woodson:

• It's not all his fault. Woodson has dealt with injuries throughout the season. He's been without Tyson Chandler for six weeks. Raymond Felton has been out for nearly a dozen games. Pablo Prigioni is out for at least another week with a broken toe. Kenyon Martin and Amar'e Stoudemire have also missed time. And on top of all of that, Carmelo Anthony is currently sidelined with an ankle injury. Some believe that Woodson deserves a chance to coach the team when it's fully healthy.

• Who takes over? Having an interim coach in this situation is less than ideal. Most of the guys on the Knicks' bench have ties to Woodson. The two that don't -- Darrell Walker and Herb Williams -- could be considered. But it's worth wondering if that would produce the desired change. There are head coaches out there looking for work (Lionel Hollins, George Karl, Scott Skiles, Jeff Van Gundy, Stan Van Gundy to name a few). But would any veteran coach want to take over a struggling Knicks team with its future in flux?

• Who does Carmelo want to play for? Anything that happens with the Knicks right now needs to be viewed through the prism of Carmelo Anthony's pending free agency.

So the real question when thinking about the next Knicks coach is, who does Melo want to work with?

Say what you want about Anthony's tenure in New York. Say what you want about the wisdom of signing him to a five-year, $129 million contract. But the bottom line is the Knicks want him back. So they have to consider the Melo Factor when they weigh their options at head coach.

Of course, at the end of the weekend, maybe the Knicks are one game out of first place and none of this is necessary.

Either way, though, it seems like a big weekend for Woody.

Up Now: Anthony is questionable for Friday's game against Toronto. He missed Wednesday's game against Oklahoma City with a left ankle injury.

Tyson Chandler says the speculation over Woodson's job is "unwarranted" and Woodson can see "a light at the end of the tunnel" for the struggling Knicks.

Tom Haberstoh says the Knicks dreams to land Rajon Rondo in a trade with Boston are unrealistic.

Lastly, Woodson wants his players to stop switching when defending the pick and roll.

What's next: The Knicks will take on the Raptors on Friday night at MSG.

Question: Do you think Woodson deserves a chance to coach this team when it's fully healthy?

You can follow Ian Begley on Twitter.