After a year and many months of frustration, some fans of the New York Knicks are starting to believe that Derek Fisher is growing as an NBA head coach.
New York Knicks (20-20)
Brooklyn Nets (10-28)
NBA, Tonight, 7:30 PM on YES, MSG
Barclays Center, New York City, New York
By Robby Sabo
Things are starting to get very interesting in the land of the New York Knicks.
After two months of play that saw more streakiness than a John Starks three-point barrage, the Knickerbockers are taking the court tonight in Brooklyn looking to become winners of three straight and six of their last seven. A victory would put them one-game over that very achievable .500 mark.
It’s quite interesting, especially as it pertains to head coach Derek Fisher.
For a year and a couple months now, there hasn’t been a better target than Fisher. Fans littered across the Big Apple point to the five-time NBA Champion as one of the more serious reasons this franchise cannot get over the hump.
His stoic look; his stoned-movement on the bench; his lack of fire – they’re all reasons the finger gets pointed at him in many instances.
Granted, the lack of talent the man was dealt during the 2014-15 season was nothing short of misery. But still, did he have to go the entire season without fully settling on a rotation? His use of depth (despite not having depth) was often maddening.
The question popped up time and again for the smartest basketball fans on planet Earth (New York City hoops fans): Was Fisher struggling through growing pains, or was he simply not cut-out to assume such a position in the NBA?
Lately it seems like “growing pains” was the key element to Fisher’s lack of success.
— NEW YORK KNICKS (@nyknicks) January 13, 2016
Up until the last couple weeks, the Knicks continued to roll out 10, 11, and even 12 players a game. Some nights Kyle O’Quinn would be the back-up big, while others it would be Kevin Seraphin.
And although the concept is quite tear-jerking – to allow everybody to play like we do our kids at the eight-year old level at the local YMCA – this strategy doesn’t suit an NBA team in the least.
Clear and defined roles must take place. The Association is a place in which roles are defined for these “independent contractors.” Some guys, such as Carmelo Anthony, are stars. They receive the big bucks and act as the face of a franchise. They’re so larger than life than only one name is sufficient in referencing them (Melo, LeBron, Steph, etc.)
Other guys take on the role-player aspect, and for the longest time, New York hadn’t known who were their top role players. Suddenly, guys like Jerian Grant, Langston Galloway, Derrick Williams, and Lance Thomas know they’ll be receiving their allotment of minutes each and every night, despite a couple minutes of poor play mixed in.
Speaking of the rookie Grant, how about him a night ago?
Grant clearly enjoyed his finest moment as a professional in the Knicks 120-114 victory over the pesky Boston Celtics on Tuesday. He poured in 16 points on 5-of-6 from the field and dished out eight assists.
The key? Grant’s 23 minutes, especially get a chance to contribute in crunch-time.
With basketball remaining such a confidence game, the Notre Dame product needs minutes in order to find his way. While one writer might call it “improving,” I call it “opportunity.” Fisher is finally understanding that rookie pains will come, but experience is key.
Fisher is on such a role lately that it even feels like Kristaps Porzingis is being featured in the offense a little more, and Melo is playing the best team-ball of his life.
While only time will tell what happens the rest of the way for this squad, if Derek Fisher continues to cut down on his rotation and allow concrete roles to develop, these New York Knicks have one hell of a chance to compete in the Eastern Conference.
No, Fisher is not the greatest tactician in the world. We’ve already known that for quite some time. But neither was Phil Jackson. He relied heavily on Tex Winter to run the offense.
The formula works. Will it this season?