Why, a reporter asked Grunwald, did the Knicks decide to let Lin, last season’s sensation, depart in July rather than match the $25.1 million offer sheet extended to him by the Houston Rockets? Until now, the Knicks have never explained on the record what their reasoning was in letting Lin go, but before Grunwald could belatedly address the matter, Woodson jumped in and answered first.
“I think as a franchise, we wish him nothing but the best,” Woodson said. “We were able to get a player by the name of Raymond Felton. This day is really about the team we have fielded this summer and we need to focus in on that.”
Woodson, who lost the interim in front of his job title when the Knicks signed him to a multiyear deal in May, offered his answer with the assurance of someone confident in his status with the club. After a summer in which he recruited an old teammate, the Hall of Famer Hakeem Olajuwon, to work with first Amar’e Stoudemire and then with all the Knicks’ big men, it was Woodson, not Grunwald, who did most of the talking Monday. In many ways it was the Mike Woodson Show, with Grunwald seemingly content to play a secondary role.
Not that Woodson did not go out of his way to compliment his boss, saying, “I couldn’t be more proud to work with Glen, in terms of being able to get players that wanted to be here and players I think I can win with.”
And not that Grunwald, who patted Woodson on the back when the news conference began, declined to speak. Of Lin, he said, the Knicks’ decision “came down to the fact that Houston made a commitment to him that we weren’t prepared to make.”
“We had a lot of options available to us, and we felt the Raymond Felton option was the best one,” he added.
Felton, who had a decent 54 games for the Knicks during the 2010-11 season before being traded, had a poor 2011-12 season for Portland in which he was out of shape. At 28, he is four years older than Lin but far younger than many of the aging veterans the Knicks picked up in the off-season.
Woodson and Grunwald naturally were asked why the Knicks had signed so many players who were so old: Jason Kidd (age 39), Kurt Thomas (39), Marcus Camby (38), Pablo Prigioni (35) and perhaps Rasheed Wallace (38), who is expected to come out of retirement to play for Woodson.
As he had with the question about Lin, Woodson jumped right in, telling reporters that he did not want a young team, that he already coached an inexperienced club — the 2004-5 Atlanta Hawks — and did not want to do that again. It is older teams, he contended, that win N.B.A. championships, not young ones.
“I don’t think we’re too old,” Woodson added. “I think when you look at the core group of our team — Carmelo Anthony, Tyson Chandler and Amar’e Stoudemire — we felt we needed veteran pieces around those guys.”
“When the Dallas Mavericks won the championship a few years ago, their average age was 30,” he said. “It takes veteran teams to win. I think we have some excellent veterans.”
One issue that Woodson will have to address is how to get Stoudemire and Anthony to play in sync on the court, something they have done only sporadically in their time together in New York.
“It’s my job to make that work,” Woodson said. “I think when you’re building a championship team, it’s not going to be Carmelo’s night every night, it’s not going to be Amar’e’s night every night. I think that’s why we’ve been able to feel really good about the veteran guys we added, because they’ll be able to take some of the pressure off.”
Woodson says he wants to win now. He stressed that over and over Monday. He acknowledged that a lot of things would have to go right for the Knicks to fulfill his plan to claim one of the top four spots in the Eastern Conference, but said, “We have a legitimate shot as anybody in the N.B.A. this season.”
Many in and around the N.B.A. would disagree with that assessment, but media day, like spring training, is for optimism. And right now, optimist No. 1 is Mike Woodson, with 82 games ahead of him.