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It’s true to form, the New York Knicks doing exactly what they do: bathe in turmoil.
David Fizdale being fired as head coach wasn’t a surprise — not when you saw the repeated lackluster efforts and blowouts in front of team owner James Dolan and all of the NBA world.
It seemed there was a low bar for everyone — the Knicks, Fizdale and even the front office to some degree. They couldn’t get Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, and those early returns haven’t been promising, but there appears to be, at least, a blueprint for a future.
But the Knicks putting together a roster full of one-year contracts mixed with young players who still need time and maturation felt awkward.
Flexible, but awkward.
Perhaps Fizdale knew early on — once the Knicks couldn’t land the top free agents after trading away Kristaps Porzingis — that this wouldn’t be an easy job.
Some believe he knew early this season he couldn’t coax wins from this roster and that even the capable pieces wouldn’t mesh without serious cajoling.
You look at the roster and you don’t see a 4-18 team. You see one that needs competent leadership on the sideline and heady point guard play to make everything work. Sometimes Fizdale’s rotations were confusing, often using struggling players too long instead of other options, but so many players were of the same level it’s hard to differentiate.
The point guard spot is another issue, and one the front office knew it couldn’t go too long without addressing. If everything went perfectly, Elfrid Payton and Dennis Smith Jr. could mature and stabilize a team, but they likely need someone to guide them from the floor.
There was no such veteran on the roster.
It wasn’t too much to ask the Knicks to compete on a nightly basis, and Fizdale couldn’t seem to reach that bar.
Often perplexed following bad losses — using the word “sickening” to describe the last time he would grace the sidelines at Madison Square on Thursday night — there was some disconnect between him and the roster constructed by the front office.
But it didn’t seem like the front office wanted to fire him so early into the season considering it would be next in line for public flogging. As recently as 10 days ago, the front office met with Dolan to discuss the coaching situation, league sources told Yahoo Sports. It didn’t want to fire Fizdale due to the remaining guaranteed money on his contract (he was in the second year of a four-year deal reportedly worth $22 million) but wanted to add experienced coaches to the staff.
It’s believed Fizdale balked at the notion, but there still wasn’t any internal push to fire him, especially following the backlash after team president Steve Mills and general manager Scott Perry held a news conference following a Nov. 10 blowout to the similarly rebuilding Cleveland Cavaliers at Madison Square Garden.
“For things to change like that, it was all Dolan,” a league source said. “He can change his mind based on the last thing he heard or something from the public. It’s unpredictable.”
Still, the blowout losses were alarming, regardless of the holes in the roster. The Knicks wanted to see progress with the young players following last year’s 17-65 season and perhaps be competitive with an outside shot at the playoffs.
They at least kept their flexibility by not committing to long-term contracts, but that was contingent on the players performing well enough to keep the franchise above water until things materialized.
They shouldn’t have been losing in this manner, and that’s Fizdale’s responsibility.
The roster construction falls on the front office and a coaching change won’t fix what ails the Knicks, even if the primary issue is Dolan’s mere presence.
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