Ian Begley, SNY.tv | Twitter |
The lingering question after the Knicks' 44-point loss in Milwaukee is this: how much longer will David Fizdale be on the sidelines?
We don't have a definitive answer, but one member of the organization said late last month that he expected management to fire Fizdale soon, per SNY sources. The person who expressed the thought isn't someone who would make the decision to fire Fizdale. But the idea that a member of the Knicks believes a coaching change is coming says a lot about the level of uncertainty in New York right now.
As you know, there has been speculation about Fizdale's job status for several weeks amid New York's 4-17 start.
After team president Steve Mills and GM Scott Perry held an impromptu press conference following a 21-point loss, ESPN reported that Mills had been laying the groundwork to fire Fizdale.
SNY reported that neither Mills, Perry or Fizdale were safe following the post-game press conference from the execs - a rarity in the NBA.
New York has gone 2-9 since the press conference, which was presumably held because owner James Dolan was upset with the team's performance.
Fizdale on Sunday said he felt that the team had improved since the press conference because it had competed against some quality opponents.
Obviously, Monday's loss won't be cited as evidence to support that theory.
The Knicks trailed by 25 midway through the second quarter and seemed to lack the competitive fire that they'd previously shown when facing big deficits.
Mills and Perry said in their press conference last month that they wanted to see the Knicks make progress.
Obviously, it doesn't seem like the group has met that standard. Whether that's Fizdale's fault or management's fault depends on your point of view.
After trading Kristaps Porzingis for Dennis Smith Jr., two first-round picks and cap space, Mills, Perry and the Knicks missed out on their top free agent targets. They spent $70 million on short-term deals for veterans and a three-year, $63 million contract for Julius Randle.
The hope was that the team would be much more competitive than last year's 17-win group and that the veterans would create a winning environment that would benefit the young core.
The Knicks' record indicates that the plan has gone awry.
If Mills fires Fizdale, the next question is if he and Perry will keep their jobs beyond this season. In a conversation with Mills and other front office members after the Mills/Perry press conference, Dolan gave off the impression that Mills and Perry would be safe if the team showed progress, as SNY reported. Just how Dolan defines progress is unclear. But if Fizdale is fired, it seems as if the Knicks would have to play much better under the interim coach for Mills and Perry to keep their jobs and have a chance to hire another coach in the offseason.
Fizdale was hand-picked by Mills and Perry after they interviewed nearly a dozen candidates in the 2018 offseason. They fired Jeff Hornacek with one year remaining on his contract. If Fizdale is fired in-season, he'll have two years left on his contract, according to reports. It's unclear if those two years are fully guaranteed.
Mills and Perry also have years remaining on their deals. Mills, per sources, has a double option on one of the remaining years of his deal. So Dolan would pay them money not to work if he decides to fire them.
The owner has written those checks in the past. Phil Jackson, Mike Woodson, Hornacek and Derek Fisher have all been fired with guaranteed money remaining on their contracts.
One more note on the owner: Dolan certainly deserves criticism for the Knicks' pre-Phil Jackson struggles and how he's handled some things off the court (the Anucha Browne Sanders case and the Charles Oakley incident, for example). But blaming Dolan for how things have gone awry with the Knicks recently is misguided. For the most part, he's let Mills and Perry make every basketball decision without influence, just as he did with Jackson.
Dolan certainly expected the Knicks to land stars in free agency this summer, as he said in an interview on ESPN radio late in the season. It's safe to assume that he thought they would do well in free agency based on information he'd heard from Knicks management. The statements from Dolan look foolish in the wake of New York's disappointing free agency, but he didn't pluck the idea that they'd land stars out of thin air.
Presumably, Dolan was then told that New York would be better this season thanks to the free agents that were acquired. That hasn't happened. Any owner would be angry over the results.