Arron Afflalo has played all of two games as a member of the New York Knicks and he has already paid major dividends, but if Carmelo Anthony isn't the one with the basketball in his hands when the game is on the line-how exactly is he earning his salary?
Mind you, saying that Anthony should be the one with the basketball in his hands isn't the same as saying he needs to be the one taking the shot. And while it may be true that Anthony rarely passes the ball with the game on the line, you'd probably still rather see the Knicks lose off of an Anthony miss than an Afflalo miss.
As the Knicks lick their wounds and recover from Friday night's 90-84 loss to the visiting Cleveland Cavaliers, Afflalo-one of the finer shooting guards in the NBA-will continue to emerge as a vital cog around here.
He just doesn't need to be isolated against a Cavaliers defense that knows how to rotate, help and recover.
Late-game play calling is what separates the best coaches from those who end up posting resumes on monster.com. And if the first 10 games of the season are any indication of what Fisher's long-term job security is in New York City, let's just say he better start listing his references.
Point blank: the second-year head coach needs to do better in that regard.
Credit him, though, for admitting it.
"I have to do a better job of putting guys in a better position to be successful out there… They'e doing what we ask them to do," he said, absolving his team of any blame after scoring just six points over the game's final six minutes.
"It is my job to make the situation better from the bench."
If that's the case, thus far, he hasn't done very well.
Although I don't sit on an NBA bench, I have had a pretty good view of things, and what has haunted an entire generation of NBA superstars and coaches is the asinine belief that simply putting the basketball in the hands of your best player is a recipe for sustained success. That worked for Michael Jordan. At times, it worked for Kobe Bryant, and yes, Anthony. But lately? Not so much.
Isolating Anthony, mind you, is what partially led to Mike Woodson being shown the door. And depending on Anthony to do everything by himself hasn't exactly been a winning proposition. The latest example of that fact occurred this past Wednesday night in Charlotte, when, for some inexplicable reason, with the game tied, Anthony felt the need to chuck a three-point shot that found the side of the backboard.
Two words to describe that? Not ideal.
"I think the offense got a little out of sync down the stretch," Afflalo said afterward. "We didn't get quality looks."
That was certainly evident when, with the Knicks up by four points with 3:15 remaining in the game, Anthony was forced into a turnaround 26-footer as the shot clock was winding down.
Invariably, when the game is on the line, defenses tighten, players tense up, and head coaches make all
the difference in the world. In that regard, Fisher is still learning.
So as Fisher's team seemingly squandered another winnable game, we rightfully call out the head coach for what seemed like poor game management and play calling in the game's most important moments.
Now, take a deep breath and a step back.
Realize that we criticize Fisher for his team squandering winnable games, whereas last season, "winnable" games were few and far between.
Through 10 games, losses aside, these Knicks have been everything that last year's team wasn't. It's so obvious that everyone sees it, but nobody talks about it.
The 2014-15 Knicks rolled over and died at the moment the opposition built up a head of steam, while this year's team-at least so far-keeps rolling.
Jose Calderon, if nothing else, has proven to be mentally tough, as many-especially me-called for his benching. Lance Thomas, all by his lonesome, it seemed, won Tuesday night's game in Toronto. Kristaps Porzingis nearly did exactly that one night later. Langston Galloway is amongst the league's leading three-point shooters and has proven to be an NBA player and Lou Amundson, on Friday night, gave Knicks fans a stark reminder that you don't need to convert a field goal for your fingerprints to end up all over a game.
You can destroy someone when they deserve it, so long as you credit them when it's warranted. Fisher, as a second-year head coach, is still proving to be a bit wet behind the ears, but he deserves an immense amount of credit for fielding a team that has been both easy to fall in love with and, considering the strength of schedule, a relative pleasant surprise.
Through the first 42 minutes of Friday night's loss to the Cavaliers, it was hard to decipher which team was the defending Eastern Conference champion, and that says a lot.
"There's no question that these guys are definitely committed to each other, they're doing the things we're asking them to do," Fisher said on Friday night.
"You have a lot of new guys that are continuing to form together as a group. I do think the grit is there. There's a brand of basketball this team is capable of playing and they're showing those characteristics…We're learning a lot as we go," he said.
And above all, after 10 games, more than the tough losses-that is what should be taken away.
Somewhere in there, the 2015-16 Knicks are a good basketball team. And so long as Fisher himself continues to learn as he goes, the Knicks that we have seen over the season's first 10 games might actually be playing for something come the All-Star break.
"There are no moral victories in being 4-6," Fisher said. "Hopefully, the next 10, we can be better."
Let's give Fisher the benefit of the doubt and assume that he includes himself in the "we." Because, believe it or not, with the right coaching, this team may have a shot at overachieving.