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Hartnett: Mike Woodson's 'New Knicks' Are Defense-First

'Hart On Hoops'
By Sean Hartnett
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Interim head coach Mike Woodson has lit a fire under the New York Knicks.

Woodson has now taken his record as Knicks' head coach to an impressive 4-0 but equally important, as Walt 'Clyde' Frazier would say is that the Knicks are "winning and grinning."

Just listen to what Amar'e Stoudemire said after last night's 106-87 victory over the Toronto Raptors.

"Everybody feels great. Having fun, enjoying the game of basketball, and that's what it's about. When you enjoy doing your job, then it makes it much easier to play and that's what's happening right now," Stoudemire told reporters post-game.

You can see the difference in the faces of the Knicks.  Their enthusiasm on the court and positivity on the bench is a complete 180° turnaround from their languid, sulking nature under former head coach Mike D'Antoni.

After D'Antoni resigned, many were quick to point blame at Carmelo Anthony.  'Melo and many of his teammates were painted as high-maintenance, big-ego, unmotivated players.

While it's impossible to exclude the players from the blame of the Knicks' unimpressive four months of mediocrity, it was clear that D'Antoni was a coach who refused to bend his unique offensive system.  That combined with D'Antoni's lack of emphasis on defense and laid-back nature made it easy for some Knicks to tune him out.

Of course, any player taking a pay check should be giving their all on any given night but it's also understandable why experienced pros would get fed up playing a system that didn't suit their abilities, especially when the wins were coming few and far between.

Jeremy Lin's phenomenal rise provided a brief distraction but the underlying chemistry issues were always going to resurface once Anthony and Stoudemire returned to the Knicks' lineup.  Even Stoudemire who played under D'Antoni during the time of his peak successes in Phoenix, had become unfamiliar with D'Antoni's perplexing style.

Enter Mike Woodson, a take-charge leader who preaches defensive accountability and effort on both ends of the court.  Guess what?  The Knicks have bought into Woodson.

"Guys are playing at a very high, confident level right now.  We just want to bottle that up and move on and keep it going," Anthony explained to reporters on Tuesday night.

That's because he's a more relatable coach than D'Antoni.  His brand of basketball is much more commonplace than his predecessor's system that suits three-point specialists and Europeans.

The Knicks get Woodson and Woodson understands when to crack the whip and demand more of his players.  D'Antoni's voice kept getting smaller and quieter to the point that he had to do honorable thing and stepped aside.

Thankfully for the Knicks, they possessed a ready-made vocal leader in Woodson to pick up the pieces.  He's now putting the broken Knicks back together.

Knicks fans, is Woodson the answer?  Share your thoughts below and send your tweets to: @HartnettWFAN.

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