So far in his coaching career, it’s been a rough road for New York Knicks coach Derek Fisher in just over 100 games.
By David Hong
Fisher is now 26-75 as an NBA coach after the New York Knicks’ Wednesday night victory over the Philadelphia 76ers at Madison Square Garden.
Last season, his first year as an NBA coach with New York was the worst record ever in franchise history at 17-65.
During that season, I gave Fisher a pass because he was a rookie head coach and was mainly a learning experience. Also, he was coaching a dysfunctional roster that was full of injuries, egos, and a D-League like team.
So far this season, the Knicks are 9-10 and close to matching last season’s number of wins.
Their roster is deeper with Carmelo Anthony playing better, and rookie Kristaps Porzingis has been a rock star for the team thus far.
In addition, I have seen more maturity and growth from Fisher as New York’s bench boss.
He has done a better job communicating with his players, creating cohesion on the bench and getting a better response from his players.
Also, Fisher getting them to play better defensively. The Knicks have allowed less than 100 points per game, which ranks them among the top 10 in the NBA.
He has also done a better job managing minutes, not overplaying players and getting everyone involved.
Thus, there haven’t been many complaints about playing time.
Former Knicks great and current Knicks analyst on MSG, Walt “Clyde the Glide” Frazier, noticed the coach’s improvement and mentioned it to the New York Post. (Mark Puma)]
“Last year I wasn’t sure of his substitutions and communication with players…But I can tell a big difference now. The way he’s showing more confidence, in his demeanor when he brings in guys, takes them out, how he’s relating to them and talking to them. Last year he was just standing there, not doing anything, just looking, not showing any emotion. I thought it was a lack of communication. Now he talks to them as they come in and out.” said Frazier
However not everything is complete yet.
Fisher has yet to organize a set rotation, using as many as 13. That is more than the traditional 8 to 10-man rotation NBA coaches use.
As a result, he has shuffled players in an out of the lineup, especially in the fourth quarter of close games.
There were times when Fisher even sat Porzingis in the final seconds, which is ridiculous considering the rookie’s impressive showing and future potential.
He needs to establish a set rotation of no more than 10 players, identify which players to use late in a game.
I know you want to reward players who have played well in a given night to finish the game out, and we have seen this from the great Spurs coach Greg Popovich.
But, Fisher must create set roles for his players.
This brings up the substitution factor.
Fisher has sat Melo and Porzingis for long stretches in games, when the two are in foul trouble.
I know you don’t want to bring them in the game too soon, but leaving them on the bench too long could disrupt their rhythm in a given night. That’s a no-no, especially with them being the Knicks top two offensive options.
Finally the offense.
There’s no doubt the Knicks offense has been more efficient with more ball movement. But, their offense has remained stagnant at times. This was seen during their four-game losing streak prior to Wednesday’s win.
New York’s shooting percentage was under 40% in three of the four games.
There’s also been thoughts of whether Fisher is getting his players to adapt to the triangle offense. I know it’s a lost art these days due to teams not using it as much.
But when used efficiently, it creates more ball movement and spacing.
Fisher needs to get his players to perform more consistently on the court offense, with better execution better especially in the closing seconds of a game.
Despite his faults, he appears to be more comfortable on the as a head coach this season and getting better with each game. Players are adapting to coaching style and that’s improving their performance on the hardwood.
There’s still room to improve. However, Fisher will learn from his mistakes and become the effective leader he was during his career as a player.
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