New York Knicks head coach David Fizdale knows the absence of Kristaps Porzingis will hurt, but he believes the defense can still thrive.
The New York Knicks were once recognized as one of the best defensive teams in the NBA. It was the foundation for the team’s identity, as well as a driving force behind the resounding success experienced between 1970 and 2000.
During that span of 30 years, New York won two championships, made five NBA Finals appearances, and reached the Conference Finals in 10 different seasons.
Since the 1999-2000 season, however, the Knicks have won a grand total of one postseason series. It’s no coincidence that New York has also devolved from a defensive-minded franchise into a string of offense-oriented teams that lacked a definitive identity.
"“Everyone expects us to take a few punches this year because we have a new team and Kristaps is injured,” Fizdale said, according to the translation. “Perhaps we cannot always ensure we will score the ball, but we can definitely develop good defense. I want to play a lot of transition basketball, play fast, but the only way to do this is to have a good defense first.”"
The defense will suffer without Porzingis’ presence, but the proper habits and tendencies can still be developed on that end of the floor.
Playing without a 7’3″ rim protector who can switch against the pick and roll will be a challenge. That’s especially true when one considers the fact that Porzingis ranked No. 1 in the NBA in blocks per game and opponent field goal percentage at the time of his injury.
In saying that, effort levels on the defensive end of the floor shouldn’t be dependent upon who’s active—and that’s the point that Fizdale is hammering home.
Even if the defense doesn’t quite rank in the top 10 in points allowed per 100 possessions, it can still play with a level of intensity that will make life difficult for the opposition.
Tenacity on defense is rare in every sport, but those who bring it on a nightly basis tend to emerge as contenders. New York isn’t there quite yet, but if it can establish a culture of accountability on the defensive end of the floor, it can make progress towards finding its identity.
Once Porzingis returns, that team will have committed defenders surrounding a future Defensive Player of the Year candidate.
The New York Knicks will have to put their money where their mouth is, but David Fizdale is saying all the right things.