The New York Knicks are looking to land two superstar free agents. If they do, head coach David Fizdale will be in the limelight.
The world expects radical changes coming to Madison Square Garden next year. One thing that won’t change is the head coach. After one season at the helm for the New York Knicks, David Fizdale is poised to take over a drastically different roster in season two.
The Knicks will certainly acquire a top-tier talent in the draft. Obviously, Fizdale would love to have Zion Williamson on the roster, but he’ll have an exciting young talent no matter where the Knicks land in the lottery.
However, free agency brings a little more uncertainty. The Knicks are seen as one of the frontrunners to land Kevin Durant and they have a legitimate shot to snag two superstar players with their current cap space.
If general manager Scott Perry and team president Steve Mills can pull off the feat and land two big fishes, Fizdale’s job changes. But first, he’ll have to do his best to help the front office acquire those big names.
Attracting Big Names
The Knicks finished with a putrid record of 17-65 in Fizdale’s first year as head coach. However, that crooked record isn’t an indictment of the head coach. He was coaching a young and inexperienced roster. Moreover, a blockbuster trade in the midst of the season brought some added drama to the locker room for the young roster.
Simply put, the Knicks weren’t built to win many games this year. The main goal of the season was to develop the youth and set the franchise up for the future. With a top draft pick this summer, multiple draft picks coming down the pike in later years, and acres of cap space, the Knicks are positioned for the future.
“A lot of conversations, a lot of angles that we’re trying to make sure that we show guys when they come in,” Fizdale said on ESPN’s ‘The Jump’. “I think we’ve got a lot of positive things to show. Scott Perry and Steve Mills have done a heck of a job laying this thing out. We’ve got the most cap space. We have seven picks over five years, which means whoever we do get, we can continue to build around them, and I think that’s a great position to be in. We did all of that in the course of a year, and we laid down our culture. So I’m really excited about where we’re at.”
Additionally, Fizdale has experience coaching superteams. Fiz was a top assistant for Miami Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra during the LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh era. Although he wasn’t the head coach, his time with the Heat should only help the Knicks’ pitch.
Establishing An Identity
Should the Knicks’ wildest dreams come true in free agency, the focus will shift. Instead of talking about how to attract superstars, the conversation will focus on how to best utilize the new talent. Fiz touched on this in an interview with ESPN’s “The Michael Kay Show” recently when he spoke about potentially bringing in major free agents.
“Probably the best way I can is to make sure I have the vision from a coach’s perspective to show each guy that we talk to, ‘This is how I plan on using you. This is how you fit into the big scheme of things. This is how the guys around you are going to fit.’ And really try to give them a real security about who they’re going to play for,” Fizdale said.
Obviously, it’s tough to punish Fizdale for the wins and losses. But one valid criticism of the head coach is that the team lacked any real identity. Of course, it’s difficult to establish an identity when the lineup is constantly changing and the team is chock full of inexperienced youngsters.
That being said, Fizdale often spoke about wanting to move the ball and play tough defense while doling out consistent minutes to Allonzo Trier and Emmanuel Mudiay—two ball stoppers who are weak on the defensive end.
Fortunately, with bonafide All-Stars on the roster, Fizdale and the Knicks will have an easier time developing their identity. He comes from the Heat where he learned under Spoelstra and basketball lifer Pat Riley. He understands what it takes to build a culture and create an environment for success.
The vision isn’t complete after year one and establishing that identity is a major goal for Fizdale in year two. If the Knicks can land major stars, it’s up to Fizdale to make all the pieces fit together.
First off, Fizdale’s job is secure. No one in the organization will hold the team’s 2018-19 record against him, nor should they. That being said, perception changes if the Knicks land their coveted free agents.
The Knicks could be a championship contender heading into the 2019-20 season. That means all eyes are on Fizdale to push the right buttons. Don’t expect him to be on the hot seat anytime soon. But it’s always easier to replace a coach rather than a superstar player on a long-term contract.
That’s just the way things go with championship expectations. There will be more scrutiny on the head coach when the team isn’t performing up to its capabilities. And in New York, the lights shine a little bit brighter.
Year one gave Fizdale the opportunity to get his feet wet in New York. But it’s hard to judge him after such an odd season. Year two will offer more clarity on whether or not he’s up to the task.