The New York Knicks have some newfound closure, which means it’s time to stop the drama and just play.
The 3-9 New York Knicks have won the breakup and can now finally play some basketball.
Thursday night’s 106-103 victory over the Dallas Mavericks gave the team a season sweep. Kristaps Porzingis’s wrongdoing has, by Grabthar’s Hammer, been avenged.
But revenge is fleeting and the Knicks need to think in the here and now. Management is on the warpath and better results need to happen now. Adrian Wojnarowski and Malika Andrews of ESPN reported head coach David Fizdale’s job was in jeopardy. Team president Steve Mills and GM Scott Perry made it clear the results were not what ownership expected.
Arguably, Fizdale’s firing would have happened had the story not gone public. One way or another, as of this moment, he has earned a stay of execution barely into his second season.
Well, fans, given how well the Knicks played on Thursday, it’s time to get Fizdale off of death row. The only way it happens, however, is if the team shakes off the drama and just plays.
Playing with power
Earlier this season, I wrote a piece on how one of the Knicks’ early weaknesses was communication. Against Dallas, a team that features nine new players played as though they had been together for years.
Look at it this way. New York out-rebounded the Mavericks 53-44 despite being a middling squad on the boards, ranking 16th in the league. The Knicks, who rank dead last in shooting 41.6% from the field as a unit, made 44.7% of their shots Thursday and 43.3% from the field.
The defensive effort was there too. New York only forced 11 turnovers but kept Dallas’ ninth-ranked offense to 22.2% shooting from three.
Think about this for a second. The Mavericks have a strong young team with guys who know how to score. Luka Doncic is Steve Nash on steroids and could average a triple-double this season. Porzingis, his best friend, is looking strong in his return from ACL surgery. Rick Carlisle is a phenomenal coach and players like Dwight Powell, Dorian Finney-Smith, and Boban Marjanovic prove the importance of depth paired with stars.
The point is the Knicks, at least on paper, have no business beating the Dallas Mavericks. The team has looked weak all year long.
Yet, despite too many issues to count, New York has come together to defeat Dallas twice.
Naturally, the fans want to see more of that.
What comes next?
And just to be clear, the Knicks are far from out of the woods. A 3-9 record still has them as the third-worst team in the NBA and the upcoming schedule doesn’t make things easier.
The Charlotte Hornets are 4-7 and transitioning into the post-Kemba Walker era, but are a Top 10 defensive team. The Cleveland Cavaliers just thrashed New York by 21 points in MSG. The Philadelphia 76ers have a strong and competitive core and the San Antonio Spurs—well, we all know the Spurs.
However, think back to the Knicks’ first game of the season in San Antonio. Up until an out-of-nowhere 18-0 run by the Spurs, New York led by as many as six in the fourth quarter. This team can indeed play together but has trouble finishing.
It’s time for those troubles to finish now.
Final thoughts: Shut up and play
Long story short, the New York Knicks need to carry some energy from the Dallas season sweep into their play every game. Taking a loss after intense and/or emotional wins will no longer be tolerated.
So the team beat Kristaps Porzingis twice and got the last word over his pre-trade behavior? Great. Move on to the next game.
Rumors of Fizdale’s firing are making it hard to focus? Okay, that’s rough, but use it as fuel. Play even harder on the court because it’s what he’d expect from the players, be he fired tomorrow or at season’s end.
Don’t get me wrong. None of this is to say the Knicks can play hard all the way to a playoff berth. Nobody expects this team to even sniff the playoffs, cohesive as it may look sometimes.
But if everyone just avoids the drama and shuts up and plays the game, it could prove to be quite a step in the right direction.
The Knicks now have an opportunity to establish something at least resembling an identity Beating Dallas twice shows even against better teams, New York is capable of keeping the game close.
This means for the next week, month, however long, the Knicks need to keep their foot on the gas pedal as best they can. Win or lose, there are two goals. The first is to keep the game close, making teams respect them despite their dismal record.
However, the first cannot happen without the second: shut up and play. It doesn’t matter if someone is injured, in foul trouble, or just having a bad night. The Knicks are at such a low point, going out and just playing the game might be what’s best for them at this point.
Hopefully, it turns into a greater sign of better things to come, but that’s up to the team.
Your move, gentlemen.