Mike Woodson: 'Too early' to panic

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WASHINGTON -- The New York Knicks have lost five straight, but coach Mike Woodson said it's too early for the team to start panicking.

"Panic word shouldn't even be an issue," Woodson said after practice on Sunday. "The issue is how can we come together as a group and figure out how to play consistent basketball for 48 minutes."

But some in the Knicks' locker room may disagree with Woodson.

After the Knicks' overtime loss to the Indiana Pacers on Wednesday, J.R. Smith said the Knicks were mentally frustrated and had started to panic.

"We're frustrated," Smith said. "Like you say, it's too early to panic, but me, personally, I'm panicking. I don't like this."

Smith added: "If we're going to be a championship-caliber team and call ourselves that, then we've gotta play like that. It can't be no other way."

The Knicks entered the season with championship aspirations but have flopped out of the gate. They are 3-9 and enter play Sunday tied with the Brooklyn Nets in last place in the Atlantic Division. They're just one game ahead of the Milwaukee Bucks, the worst team in the Eastern Conference.

Smith said after Saturday's loss to the Washington Wizards that his teammates are starting to feel pressure due in part to the team's struggling offense.

"There's a lot of pressure going into the next shot, the next play, the next possession," Smith said. "I think we've got to, after one play is over, look forward to the next play and try to do better the next time. I think we're over-analyzing stuff. We need to get back to having fun and playing basketball."

Carmelo Anthony also seems concerned about the mental state of the Knicks. He said after Saturday's game that he's worried his teammates are starting to lose confidence.

"Yeah, I worry about other guys doing that," he said. "This is tough for anybody to go through. Especially games you believe you should be winning, guys feel they should be playing better. We feel like we should be playing better as a team. Guys could easily lose confidence in a situation like that."

So why isn't Woodson panicking?

New York is just 2½ games behind first-place Toronto in the Atlantic Division. The Raptors, Boston Celtics and Philadelphia 76ers were all projected lottery teams, so Woodson believes the Knicks have time to turn things around and compete for the division title.

"So I don't know what J.R. is talking about. It shouldn't be panic time. It's too early in the game for that," Woodson said.

The Knicks have struggled on both ends of the floor this year. They enter play Sunday ranked 23rd in offensive efficiency (points scored per 100 possessions) and 24th in defensive efficiency. They are 26th in point differential (-5.9).

Woodson is hopeful that things will change once injured center Tyson Chandler returns. Chandler (broken right fibula) is expected to be out at least two more weeks. Point guard Raymond Felton is also sidelined with a nerve injury in his hip.

"You got two starters that are not in uniform. I don't know what kind of team we really have," Woodson said. "We haven't had a full deck. Somehow, we have to get to that just to see where we are. Until we get there we got to somehow maintain and hold this thing down so it don't get too far out of whack."

Ian Begley is a regular contributor to ESPNNewYork.com.