Lin, Woodson futures head Knicks’ offseason list

Mike Woodson wants to return and he wants Jeremy Lin back with

him.

What he won’t say is whether Lin would be his starting point

guard next season.

”Jeremy’s a big part of our team. Will he start? Only time will

tell,” Woodson said Thursday. ”He’s got to recover from his knee

and use this summer to really work on his game, to put himself in

the best position possible for our ballclub.

”He has started for our team, and he has played well for our

basketball team, but this summer will be very pivotal for him in

terms of his improvement and the future’s very bright for him. So

will he be back next year? Absolutely. He’s a big part of our

ballclub.”

The Knicks began their offseason Thursday, believing they aren’t

far from contending status despite winning only one playoff game

after getting swept last year.

Carmelo Anthony and Amare Stoudemire reaffirmed their confidence

in their partnership, especially with Tyson Chandler in the middle

of them. But New York has plenty of questions, beginning with the

future of its interim coach and point guard.

Both are expected to return, but Lin knows there’s a chance he

won’t as he heads to free agency. The Knicks will be able to match

any offer, leaving Lin some comfort if he hopes to stay in his

place in New York rather than heading back to the nomadic NBA life

that had him sleeping on his brother’s couch three months ago. But

after not being drafted out of Harvard and being cut twice this

year before he was signed by the Knicks, he isn’t too stressed.

”It’s all up in the air, but in my short, short amount of time

in the league, I’ve had tougher things to deal with and so my

biggest fear is coming back to whatever team I play for next season

and being as good,” Lin said. ”That’s my biggest fear. I need to

be a lot better. I need to make sure I’m a lot better, a lot

healthier, and that’s my focus for the offseason. And then once

training camp starts, wherever I’m at, I’m all about trying to make

that team better.”

Strong point guard play seems the biggest key to getting Anthony

and Stoudemire to produce in tandem. Lin provided it during his

short stretch as a starter, particularly during the height of

Linsanity, when he drew comparisons to Steve Nash, both much of

that came without the forward duo playing at the same time.

Now the Knicks could opt to pursue Nash or another veteran if

they aren’t sure about Lin, who missed the final 17 games and the

first-round playoff loss to Miami after surgery to repair torn

cartilage in his left knee.

”What team wouldn’t want a two-time MVP and assist leader,

veteran point guard? What team wouldn’t want that?” Stoudemire

said of Nash, his former teammate in Phoenix. ”But we do have

Jeremy Lin here. We have confidence in him and what he can do for

us.”

Anthony also expressed confidence in Lin, and grew annoyed when

asked about whether he and Stoudemire will ever blossom

together.

”I just get tired of hearing that,” Anthony said. ”I get

tired of hearing about can it work, will it work. We’re here to

play basketball. When we win, it works. When we lose, it doesn’t

work. It’s kind of one of those situations, I get tired of hearing

it. We’ll figure it out. I don’t really think it’s something that’s

that difficult to figure out, but it’ll get figured out.”

They have to, because both, along with Chandler, are signed long

term. Stoudemire is particularly hard to trade because of his

injury history, uninsured, expensive contract and declining

production this season, but he sees no reason to break up that

group, anyway.

”I think as players, with Carmelo and myself and Tyson as a

foundation trio, you can’t ask for a better lineup than that in the

NBA,” said Stoudemire, before naming the star-led groups in Miami,

Oklahoma City and the Lakers. ”But I mean we’re right there at the

top of the bunch with the trio, so I think it’ll just take a matter

of time for us really to figure it out, have a consistent

year.”

The players all felt the Knicks would be better just by having a

full season together after going through two coaches and a number

of injuries this season. They said the goal is to win the Atlantic

Division, guaranteeing them a top-four seed and avoiding teams like

the Heat in the first round.

They also supported the return of Woodson, who led them to an

18-6 record and the Knicks’ first playoff victory since 2001 after

replacing Mike D’Antoni on March 14. He’s acting as if he believes

he’ll be back, telling Stoudemire to work on his low-post game and

vowing that there ”won’t be any time off this summer if I’m here

as the coach.”

”I’ve been around this thing a long time and to me it’s all

about winning. It’s all I care about and I want 12, 13, 14, 15 guys

that feel the same way. It’s all about winning at the end of the

day,” Woodson said. ”We’ve got a short window frame in there and

my clock is ticking just like a lot of these players’ clocks are

ticking, and you’ve got to try to figure out in a short period of

time, man, and that’s what I’m about and if I’m here that’s what

I’m going to push players to be about.”

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