When the New York Knicks didn’t hit on any of their star free agents this summer there was an obvious expectation that adjustments had to be made. This wasn’t going to be a franchise back on the rise with likes of Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, but one that continues to find itself. They didn’t commit to anyone long-term and taking flyers on guys like Julius Randle and Bobby Portis, but there was always a concern with how it would fit together. The general idea, though, is that this should understand what they have over the next two seasons and then re-adjust with cap room after that.
That was until the games started this fall. The Knicks fit together has been similar to that of fitting square pegs into round holes. It’s early, but they have the NBA’s worst net rating and offense. They lack NBA starters at guards and the flurry of forwards and tweeners on the roster has made fitting the pieces they do have extremely difficult on Knicks coach David Fizdale. This lack of cohesion and results have put the Knicks at a 2-8 record, and there’s a growing tension showing from the organization. Following the Knicks loss to the Cavaliers on Sunday, team execs Steve Mills and Scott Perry held a surprising press conference postgame to address the team’s early season struggles.
“Given that this is our 10th game, we felt like we had an obligation to come and speak to you guys,” Mills said. “Obviously, Scott and I are not happy with where we are right now. We think the team’s not performing to the level that we anticipated or we expected to perform at and that’s something that we think we have to collectively do a better job of delivering the product on the floor that we said we would do at the start of this season.
To say this is odd would be an understatement. While it’s not uncommon for the general manager or team president to address the media, they don’t typically have this kind of press conference immediately after a loss. And according to Frank Isola of The Athletic, this impromptu conference was directly ordered by Knicks owner James Dolan.
What Mills didn’t say is that he and Dolan spoke at length during halftime of the blowout loss and, according to one source, Dolan told Mills he was “disappointed” with the team’s 2-8 start. The same source said that Dolan ordered his top basketball decision-makers to address the media after the game, which is highly unusual but interesting nonetheless.
It’s very apparent that, while the Knicks weren’t expecting the team to compete for a championship, they wanted to at least put out a product that was competitive. That hasn’t happened, and the question then becomes who that failure to compete falls on. With most teams the first person that takes blame for failures on the court is the coach. During the press conference, Mills and Perry put their full support behind Fizdale.
“We still believe in our coaching staff, we believe in the plan that Scott and I put together and the players that we’ve assembled. But we also have to acknowledge that we haven’t played at the level we expected to play at. We’ve sort of seen glimpses of how we can play as a team, when everything comes together. But we’ve got to find a way to play complete games at the level that we expect our team to play at and that’s a responsibility that we take collectively. But I also think it’s important for us to communicate to our fans that we’re not happy where we are right now and we’re committed to making this better. But we have to, as a group, come together and be more consistent in terms of how we play.”
The vote of confidence for a coach can sometimes be an ominous sign, though. And while the Knicks front office is putting their support behind Fizdale, a report from Adrian Wojnarowski and Malika Andrews of ESPN say that Fizdale’s job security could not be as secure as the Knicks are making it out to be.
Even before a startling news conference in the wake of a blowout loss to Cleveland, New York Knicks president Steve Mills had started to lay the internal groundwork for the eventual dismissal of coach David Fizdale, league sources told ESPN.
“Everyone is moving to their positions now,” a league source close to management and the coaching staff told ESPN. “This is how they’ll make (Fizdale) the fall guy.”
The Knicks definitely have all the signs of a team that is currently in the process of looking for a change, but it would be pretty stunning to see them choose to move on from Fizdale only 10 games into his second season in New York.
That said, it’s also understandable the Knicks front office is frustrated with their start. The only real bright spots this season have been a 28-point Bobby Portis game and the play of a young R.J. Barrett. Which, on the surface, is what the Knicks wanted to get out of this season, right? This was a team destined to have rough portions of the season with bright spots. Should they have a league worst offense? Maybe not, but we can’t say it’s a surprise. The Knicks need to look inside themselves and decide what they want to be. Once they pick a path and stick to it they might be able to find the identity they’ve been seeking for so long.