Mike Woodson said Sunday morning that the blame for J.R. Smith taking an ill-advised three in a tie game with twenty seconds left on the clock instead of waiting for last shot could be spread to point guard Beno Udrih.
This was notable, since a. it's Woodson once again defending Smith who has a history of questionable decisions, from poor shot selection to partying before playoff games to waiting until after signing a new contract to have surgery, and b. it's not the first time Woodson has criticized Udrih in the media, prompting the point guard to lash out at being singled out.
On Sunday night, Woodson wanted to "clear something up."
Later in the day, Woodson apparently took offense to reporters writing he had blamed Udrih and attempted to clarify he wasn't blaming him. Woodson may be sensitive because Udrih previously made comments he was frustrated with some recent criticism. It was unclear if Udrih was talking about fan and media criticism or from the coach.
“I want to clear up something,'' Woodson said unsolicited. “The Beno thing, everybody is held accountable. I wouldn't point the finger at Beno for anything. When you're trying to win games coming down the stretch, everybody has to be held accountable on what they do. He had the ball. He probably should've held the ball. That's just the nature of winning basketball games.''
So Smith "probably" should have held the ball, but Udrih didn't "have" to throw him the ball. And he "wouldn't point the finger at Beno for anything?" Here's what Udrih said two weeks ago about the criticism he's getting from Woodson.
"I kind of feel like when I do the right thing, it's not the right thing in some people's eyes. It's just tough. It's easy to point fingers when the team loses. But it comes down to, we are a team, we lose together. No matter who makes a mistake or who doesn't, it's still a team loss," Udrih said. "So I think all of this stuff should be kept out of the media and not call certain people out or something. We've just got to go out there and fix it and watch video and fix it as a team."
Sure sounds like he feels the finger is getting pointed at him. The bigger issue is that this isn't the first time that Woodson has opted to criticize players other than Smith for the Knicks' struggles. He's been on Iman Shumpert's case consistently since preseason, despite Shumpert being one of the bright spots on the team. Smith, meanwhile, has been a landfill explosion. There's garbage everywhere, and yet he's largely escaped any negative feedback from Woodson outside of an isolated spat in November.
The Knicks have played better lately, including a convincing victory over the Mavericks Sunday night. But these kinds of issues seem indicative of a greater organizational problem. Accountability isn't a principle with the Knicks.
It's a weapon.