Through one quarter of the season, the New York Knicks seem worse off than last year. Should David Fizdale be the first one to go? And, if not, who is to blame for this mess?
When it comes to the New York Knicks, it’s never quiet. The Knicks 4-17 start to the season has been largely underwhelming. Some were justifiably irritated after the preparatory moves the organization made last season to pave way for basketball’s best and brightest to come to the Mecca. Others have accepted this year as a mirror of last season: time to develop the young players while using this season to orient the franchise to acquire more talent.
When Knicks President Steve Mills and General Manager Scott Perry addressed the media following the 108-87 rout at the hands of the Cleveland Cavaliers on Sunday, Nov. 10, what had been largely a drama-free season turned into what Knicks fans have come to know as the norm.
Reports from ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski and Malika Andrews indicated that “President Steve Mills had started to lay the internal groundwork for the eventual dismissal of coach David Fizdale,” reintroducing the all-too-familiar threat of organizational upheaval. It is time to take stock of Fizdale’s coaching hot-seat after one quarter of the season has been completed.
When David Fizdale was asked about ESPN’s report regarding his job security, he referenced the 2.5 years remaining on his contract to emphasize his job security, per Malika Andrews. The Knicks, however, have never been gun shy when it comes to removing top-level employees with time remaining on their deals.
Head Coach Derek Fisher was fired two years into his four-year, $17 million contract. Fisher’s record as head coach was 40-96. Head Coach Jeff Hornacek was fired two years into his three-year, $15 million contract. His record as head coach was 60-104.
If history tells us anything, it is that after his 21-82 start with the New York Knicks, Fizdale should seek no comfort in the remaining 2.5 years on his contract.
This begs the question: how much of this is actually Fizdale’s fault? Last year, in Fizdale’s first season, the Knicks were all but saying, and sometimes literally saying, that the organization was positioning itself to amass draft capital and make a run at big-name free agents the following summer.
The Knicks also exhibit little continuity. Per Basketball-Reference.com, their most common four-man combination last year by minutes played featured Tim Hardaway Jr., Enes Kanter, Noah Vonleh, and Emmanuel Mudiay, none of which returned to the team for the 2019-20 season. Mudiay chucked long-two after long-two. John Jenkins, no longer in the league, played in 22 games for the Knicks. DeAndre Jordan stopped trying. At some point, world-renowned coaches can’t get anything out of a roster so poorly constructed.
Which brings us to this summer, where the Knicks stayed gun-shy with max money, instead favoring flexibility. While much has been made of the Knicks signing four power forwards this summer (Julius Randle, Bobby Portis, Morris Sr., and Taj Gibson), this feels like the first year since 2013-14 where the Knicks are starting 5 decent NBA players, and filling at least 10 roster spots with NBA guys.
Their championship odds changed from +100000 last year to +35000 this year. Roster improvements have definitely been made, but it has not translated to any on-court success, perhaps less success than last year. If Fizdale’s main selling point as a hire was his ability to connect with top-level talent, a roster with middling NBA players is not compatible with his skillset. A fine chef can’t make a bouillabaisse with peanut butter and jelly.
Perhaps the goal still is to focus on youth development and hope for another high spot in the 2020 NBA Draft. If so, why is Fizdale the man to see this season through? While rookie phenom RJ Barrett has largely impressed, Kevin Knox just received a Did Not Play – Coach’s Decision for the first time in his career. Allonzo Trier has vanished from the lineup. Mitchell Robinson can’t stay on the basketball court. Frank Ntilikina fell backward into the starting role only through circumstance driven by injury. Damyean Dotson has been far from a priority. Dennis Smith Jr. is getting opportunities, but he has not capitalized.
As of this writing, no reports have been made about Steve Mills’ dwindling job security. His tenure as General Manager of the Knicks started before the 2013-2014 season, when the Knicks title odds were +2200, per basketball-reference.com. The team’s odds have never been even close to that favorable since, yet Mills has only seen his title and power increase. Mills is well known for consulting with owner James Dolan on major personnel decisions.
Dolan’s erratic track record has been well documented. It is no surprise that fingers are being pointed away from the highest offices within the Knicks, yet no one in those offices is looking in the mirror and asking why one of the most valuable sports franchises on the planet cannot feign a shred of competence.
The path to David Fizdale being the first head to roll from the 2019-2020 New York Knicks is not difficult to see. Assuming that the Knicks’ front office will continue to prioritize its own self-preservation, organizational upheaval seems likely. With that in mind, David Fizdale should consider his coaching seat to be very hot, as any coach of the New York Knicks should. 2 years and only 21 wins in, however, means that the seat is scorching. As always, Knicks fans should prepare themselves to gear up for a bumpy road, for New York is the City that Never Sleeps, and it seldom wins basketball games.