There’s a specific mindset certain teams assume when things don’t go their way. They believe, without evidence, that everything is going to be OK, simply because they are that team. This is most often the case with the Los Angeles Lakers, whom the basketball gods always seem to smile upon. The New York Knicks are not immune from this feeling either, even though it’s been years since they really did anything in the playoffs, not to mention competed for a championship.
It’s equal parts smug, brash and insecure, this feeling of inevitable, almost entitled success. And it’s one Derek Fisher, head coach of the Knicks, is feeling to its fullest extent. Fisher was asked if he could foresee the Knicks making a 23-game turnaround next season, similar to what the Milwaukee Bucks accomplished this year. Apparently, 23 games is thinking far too small.
“But we don’t really have to put a number on it,” Fisher continued. “We are 6-21 in games [decided] by six points or less this year. So we lost 21 games on two possessions. So we don’t have go from 15 to 36 next year. We can go from 15 to 63 if we really want to. But that is up to us.”
Well, no, it’s not up to the team, Derek Fisher. It’s terrific for a coach to have such ardent faith in his squad, but realism is also a necessity here. The Bucks had such a drastic turnaround because they had the talent in place – both in terms of players and coaches – needed to do so. Giannis Antetokounmpo greatly improved this year; Jared Dudley experienced a bit of a renaissance before the All-Star break, as did Ersan Ilyasova, though the Ersanaissance has lasted a bit longer; John Henson emerged as a legitimate two-way player and Khris Middleton might just be the most underrated player in the NBA. Jason Kidd, though prone to the occasional attempt at a coup d’équipe, is actually a pretty good coach.
The Knicks, meanwhile, have Carmelo Anthony, much depreciated in skill and athleticism – likely even more so after his knee surgery. They’ll probably get a top-3 pick in the draft this summer, but rare is the rookie that leads his team to even a 10-game turnaround in his first year. Tim Hardaway, Jr. is a fine rotation player, and maybe Langston Galloway is, too, but does that combination really scream “63” wins to anyone? Does it even inspire playoff hopes, fully recognizing the horrible state of the East? The answer is no, of course it doesn’t. But this is Derek Fisher, and this is Phil Jackson, and these are the New York Knicks, who will survive and thrive because they say so.