The big news came before Friday’s game against the Washington Wizards, where New York Knicks head coach Mike Woodson revealed that he’d made a change to the starting lineup: Jason Kidd was relegated to the bench in favor of James White. James White? Yes! James White.
The Knicks, who fell to the reinvigorated Wizards a bit before the All-Star Break, struggled throughout Friday’s content but ultimately used a big fourth quarter to win their 35th game of the season with a 96-88 win. The Knickerbockers outscored the Wizards 23-11 in the final frame, with Carmelo Anthony (team-high 30 points) and Raymond Felton hitting clutch shots late to put the game on ice. Bradley Beal led Washington, who had won 7-of-10 coming in, with a career-high 29 points.
Woodson’s lineup shift gave us a possible glimpse into what the Knicks’ rotation may look like playoff time. We’re not sure if White will continue to start – he played the now-departed Ronnie Brewer role, getting only 10 total minutes – but the casualty of the change was Pablo Prigioni, who got a DNP – Coach’s Decision in the box score. Prigs hasn’t earned a spot on the bench with his play, he’s been pretty consistent all season and given the Knicks more than they could have expected from him, but when the games get bigger and the postseason arrives, NBA rotations shorten. I’m sure Prigioni will have more chances to earn a spot back in the rotation, but it appears someone will be the odd man out later down the road.
Kidd moved to the bench, but it didn’t whip him out of his arctic shooting slump. He was 0-4 from behind the arc, making him a putrid 2-for-21 over his last five games. His season percentage has dipped to 35%. Kidd certainly does other things, but his strength at this point in his career (and what made him so deadly early on in the season) is his ability to knock down perimeter shots – off kick outs, offensive rebounds, etc. Woodson said he put Kidd on the bench to play him at the 1 and get the ball into his hands, but I’m not sure that’s where his strength is anymore. Also, Kidd played 28 minutes, and while the Knicks are +101 points this season with Kidd on the floor (via 82games.com), they should really monitor his minutes a bit. The Knicks need him right in the playoffs, and near 30-minutes a game might burn him out. It may already have.
Lineup change aside, the Knicks toughed out a win they needed. They’ve snapped out of their slump a bit, winning three straight before tomorrow’s showdown with Miami. I don’t think many Knicks fans are expecting much from tomorrow’s game. LeBron James is playing once-in-a-decade type ball right now, and the Heat have to be pretty pissed that they’ve twice been on the blow out side against New York this season. But we’ll get to tomorrow, well, tomorrow. The Knicks did what they had to do in our Nation’s Capital on Friday night.