What can New York Knicks coach David Fizdale look to accomplish in his first season?
After the 2017-18 season, the New York Knicks fired head coach Jeff Hornacek. Two losing campaigns cost him, as the organization’s playoff drought reached five years. To replace him, New York hired Fizdale for 2018-19.
Fizdale coached the Memphis Grizzlies through the 2016-17 season, but was fired just weeks into 2017-18. Prior to this, he spent time as an assistant coach on the Golden State Warriors, Atlanta Hawks and the Miami Heat, which occurred through the “Big 3” run of 2010-14.
Fizdale walks into a rebuilding situation in New York. Expectations might be low, so what can he accomplish in year one?
5. Maintain a positive relationship with Kristaps Porzingis
Only one year ago, Kristaps Porzingis had a fractured relationship with the former president of basketball operations, Phil Jackson, who placed this rising star in trade discussions. Problematic, it played into Jackson’s firing.
After 2017-18, Jeff Hornacek was let go as head coach. Though nothing negative developed between them publicly, it can’t be assumed the organization-player relationship stayed positive.
When the New York Knicks hired David Fizdale, one of his first tasks was to visit Porzingis in Latvia to develop a relationship. As noted by the New York Post, this happened to ensure a strong dynamic on and off the court:
"“I want to take the Knicks to the championship,” Fizdale said. “This is my main and greatest goal—to win the title for New York. Every morning is with this thought. Visiting Latvia and building of relationships with players so that they are more than simple coach-player relations, I believe that establishing such a link is a way to overcome the difficulties in the playoffs.”"
Of course that’s only one instance, and Fizdale must keep his relationship with Porzingis positive throughout the 2018-19 season.
Porzingis likely won’t start the season with the team, as he continues to recover from a torn ACL. That’s not ideal for any player, as it keeps him off the court for an unknown period, with a timetable potentially set to arrive in the midst of the season. So, it’s up to Fizdale to keep the former No. 4 overall pick involved with the team’s day-to-day activities.
Having Porzingis in the loop increases communication and thus makes the recovery process go smoother, especially after the breakdown between the San Antonio Spurs and Kawhi Leonard. Obviously, it’s not ideal to replicate this, so let’s see how the coach and player work through their first season together.