David Fizdale: Knicks 'get tight' when playing at Madison Square Garden

Ian Begley

Ian Begley, SNY.tv Twitter | 

The Knicks are 1-3 at home and have lost their last two games at Madison Square Garden by a combined 42 points. David Fizdale thinks he knows at least one reason why the club has struggled at home. 

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"Honestly I think they want to do so well for the fanbase I think they get tight. I really do," he said. "I've looked at all of the different things that have happened and I just feel like sometimes -- they really want to do well for the city. 

"With everything that's happened over the course of the last year, these guys want to play hard for the city, they want to win for the city. I just think sometimes when it starts to go the other way, they play not to lose instead of playing to win."

 

New York is shooting four percent higher on the road than it is at home and nine percent higher from beyond the arc. The Knicks' offensive rating is also four points better on the road than at home. 

How can the Knicks fix that?

"We spend a lot of time talking to them about mindset. That's not a weight or a pressure you need to carry," Fizdale said. "The city will always respond to you playing hard, playing together and just play for each other. The rest of that stuff will take care of itself."

New York is coming off of a 21-point home loss to Cleveland that led to questions about Fizdale's job security. 

The Knicks host Kristaps Porzingis and the Mavs on Thursday in Porzingis' first game back at MSG since the trade that sent Porzingis to Dallas. Porzingis will certainly get booed by the home crowd on Thursday. But if the Knicks struggle again, the crowd will likely turn on the home team, too. 

Julius Randle, one of the first-year Knicks, said on Wednesday that he doesn't get too caught up in the moment at MSG. 

"Me personally, I just try (not) to put any extra pressure on myself. I just try to go out and play the same game," he said. "But, I definitely see how coach Fiz (could say that). I think the biggest problem is just getting off to a better start and playing for 48 minutes."

Fiz says Randle 'needs to be better'

Randle has struggled to adjust to his new role in New York. He's shooting 42 percent (21 percent from beyond the arc) and New York is being outscored by 7.5 points per game in his 33 minutes. David Fizdale doesn't plan to adjust what the Knicks are asking Randle to do. 

"I just want him to get better at what he's doing, that's all. For three quarters (against Chicago), he made some great decisions. He really had our offense moving, he was getting other people involved," Fizdale said. "It's just when the game starts to get tight, he has this urge to (feel like) I'm going to do this for us. 

"That's just building that trust. He owns it. He comes in, watches the film. Today he spent the whole day -- he said, 'I'm not doing anything one-on-one today, every single play is going to be me getting somebody else involved.' He did it. Literally went through the whole practice that way."

Randle, who signed a three-year, $63 million deal with New York over the summer, is scoring 15.6 points per game and grabbing 9.6 rebounds. He's also handing out 3.8 assists but his 3.9 turnovers per game and, scouts say, his defensive lapses have hampered the club. 

Fizdale said on Wednesday that he sees signs of progress. 

"For him, we're just trying to build that habit of having more balance and when you decide to go and when you decide to work with getting someone else involved," he said. 

Randle believes the Knicks as a group have the correct mindset to win some games after a 2-9 start. 

"We work too hard, we have too many good guys with the right intentions in this group. I think it has to," he said. 

He agreed with the idea that New York is underperforming but noted that the club is integrating several new players. 

"A completely new team, new situation, nine new players. Who's playing, if you're playing excellent basketball at this time with the circumstances that we're dealing with, then that's just God (laughs), that ain't nothing (to do with) what you're doing man," Randle said.

"Because it's a challenge, and it's going to continue to be a challenge, we work extremely hard, we've got a great coach, and we've got great guys in this locker room who have the right intentions so we're going to be fine."

Robinson questionable for Dallas 

Mitchell Robinson could return against Dallas after missing the last three games due to a concussion. Robinson may start at center for New York. But he would be the only change to the club's starting lineup. So Frank Ntilikina, RJ Barrett, Marcus Morris and Randle will start against Dallas. Elfrid Payton (hamstring) hasn't yet been cleared to practice. Fizdale said there are no plans to send Dennis Smith Jr. to the G League as he tries to find his rhythm and conditioning after being away for nearly two weeks to mourn the loss of his stepmother. 

"We thought about it, but we just felt like it wasn't an injury that took him out. It was more from a conditional standpoint," Fizdale said of sending Smith Jr. to the G League. "So what we're gonna do is we're gonna play him, try to play him in smaller doses to get him back in shape. Obviously he's doing a lot of court work, 3-on-3, 2-on-2. Today he had a full practice, which was great."

Smith Jr. struggled on the court prior to his time away from the team. Fizdale says the guard has returned to the team with a different perspective. 

"I just think after everything he's been through, I think his head is really clear now," the coach said. "I think when you go through real-life adversity outside of basketball, a lot of times it gives you perspective about what you need to press about and what you don't need to press about. He just seems to be in a lot better spirits now coming back to us."

Smith Jr. will be facing the Mavericks for the first time since the trade that sent him to New York last January. 

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