New York Knicks head coach David Fizdale has earned his stripes and part of it is due to maintaining his commitment to guard Emmanuel Mudiay.
The New York Knicks head coach has delivered on a promise made ahead of the season. When’s the last time you read that outside of the Twilight Zone?
Emmanuel Mudiay, viewed as a work-in-progress upon arriving in New York, was promised to be made whole. In his first press conference as Knicks head coach, David Fizdale guaranteed that he would “get the guard right.”
At his introductory press conference, new #Knicks head coach David Fizdale thanks Emmanuel Mudiay, Kyle O'Quinn, Lance Thomas and Trey Burke for attending.
He tells Mudiay, "We're going to get you right."
(via @clippittv) pic.twitter.com/btZoYfkexE
— Def Pen Hoops (@DefPenHoops) May 8, 2018
With just 21 games left of the Knicks awfully forgetful year, Fizdale has made good on his promise to the guard.
A look at where Mudiay started, where he’s landed, and just what it means for New York.
New York gave up swingman Doug McDermott and a second-round pick in the three-team deal that netted them Mudiay. The point guard position had been long pestering the franchise, and this was another stab in the dark at a potential solution.
Mudiay was just 21 at the time of the trade and is now approaching his 23rd birthday. There was no reason to believe that talent couldn’t be salvaged from the former 7th overall pick. And no reason not to for a team in such a free fall.
His 2017-18 campaign with the Knicks was underwhelming, as had been his performance with the Nuggets prior to that trade. Mudiay averaged just 8.8 points and 3.9 assists in 22 games with New York.
He shot 37 percent from the field, 20 percent from beyond-the-arc, and 69 percent at the free throw line.
Cast the blame wherever there are a number of potential recipients. Jeff Hornacek never truly showed anything as a coach in his tenure, and maybe Mudiay hadn’t yet bought into playing with the Knicks.
Still, with nothing to lose and everything to gain, New York opted to bring Mudiay back for the 2018-2019 campaign.
New Coach, New Player
David Fizdale was the New York Knicks star signing of the summer. A players coach, he’s got a reputation for sticking with his guys through thick and thin. The kind of guy who goes down with the ship.
Luckily for both New York and their new coach, the team has been just that–a ship sinking to the bottom of the lottery standings.
With eyes for the draft’s first overall pick, the season has been routed to player development. The first man up, Emmanuel Mudiay himself.
His first season in Denver is probably the last time he played good, and I use that term subjectively, basketball. Mudiay averaged: 12.8 points, 5.5 assists, and one steal per game.
Shooting wasn’t as big a weakness then, coming out of the gate confidently to an also-tanking Nuggets team. He shot 36 percent from the field and 32 percent from deep, both not as terrible.
This year, it’s almost as if Fizdale took those exact numbers and said, “This is the player you have to get back to.” What Mudiay has produced has been almost a carbon copy, although slightly more efficient, reproduction of his rookie year.
He’s averaging a career-high 13.7 points, to go with 3.7 assists on 46(!) percent from the field and 32 percent from deep. Mudiay’s on the floor just 26 minutes per game and averaging an entire turnover less from his rookie season.
Mudiay is picking up right where he left off when entering the league, likely thanks to the confidence inspired in him by coach Fizdale. And that won’t go unnoticed around the league.
Garden of Dreams
Whether it’s a subliminal effort to show that the Knicks brass has a heart or legitimate strategic thinking, New York is playing all the right cards with young talent.
And it’s not just Mudiay.
Since acquiring the guard, New York has brought in multiple former first-round talents—all having found their own way out of their first homes, and into the grey area that is free agency.
Mario Hezonja, Noah Vonleh, and most recently Henry Ellenson have all been given an opportunity at Madison Square Garden. And at least one of them will have a future in the NBA.
The trio, along with Mudiay, will enter free agency in July.
With the Knicks planning to swing for the fences and sign two top-tier free agents, the time to explore underdeveloped talent has come and gone. Still, the Knicks offered players what other teams simply could not this year: playing time.
On a team freefalling for Zion Williamson, there is no player too bad to see time on the court. Hell, Enes Kanter was one of New York’s best offensive players, and where’d he end up?
The Knicks did a service to players cast out by other teams, and often the teams that drafted them. That’s how you up your appeal in any free agent pitch. Which is just what an organization like New York needs. A culture cleanup.
Head coach David Fizdale has maintained a promise he made to Emmanuel Mudiay prior to the season’s start. The guard has been given playing time and in turn, will have a better shot at landing another contract to remain in the NBA.
As a service to potential future signings, or as a means of boosting morale within the current roster, the New York front office has turned what was once the league’s hottest dumpster fire into a group of guys who go to war together.