By Charlie Widdoes (Twitter)
The Knicks shot around this morning at Barclays Center in advance of tonight's showdown with the Nets. It's the Knicks' 17th game of the season, but only their first against an Atlantic Division foe.
Some updates on the team after morning media availability...
Asked if Mike Woodson would consider using a smaller lineup that's been successful in the past, the Knicks' coach said he won't be making any changes to the starting lineup tonight in Brooklyn. That means Raymond Felton, Iman Shumpert, Carmelo Anthony, Kenyon Martin and Andrea Bargnani will open the game against the injury-riddled Nets, who will be without Paul Pierce and Deron Williams.
Woodson noted that he's been satisfied with his team's starts to games, but that it could use improvement closing them out, as the record indicates.
He also feels like sticking with a more traditional alignment (with Melo at small forward and Martin at the 4), gives him the size he needs to combat the Nets. "This is a big lineup, when you talk about starting (Kevin) Garnett and (Brook) Lopez, so we'll stay with the original lineup and go from there."
A Familiar Face on the Opposing Bench
Woodson announced that J.R. Smith will play tonight, despite sitting out yesterday's practice with some soreness. When he spoke after practice, Smith responded to his former teammate Jason Kidd's early struggles as the Nets' coach: "Criticism will come. He's a great basketball mind, unfortunately he's going through it early. He's the best fit for that job, he knows how to get out of it and he's got a great corps of vets, so he'll be fine."
Asked if it would be weird to see Kidd working the sidelines: "Not really," J.R. said. "He was a coach last year, to me -- just a player coach. But now to se him with a suit on, with him calling the shots and seeing how people react to him, that will be different."
Division up for Grabs
Despite both teams' struggles, the Knicks know that tonight's game could still play a large role in determining Atlantic Division supremacy.
"We haven't played particularly well, either team, but we're still battling for our division," said Woodson. "If we were sitting here, and the Nets were sitting where they are, seven, eight, nine games out of first place, then I'd say that it's an uphill climb. But being two, three games out, you're still in the hunt."
He added: "We control our own destiny in terms of getting out of the hole we've dug."
Melo echoed those sentiments, saying: "We just gotta put a couple games together and go from there. We know our division is there for the taking."
Not Used to Losing
Neither Melo nor Woodson are accustomed to losing this many basketball games, but both are working to keep things in perspective.
Said Woodson: "It's tough. I haven't experienced anything like this in 10 years. It's not fun at all, and I know it's not fun on the players."
Anthony: "I've never dealt with anything like this, so it's definitely a challenge trying to stay positive during a time like this."