David Fizdale is still the coach of the New York Knicks.
That seems like an appropriate place to start. Not because it’s particularly noteworthy in and of itself or because he may be the head coach for a while, but because it means we’ve officially entered Crazy Town.
Crazy Town is a place all Knick fans have to visit every now and again. It’s like the Ringling Brothers or Barnum & Bailey…you know eventually it’ll pass through your town, and you know you’ll inevitably go take a look, because really, you have nothing better to do. Did you know there’s a tiger that juggles this year? There’s a tiger that juggles.
This is what Knick fandom is, after all…waiting around until the next moment when the circus shows up. This is why Yaron Weitzman was off base when he sent out this tweet yesterday:
To the contrary, Yaron. When the circus shows up, Knicks fans are actually at their most comfortable because it’s the only time we don’t have to sit around wondering “When the hell is it coming, because I know it’s coming, and I’d just as soon like it to get here already. My nerves can’t take the suspense.” The only question now is whether the elephant defecates on my lawn before it departs, but then again, it does make the flowers bloom oh so lovely, so really it’s a win either way.
If this all seems like a bit of an overreaction to a day when nothing actually happened, let’s take a moment to assess the situation:
On Monday, Woj and Malika Andrews reported that “Steve Mills had started to lay the internal groundwork for the eventual dismissal of coach David Fizdale, league sources told ESPN.” Later that day, Fizdale, Mills and Perry were seen at practice, engaged in what appears to be lighthearted conversation. When asked about his job security, Fiz cited the two and a half years remaining on his contract, which is about as reassuring as when the guy you catch banging your wife points to your wedding ring and tells you it’s all good.
That’s the level of absurdity we’re dealing with here. Why? Let’s start with the fact that Woj, for as much as fans want to critique him for how he reports the news, is rarely, if ever, caught with bad info. The only question is whether this leak was purposeful, and given the Garden’s reluctance later in the day to issue a denial (or any comment whatsoever) on the part of Mills, my guess is that, yes, this was quite purposeful.
Meanwhile, over by the clown car, James Dolan may or may not be angling to swipe Masai Ujiri from Toronto. This was reported by Frank Isola, who unlike Woj, doesn’t exactly have an impeccable track record (two-yard line, anyone?) and the phrasing of the report leaves a bit to be desired.
That said, Ian Begley reported that everyone in the organization is on notice, including Mills and Scott Perry:
Either way, it’s fair to assume that Mills is feeling pressure, and has now transferred that pressure onto Fizdale. The logic would seem to be that with all of this out in the open, Fiz and his players will either respond positively, or there will indeed be grounds for termination.
If this all sounds a bit familiar to Knick fans, it’s because we’ve seen this movie before - 20 years ago, when Jeff Van Gundy knew full well the front office was pining for Phil Jackson to be the next coach of the team (check out Vivek Dadhania’s excellent recap for a refresher).
That worked out swimmingly of course, with the Knicks coming together and making the NBA Finals. Forgive me for doubting that this will turn out nearly as well, since really, when are sequels ever as good as the original?
If you think I’m burying the lead here - that Fiz has done a bad job as a coach this season, even with a less-than-ideal roster, and may not deserve to have this job - well, you might be right. As I wrote yesterday, the “nine new guys/young roster/no penetrating point guard” excuse has just about reached it’s expiration date. It’s also becoming clearer that Fiz was brought on to attract and coach stars, which, well…didn’t work out so good.
There’s one thing that people seem to be forgetting though, which is why even though some are viewing this as one step back to take two steps forward, I think it’s actually the other way around:
If there are two truths we know, it’s that no one around the NBA thought much of the Knicks’ summer, and David Fizdale is universally respected around the league. Putting him on notice, in this fashion, with this roster, just 10 games in, is what leads to things like this:
Bleacher Report NBA@BR_NBAKnicks president Steve Mills is laying the groundwork for coach David Fizdale to be fired, per @wojespn https://t.co/II7u3bQozr
You may not give a damn what Kendrick Perkins thinks, but he’s well-respected around the NBA. Far more importantly, if he thinks this, you can be damn sure plenty of other players share the same opinion.
Does that mean you keep Fizdale on as coach in perpetuity, or even for the rest of the season? Of course not…but it’s been 10 games, and if Woj is to be believed, this has been discussed for a while. Hell, maybe they started thinking about outing Fiz the moment KD and Kyrie signed across the river.
