Ian Begley, SNY.tv | Twitter |
We're still more than two months from the trade deadline, but an important date on the NBA transaction calendar is approaching: Dec. 15.
That's the first day that players who signed as free agents last summer can be traded.
Given the Knicks' record (4-13), will management start to look at trading players for draft picks around that time?
Or will they keep the roster intact with the hopes of turning things around? If you talk to the players in the Knick locker room and head coach David Fizdale, you'll hear plenty of reasons to keep everyone together.
"We've got ten new guys. How can you build chemistry with ten new guys that you just met?" Mitchell Robinson said Sunday after the Knicks' 103-101 loss to Brooklyn. "… We played a lot of playoff teams (this season) and we've stayed in the game. Think about when we do get that connection? We're going to be all right."
Fizdale also feels his group is capable of turning things around.
He referenced the 2016-17 Miami Heat on Sunday as an example of a team rebounding after a slow start. That team went 11-30 to open the season but finished 30-11 and nearly made the playoffs.
Wayne Ellington was in Miami that season. When asked about it, the shooting guard said he feels that New York is capable of the same kind of turnaround.
"Listen, it takes a lot of character to make a flip like that. I think we've got that in this locker room. We've got the guys for it. We've got the guys that are hard-nosed, guys that aren't going to quit, guys that aren't going to roll over, guys that are going to block out all the outside noise. That's what it takes," Ellington said. "It's tough. It's not easy. It's not easy to win in this league. that's what I continue to tell the young guys. I see a lot of similarities to that team that we went 11-30 and flipped the whole thing and went 30-11 to finish the season. I don't plan on us going 11-30, but I think that we're going to have a breakthrough sooner or later to pull the same kind of turnaround."
To the group's credit, players haven't fractured amid the Knicks' slow start. So there don't appear to be many off-court chemistry issues that can keep New York from reaching its potential.
"That's a positive for our team. Everybody gets along well," Dennis Smith Jr. said. "Now it's just about having discipline, having that trust on the court. Because it's not coming from a bad place."
Another point raised in the locker room on Sunday? The Knicks are three games out of the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference.
"We still understand if we can get three wins in a row we're right back in the hunt. It's a matter of time about actually getting a win and people don't understand, it's really hard to win in this league," Smith Jr. said. "… We've got a bunch of new guys, some young guys. Everybody is still trying to figure out their strong points and figure out what can they do better."
Just how much time this team will be given to learn on the job is an open question.
New York signed all but one of its free agents to two-year contracts that are not fully guaranteed in the second season. (Julius Randle has a three-year contract.) This gives them potential cap flexibility for this summer.It also makes the free agents attractive to teams looking to add depth for a playoff run.
It seems logical that a team competing for a playoff spot would look to acquire a player like Marcus Morris or Ellington via trade. The Knicks will almost certainly get calls on Frank Ntilikina, but will they be open to dealing him? Unless the Knicks turn things around, these are questions that management will probably be asking itself as Dec. 15 approaches.
Teams screening to move Ntilikina
Something you see often with the Knicks: opponents screening Ntilikina to get him off of their top scorer. Brooklyn did it at times on Sunday to free Spencer Dinwiddie (game-high 30 points).
"It happens a lot. That's the adjustment from their team. I see a lot of screens coming, trying to get another defender on them," Ntilikina said. "But also he beat me 1 on 1."
Ntilikina was referring to Dinwiddie's drive and score with 1:30 to play that gave Brooklyn a four-point lead. Two Knicks possessions later, Ntilikina had a chance to tie the game with an open three in the corner, but missed the shot.
"Great, great look. Great possession. Great pass from Taj. Wide open. Missed it," Ntilikina said. "Now, next shot, I got to go back in the gym and be ready to take that shot the next time."
Robinson didn't say anything to ref
Robinson received a technical foul after he was whistled for a sixth foul with 4:12 to play.
Robinson was asked what he said to the ref.
"I just said I don't want to talk," he said.
You rarely see Robinson get angry on the court, but he was visibly upset with the call.
The Nets shot 18 more free throws than the Knicks on Sunday. Fizdale felt that the Knicks committed too many tick-tack fouls.
Robinson suggested that the Knicks aren't treated equally by officials.
"I just think because we've got New York across our chest -- I don't know," he said.
As you know, Smith Jr. missed about two weeks earlier this season while mourning the death of his step mother.
Recently, he has been running on the treadmill after every game to work on his conditioning. He usually runs for about 10 minutes in intervals, sprinting at the end (15 MPH on the treadmill) to burnout.
Smith Jr. said this is the first time he's worked on conditioning after games and he plans to continue it even after his wind all the way back.
Fizdale on lessons from BKN
Fizdale was asked before the game if he took any lessons from the Nets' rebuild. "We've just got to keep growing our kids," he said. "I think that's the biggest thing, and be patient in free agency. And it'll happen. I mean, it really wasn't that fast. (The Nets) didn't get there until four years into it. It's hard. It's tough when you're starting from a bunch of young guys. But they've done a great job of getting the team to where it's at. A lot of that credit goes to (GM) Sean (Marks) but I just think Kenny Atkinson has done a fantastic job of growing those guys."