Qyntel Woods refuses to look back.
A 6-foot-8-inch swingman for the New York Knicks,Woods has had plenty to put behind him since leaving his hometown of Memphis,Tenn.,nearly seven years ago. From the allegations of animal abuse to violating the NBA's substance-abuse policy,Woods owns up to his lapses in judgment.
As he returns home Wednesday for an eight o'clock game against the Grizzlies,he's just trying to stay focused on the future.
“That's behind me,” Woods said over the weekend before the Knicks lost to the Wizards in Washington. “I can't change the past. That's something I've got to work on and just keep my head above water.”
But for a 25-year-old kid from South Memphis whose father was murdered just a few weeks after his birth,the NBA waters haven't been easy to navigate.
Drafted 21st overall by Portland in 2002,Woods came off the bench in 53 games his rookie season. The next season was his most active. He played in 62 games and started eight. Season three,however,marked the end of stability.
The trouble started with Woods serving a 38-game suspension for abusing his pit bull; he was waived by the Trailblazers on Jan. 21,2005,the same day he pleaded guilty to the animal charge in an Oregon court. Over the next nine months,Woods was signed by Miami,served a five-game suspension for substance-abuse,missed 28 games due to injury,was traded to Boston and then cut by the Celtics before training camp.
During three seasons,Woods averaged less than four points and two rebounds – a far cry from his dominating days at Northeast Mississippi Community College.
Woods emerged as a high school phenom after helping Memphis' Carver High to a Class AA state championship,but poor grades forced him first to Mobley Junior College in Missouri,then to Northeast,just 100 miles southeast of Memphis. There he averaged 32.9 points and 9.8 rebounds,catching the eyes of several big-time programs,including the University of Memphis,but Woods' eyes were on “The League.”
“I just wanted to make the jump,” Woods said. “Things didn't work out the way I wanted them to work out. But I don't have any regrets.”
Knicks assistant Herb Williams said Woods is an NBA-caliber player,but he has to prove it on the court.
“Qyntel has all the ability in the world,” said Williams,who played 18 seasons in the NBA. “But you've got to be there each and every night. You can't do that for 10 or 15 games and then not do it again. I hope he's learned from being the 21st pick in the draft to being out of the league that there's a strong possibility he could be out of the league again.”
Woods signed with the Knicks in December and over five games in January again showed promise,averaging 15 points,eight rebounds and 32 minutes,all more than triple his career stats.
Those numbers have since disappeared,however,as the Knicks traded for veterans Jalen Rose and Steve Francis. Woods hasn't logged 20 minutes in the last five games and hasn't scored double-figures since Feb. 8. From the bench,he’s had a good view of the miserable Knicks,who at 15-41 have the worst record in the NBA.
With his contract expiring at the end of the season,Woods feels he has something to prove. But he's also still wearing an NBA jersey,something he doesn't take for granted.
“This is where I want to be because I'm in the league,” he said. “I can't really complain about how many minutes I'm getting or how many points I'm scoring – as long as I'm around that means something.”