The New York Knicks are still firmly rooted in their rebuilding process, but they have more reason for optimism this season than they have in many years. They’re under new management, they have a savvy coach in David Fizdale, and they’re developing a young and talented nucleus to play alongside franchise cornerstone Kristaps Porzingis when he returns from injury.
The strides they’re making, of course, aren’t really reflected in the win-loss column, as they’re just 4-15 on the season. They have some promising rookies in Kevin Knox and Mitchell Robinson, and Fizdale has been able to coax solid contributions out of guys like Enes Kanter, Mario Hezonja, and Noah Vonleh.
In fact, Fizdale had some pretty lofty praise for the latter of that bunch. Vonleh logged big double-doubles in their last two games: 14 points and 14 rebounds in a narrow loss to the Blazers, and 16 points and 10 boards in a big win over the Celtics Wednesday night. It was apparently enough for Fizdale to peg him as the team’s most well-rounded player.
It’s safe to assume Fizdale wasn’t lumping Porzingis into that equation, as the star center continues to recover from a torn ACL he suffered last February. Still, it’s quite an endorsement for a player who’s averaging just over eight points and eight rebounds per game this season, numbers buttressed by his most recent performances.
Fizdale, of course, could simply be using this as a motivational tactic, both for Vonleh and rookies Knox and Robinson, who he’s sent to the bench recently in favor of Vonleh and Hezonja.
Vonleh never quite developed into the player they were expecting during his nearly two-and-a-half year stint in Portland, where at his peak he logged just over four points and five rebounds per contest. He’s getting many more opportunities in New York this season, and he clearly has Fizdale’s support, so it’ll be interesting to see where his development takes him from here.