It’s becoming harder and harder to defend David Fizdale as the New York Knicks’ neverending downward spiral continues.
The team has been hilariously bad for two decades and fans’ emotions range from naive hope to grave disappointment. It certainly doesn’t help the front office, despite Steve Mills and Scott Perry’s collective presence, often seems a captain without a ship.
And all Fizdale can do, really, is make the best of a bad situation. He gets flashes of competitive fire out of his team, but those moments are always fleeting.
The Knicks won a measly 17 games last year and while nobody expected the playoffs in 2019-20, being 4-18 at this point was certainly unexpected. Talented though the Denver Nuggets are, New York losing to them 129-92 is unacceptable.
The point is this Knicks team has officially become inconsistent to a fault and playing worse than its talent on paper.
Unfortunately, the fault may lie with David Fizdale.
Coaching a mess
Mind you, I have defended Fizdale harder than Henry Drummond defended evolution in Inherit the Wind. Moreover, I still think he can be an excellent NBA coach. He has the people skills necessary for the job, stresses defense, and his players often play hard for him.
And in Fizdale’s defense, the Knicks have lost more than a few games by a hair this season. Were it not for shooting a league-worst 67.4% from the free-throw line, New York easily could have won six more games.
Suddenly, 10-12 looks a lot different than 4-18. In fact, if that’s the Knicks’ record, yours truly would probably be writing something different.
It also doesn’t help Fizdale is coaching a roster of square pegs being forced into round holes. Frank Ntilikina is a Doug Christie-like shooting guard who can score and play defense, yet he’s the starting point guard. Marcus Morris is a solid isolation scorer and he’s been a streaky streetballer all season.
Julius Randle can be a force down low, yet 15.4% of his 17.8 points per game come from three-pointers and 8.7% are in the mid-range. Granted, this means a majority of Randle’s action still comes from inside the paint, but he should only be stretching the floor on an as-needed basis.
And somehow, David Fizdale has to figure out how to make this all work, and also develop rookie RJ Barrett.
Not out of the woods
However, free-throw issues aside, this Knicks team has a bigger issue: fourth-quarter leads are often blown.
In fact, in eight of the Knicks’ 18 losses this year, the team had a lead in the last quarter. Even if it was for less than a minute, eight games featured a New York fourth-quarter lead.
This is going to be hard to hear, folks, but this is where David Fizdale bears some of the blame. He isn’t at fault for the free-throws. They’re skill players just need to master on their own.
Nor is the roster Fizdale’s fault. Perry and Mills build the team and if the team they build doesn’t perform on the court, that’s on them.
However, it is the head coach’s job to work with the talent he is given. Fizdale does seem to have the support of his team. Following an embarrassing loss to the Sacramento Kings last month, Morris staunchly defended the coach.
But when a team so regularly crumbles in the fourth quarter, and often because of a combination of porous defense and the scoring going cold, there’s usually just one problem. It’s the coaching, Fizdale’s literal wheelhouse. He does what he can to make adjustments and rally his team, but the Knicks’ record speaks for itself.
Whatever Fizdale has been doing, it doesn’t seem to be working for this group of players.
I’m going to be honest, Knicks fans. At this rate, it will be a shock if David Fizdale still has his job in the new year. New York has lost eight in a row and even with a winning streak, there’s a lot of ground to make up.
Maybe a miracle will occur and he’ll last the rest of the season, regardless of outcomes. Maybe the Knicks will move on from him this summer and go back to the drawing board yet again.
But no matter what Knicks management does, one thing is certain. When it comes to what’s ailing the Knicks in 2019-20, fans need to accept a harsh, cruel reality.
For all of his strengths, David Fizdale might be the problem, not the solution.