It's a sad reflection on the state of the Knicks that pushing forward in the face of depressing play is in itself newsworthy. After various rumors suggested the potential departure of several Knicks players and the possible firing of head coach Mike Woodson, team owner James Dolan personally assured his team that no such changes are coming, according to Marc Stein of ESPN.com.
Sources close to the situation told ESPN.com that Dolan gathered the team before the first practice in the wake of New York's embarrassing 29-point home loss to Oklahoma City on Christmas Day largely in an attempt to hush the growing speculation about coach Mike Woodson's job security following the Knicks' 9-19 start.
...It's believed Dolan took the step in an attempt to persuade Woodson's players to band together and throw their full support behind the embattled coach to help dig New York out of the sizable hole it finds itself with essentially one-third of the regular season in the books, the sources said.
Considering all the chatter about the Knicks' present and future, this could very well have been a worthwhile conversation. Some movement or reassurance was very much in order after New York's recent gaffes, including the 29-point evisceration they suffered by Oklahoma City's hand on Christmas day. The team's in-game strategy has been lacking. Injuries have tied an already flawed roster in knots. Focus, shot selection, and defensive awareness all remain glaring issues. There's a lot to fix with the 9-19 Knicks, but with this kind of declaration Dolan has let the team know that there will be no trade or coaching switch made in short order to save them.
Of course, whether or not Dolan's declaration is actually true is another matter entirely, as is whether or not the players believe him in the first place. We'll likely know the answer to the former soon enough, as the Knicks front office is among the league's leakiest. Beyond that, the fact that Dolan has never had a particularly healthy working relationship with his team makes this a difficult gesture to read. His intent seems clear enough and the statement itself a potentially productive one, but all depends on whether or not the Knicks players really believe that Dolan will keep Woodson in place and the roster intact.
Either way, it's good to know that Dolan on some level understands that standing pat is an option. Panic moves have been par for the course with these Knicks in recent years, and in light of their struggles it would be completely in-character for Dolan to oversee yet another short-sighted trade that earns only slight rewards for an underwhelming team. New York is not a move away from contention, nor is gaining respectability as simple as getting healthier. This is a problematic collection of players, and whether due to pride, salary logjam, or the frittering away of most every possible future draft pick, it's good that Dolan, at long last, might not be in a position to deal in a way that would make a bad situation worse. ...Then again, maybe this is all for show and New York will find a way to dish off its few remaining assets for whatever pipe dream the franchise is chasing this week. These are James Dolan's Knicks, after all; they zig when they should zag and double-down on their poor investments when all logic says to change direction. Dolan can say what he will, but the panic button is ever within arm's reach.