His Knicks have limped into the All-Star break, but Mike Woodson remains confident. So confident, in fact, that he still thinks the Knicks have a good chance of winning an NBA title.
"I think we still got a legitimate shot, absolutely. Absolutely," Woodson said after the Knicks' 92-88 loss to a 21-32 Toronto team.
Some may read that and wonder whether Woodson realizes his team shares a conference with the defending champion Heat.
But Woodson says he's still confident because the Knicks are in strong standing in the East heading into the All-Star break.
"The fact that we’re still sitting at the top of our division and we’re still fighting," Woodson said. "We could have lost that a long time ago."
No, the Knicks haven't lost their fight. But they seem to have lost their ability to defend recently.
Their perimeter defense failed them again Wednesday when they let the Raptors hit 9 of 21 three-point attempts, including 4-of-6 in the decisive third quarter. The Knicks walked off the floor with their third loss in four games.
"We just have to go rethink some things and come back better," Woodson said.
The coach strongly believes that his team can do just that. So do his players.
"I agree with him 100%," Tyson Chandler said.
Woodson made similar remarks prior to the Knicks' training camp. His team backed them up with an 8-1 start. At one point, they were 18-6. Since then, they've suffered through injuries and have played just two games over .500.
Two of the Knicks' three most recent losses came against Toronto and Washington -- teams that are playing well but go into All-Star Weekend a combined 33 games under .500.
That hasn't done anything to shake Woodson's confidence, though. Same goes for Carmelo Anthony.
"Our confidence is not going nowhere," Anthony said. "We’re still competing for the first, No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference, still top of our division. ... We’ve just got to regroup as a team and after the break come back ready to rock."
The Knicks are on pace for 52 wins, a number they last reached in 1996-97. And they are a veteran bunch. So it's no surprise they're backing their coach.
But Chandler believes that confidence has to come with a sense of urgency. The veteran center won a title with the Dallas Mavericks in 2010-11 and recognizes how precious few opportunities an athlete has to truly compete for a crown.
That was Chandler's message to a few of his teammates late Wednesday night.
"I was telling them, 'Look, you're not going to have too many times in your career when you can say you have a legitimate shot to win a championship. I only had one time in my career and that was the year we won. And this year, we've got a shot," Chandler said. "When we come back, we've got to let everybody understand that. You don't want to pass up an opportunity like this in your career, because you always look back and wish you could've done things different. As athletes, the worst thing to ever has is regrets."
That's something Chandler would like to avoid. And it starts next Wednesday, in the first game of the second half.
"We just have to come back ready," he said.
You can follow Ian Begley on Twitter.