New York Knicks: David Fizdale tries justifying playing-time rationale

New York Knicks (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
New York Knicks (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) /

New York Knicks head coach David Fizdale defended playing Tim Hardaway Jr. heavy minutes and not applying any for Enes Kanter.

The New York Knicks endured their 21st loss in 23 games Friday night, losing to the Brooklyn Nets, 109-99. It was competitive and interesting for the first half, before head coach Kenny Atkinson’s squad pulled away in the final quarter.

Atkinson’s counterpart, David Fizdale, has traveled a grueling road on the other side of New York City. The team is 10-37, still doesn’t have Kristaps Porzingis and shows few signs of trending up.

Team morale is Fizdale’s latest problem to cope with, though, especially with Enes Kanter‘s public comments over not playing. The veteran center spoke, again, after the Nets game, questioning why Fizdale does not communicate with him, per Marc Berman of the New York Post:

"“I wish he’d communicate with me,’’ Kanter said. “I see him every day. He hasn’t said a word to me. We’re grown men. He could’ve just come to me and said you’re not fitting what we’re doing. I’ll say OK I’ll just try to get better and make my teammates better. He has not communicated with me about anything yet."

That was a response to Fizdale’s rationale for not using Kanter, despite making him a starter and changing this tune hours before Wednesday’s game:

"“We’re fighting for a certain style of play right now to start building for our future,’’ Fizdale said. “I want to be able to play a versatile style in the future. I don’t want to wait to start working on that and build that out.’’"

The Kanter situation becomes a grander spectacle by the game. Feb. 7 is the trade deadline, an unofficial date for the Knicks to solve this. If not, buying out his $18.6 million contract is the alternative, which may prove easier due to teams’ potential inability to match a fellow expiring contract.

Curiously, the situation delved into Tim Hardaway Jr., who recently hit the trade block. Fizdale, also per Berman, justified the Michigan product playing, because of his contractual standing past 2018-19 — a rare comment for any coach to make:

"“Tim Hardaway Jr. is making $18 million for two more years with us,’’ Fizdale said. “He’s a part of our future from that standpoint.’’"

In training camp, Fizdale said contracts won’t matter towards playing time. While that’s held true for Kanter, Courtney Lee, Lance Thomas and Mario Hezonja, the Hardaway statement is a change of tune, but that’s just a result of everything trending poorly for the Knicks.

35 games remain for New York to navigate this disastrous season and focus on the long-awaited end game of the 2019 offseason. That’s when roster clarity should arrive, but this does not represent guarantees, either, especially with the No. 1 pick and using cap space on the NBA’s marquee players.

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This seems an eternity away since Fizdale must solve the current roster crisis before more problems develop. Roster moves before Feb. 7 help this, but it’s easier said than done, with Kanter’s aforementioned money and Hardaway’s salary through 2020-21. There’s no simple way out of this, except awaiting Apr. 10, the New York Knicks’ season finale.