With Cameras Rolling, Knicks Keep the Ball Moving

Woodson’s focus was on ball movement. He pointed to different areas on the floor while his players watched and listened. He instructed them on how to come off screens at the top of the paint and how to feed the ball into the post from a number of different spots on the court. Then the Knicks went in motion, passing the ball several times before putting up a shot.

“That’s going to be the key to our success,” Woodson said. “We have to be able to move the basketball. I’m anxious to see if they pick it up and carry it into a game. Good teams are not going to allow you to play on one side of the floor.”

The Knicks were criticized last season for allowing the ball to stop in the halfcourt. Woodson, who ran a number of isolation sets for Carmelo Anthony and others, plans to have the team run more pick-and-rolls and get the ball inside.

Anthony seemed more interested in passing rather than shooting Tuesday. While he took some shots in transition, he made sure to get the ball into Amar’e Stoudemire’s hands in the post. Stoudemire worked to improve his scoring in the low post this summer by training with the Hall of Famer Hakeem Olajuwon.

“He’s getting better at that each day,” Anthony said of Stoudemire. “We’re trying our best right now to get the ball to him down there so he can get comfortable. That’s the most important thing, because if you’re not comfortable down there, it’s not going to work.”

Stoudemire showed patience and strength in the post. He used spin moves to his left and his right to score over Chris Copeland and Henry Sims. He also scored with hook shots from the middle of the paint.

“Amar’e is a player that should be able to post the ball some,” Woodson said. “I’m just trying to mix it up a little for him so that he’s not just picking and popping out for a shot all the time.”

Woodson said he had not decided who would start at shooting guard. Iman Shumpert and Ronnie Brewer, who both are rehabilitating from knee surgery, were doing individual workouts Tuesday. James White, who had been practicing with the starting unit, was on the sideline with a sore right hamstring that could keep him out of Thursday’s preseason opener at Washington.

Woodson kept J. R. Smith in his usual role of playing with the second team. Last week, Smith said he wanted to be a starter and that he entered camp hoping to accomplish that goal.

“Everybody can’t start,” Woodson said. “I have to have some offense coming off the bench, and I told J. R. he could be the best player coming off the bench in this league.”


Chris Smith missed his third straight practice with a sore left knee. … Marcus Camby did not practice because of a strained left calf. … Rasheed Wallace participated in the Knicks’ early walk-through, but continued to work on his conditioning when the team scrimmaged. Wallace said he felt good about his cross-training workouts and that he did not know when he would join the team for a full practice. “It’s not up to me; it’s up to Coach Woodson,” Wallace said. “I’m not one to complain. If it’s not until mid-November, it’s mid-November. I can’t control that, I just have to be ready either way.”

Knicks’ Executives Project Confidence in Off-Season Moves

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.”

Grunwald agreed.

“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.

How Olajuwon Became Invested in the Knicks

The Knicks had just been eliminated by the Miami Heat in the first round of the playoffs, and Woodson wondered if Olajuwon could help Amar’e Stoudemire with his footwork and low-post moves. When the Knicks did retain Woodson — removing his interim title — and gave him a contract extension, he called Olajuwon again. This time, Woodson was in Houston, ready to execute his plan with Olajuwon.

“I feel so honored that he asked me to help,” Olajuwon said.

Since retiring in 2002, Olajuwon has developed some of the N.B.A.’s best players. Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard and LeBron James have all flourished under Olajuwon’s tutelage. The lessons have always taken place at Olajuwon’s ranch in Katy, Tex.

Now, for the first time since being available to players during the summer, Olajuwon will travel to a team’s facility to show players his moves. This week, Olajuwon will be in Greenburgh, N.Y., with several Knicks players, including , Tyson Chandler and Stoudemire. He will also be alongside Woodson, the man who persuaded him to make the trip.

Having worked with Stoudemire for more than two weeks this summer, Olajuwon is clearly fully invested in assisting Woodson, and ultimately the Knicks, the team he beat in the N.B.A. finals with the Houston Rockets in 1994.

“It was something I wanted to do for Mike,” Olajuwon said. “It’s always a joy for me to work with current players, especially for guys that you know you can help their careers.”

Woodson and Olajuwon were teammates with the Rockets from 1988 to 1990. Woodson, a veteran at the time, helped the younger Olajuwon mature. Even then, Olajuwon could tell Woodson was interested in coaching once his playing career was over. The two formed a bond, and Olajuwon has watched Woodson become a respected coach in the league.

“Mike showed a flash toward the last part of the season of what he can do,” Olajuwon said, referring to the Knicks’ 18-6 record after Woodson replaced Mike D’Antoni in March. “You can tell he is comfortable making the right move to succeed.”

No one in the league will disagree with Woodson’s efforts to develop team chemistry. Earlier this week, Olajuwon said Anthony and Stoudemire would need to complement each other for the Knicks to win. He also said Chandler could be more dominant in the post with more back-to-the-basket moves.

Olajuwon will have the players focus on repetition in their post moves during the pre-training camp workouts.

“I think the team is expecting a lot of itself,” Olajuwon said. “They know they have to accomplish a lot this season.”

At first, Woodson wanted Olajuwon to come to New York during the early part of the off-season to help his three primary frontcourt players. That wasn’t possible, though, once Anthony and Chandler began training with the United States national team in preparation for the Olympics.

But Woodson, in a move that impressed Olajuwon, traveled to Katy in early August to watch Stoudemire’s first few training sessions.

Over dinner, Woodson told Olajuwon about his plans for the season and how he wanted the Knicks’ offense to focus on getting the ball inside. Woodson also saw Stoudemire’s improvement under Olajuwon.

He then asked Olajuwon if he would be interested in teaching Anthony, Chandler and others.

“The ranch is quiet and it’s very comfortable for the players,” Olajuwon said. “But I can understand with the guys coming back from the Olympics, so this time I made the exception to come to New York.”

Olajuwon said he was willing to give the Knicks feedback during the season. He expects the Knicks to progress under Woodson and contend in the Eastern Conference. The Knicks will be on Olajuwon’s TV a lot.

“When you work with a player for hours, days and weeks, you want to see them play,” he said. “You want to see how quickly they improve and mature.”