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New York Knicks: Why Isn't Mike Woodson Playing Chris Copeland?

May 3, 2013; Boston, MA, USA; New York Knicks small forward Chris Copeland (14) warms up before the start of game six of the first round of the 2013 NBA Playoffs against the Boston Celtics at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports
David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports
Thomas DuffyFeatured ColumnistMay 15, 2013

Why isn’t Mike Woodson playing Chris Copeland? Does the New York Knicks coach not see that his team, now down three games-to-one against the Indiana Pacers, is desperate for offense? Maybe the coach just doesn’t see the dreadlocked scoring machine that’s been sitting right in front of him all along.

I’m sorry, but I don’t have the answers; I don’t think anyone does, actually. The Knicks are absolutely desperate for offense with J.R. Smith struggling (shooting 33.6 percent from the field) and Carmelo Anthony getting bullied by Paul George.

And yet, Copeland just sits there in his warm-ups—well, until Woodson already concedes the game and empties his bench. When that happens, the 28-year-old rookie proves to everyone that his coach is making a huge mistake every minute that he sits him.

Before I get into the stats, I would like to acknowledge the fact that Copeland is horrendous defensively. He’s awful on that end of the floor—I understand that—but that’s not what this discussion is about. This is strictly about what he could bring to the team in the area that needs the most improvement: offense.

Alright, now let’s begin: with Copeland on the floor, the Knicks are simply a better team.

In the postseason, the team’s offensive rating (ORtg -an estimate of points produced or scored per 100 possessions), is +15.5 points while Copeland is on the court. New York’s assist percentage (AST- an estimate of the percentage of teammate field goals a player assisted while he was on the floor) is +8.5 percent (via Basketball Reference).

But that’s not all. While the team has shot 32 percent from the three-point line throughout the playoffs, Copeland has been one of the team’s most consistent long-range shooters. He has connected on 5-of-13 shots from downtown and has the third-highest three-point percentage (38.5) of anyone who is averaging more than one attempt per game.

Copeland actually lit up Indiana for 10.8 points per game during the regular season while shooting nearly 53 percent from the field. In the month of April, while the Knicks were ravaged by injuries at basically every position, Copeland poured in 15 points per game.

Is it becoming more obvious that Woodson is making a mistake?

If not, listen to this. As a starter, while averaging 27.2 minutes per game in 13 games this season, Copeland gave the Knicks 16.1 points per night. Coming off the bench, while averaging 11.8 minutes per game this season, the rookie contributed 6.4 points—that’s a difference of nearly 10 whole points.

Personally, I like Woodson and the job he’s done with the Knicks since taking over last season—he had his team defending and playing hard while making Anthony look like an MVP candidate. However, all along, he didn’t give Copeland the chance that he deserved.

It’s time to unleash the 28-year-old rookie whom the Knicks signed from Belgium in the offseason. If given serious minutes, Copeland could save his team—and the coach who has mistreated him all season—from a humiliating defeat at the hands of Indiana.

Or, Copeland could find himself sitting there for another whole game, check in during garbage time and knock down a few threes.

It’s up to Woodson—no one else can free the 6’8” scorer. But let this be clear: If Copeland doesn’t get significant playing time in the coming games, the Knicks will lose this series to the Pacers.

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