And hey, maybe it works. The offense can’t get any worse, and for as much as his players have defended him, Fizdale also doesn’t seem to be a coach his players swear by, like Ewing, Oakley & Co did with Jeff Van Gundy two decades ago.
None of this is really the point though, not for me at least. This season has never been about wins and losses, nor should it be (and the fact that it is for some in the team’s brass is disconcerting to say the least).
No, this season has always been about two things: trying to establish some modicum of league-wide faith that this organization isn’t a clown show, and making sure the team’s young core bought into that belief in addition to improving as players. Yes, things like a coherent offense and wins matter to that end, but not at the expense of outright buffoonery, which is now the perception, if not the reality.
If there’s a silver lining to all this, it might be that with this team, it’s often darkest before the dawn. The JVG saga is one example, and earlier this decade, the organization’s low point might have been letting Jeremy Lin - who provided more hope and joy than perhaps any Knick since Ewing - walk for nothing. Not only did that turn out to be the right decision (although not done for the right reasons), but it precipitated the best season the team has had this century.
Things can turn around quickly in this league. A year ago, we were all reading about goats taking a literal shit in the office of the general manager of the Suns. Today, even with Cheap Dolan as their owner, they’re the darlings of the NBA. It can happen, often when you’re least expecting it.
The Knicks do have a young core. They will have a premium pick in this year’s draft, with the likely opportunity to trade for another first around the deadline. The job of Knicks head coach is still viewed as a desirable one around the league. Lastly, and ironically best of all, James Dolan has a short fuse and bottomless pockets. Maybe Ujiri isn’t as much of a pipe dream as we think.
But in the never ending effort to simply put one foot in front of the other and act like a normal organization that should be able to take advantage of it’s location in the Mecca of basketball, yesterday was unequivocally a step in the wrong direction.
Meanwhile, the Knicks have a game tonight. Thank God for that, because right now, unbelievably, watching this team play will be a welcome distraction from everything else.
Stock Up, Stock Down
In case you missed it, Knicks Film School now has an official sponsor!
I wrote a short intro about PredictionStrike yesterday, and hopefully a few you checked it out (and used code KFS when doing so). As a quick refresher, PredictionStrike combines daily fantasy and yearlong fantasy by treating players as stocks in the stock market that you can buy and sell whenever you want. If they outperform expectations, your stock goes up. Right now, I’m readying my champagne toast to Mortimer on my private island with the funds I’ve made from purchasing shares in Frank Ntilikina before his recent run. Looking good, Frank! (“Feeling good, Jon!” is what he responds in my dreams)
Like I said, I’ll periodically be including a Stock Up, Stock Down section to highlight certain players who are doing well or poorly. Who better to start off with than a Knick who should (and I’d bet will) get an increase in playing time soon: Damyean Dotson (+41%)
As you can see, Dotson has had quite a week, going from a negative player to scoring 16.7 fantasy points. As a result, his stock is up 41%, easily highest among all Knicks players. Tonight in Chicago, he’s projected to get 8.48 points. Given that he was one of the lone bright spots for New York on Sunday night, I wouldn’t be surprised in the least if he blew past it.
Overall, Dotson is a guy who might be a snaky good investment right now. If Fiz does indeed get canned, the next coach would presumably recognize the need to not only space the floor more, but to get quicker on both ends. Dotson does both in spades.
What the Blowout vs Cleveland taught us about Fizdale’s Possible Ouster
by Tom Piccolo (@Tom_Piccolo)
With reports swirling that Knicks head coach David Fizdale might already be on his way out, there will be no shortage of questions raised about this organization, its direction (or lack thereof) and whether anyone could come in here and coach up this group of seemingly mismatched pieces.
If and when Fiz does get the ax though, left behind will be unanswered questions of just how much more he could have done. To that end, what might end up being his last game was fairly revealing, both in ways we’d expect and ways we may not have.
Let’s take a look at four things that stuck out:
Come drink & watch the Knicks for a good cause
Two days away!!!! Remember, a portion of all proceeds will go towards helping feed needy NYC families on Thanksgiving!
That’s it…see you tomorrow! Hopefully not in full calamity mode!