Ian Begley, SNY.tv | Twitter |
Last year after 20 games, the Knicks were 6-14. They went on to win just 11 more games. That summer, they spent $70 million in free agency. They didn't sign their top targets, but landed players they felt would improve the team.
It's fair to assume that no one in the organization thought this year's Knicks would be worse than last year's team. But New York will wake up on Monday with a 4-16 record, two games worse than last season and tied with Atlanta for the worst record in the league.
If you're looking for people to blame for the Knicks' awful start, you can point the finger in several directions.
The Knicks' roster, as several scouts have noted, isn't well constructed.
As evidence, the Knicks have trailed by at least 20 points in seven of their 16 losses this season. The blame their falls with the execs who put the roster together, a group led by team president Steve Mills and GM Scott Perry.
But, as one Western Conference executive said last week, the Knicks have more talent than their record would indicate. So, the executive said, "some of the blame (for the Knicks' struggles) has to be put on (head coach David) Fizdale."
The Knicks have struggled to close out in close games. Sunday's loss to Boston was the latest example. New York led by six with 7:30 left but the Celtics went on a 17-2 run that included a stretch with three straight Knicks turnovers.
How much blame does Fizdale deserve for a bad fourth-quarter stretch like that? Is it his fault or the fault of the players and, by extension, the men who signed them. That's a matter of perspective.
Ultimately, the opinions of Mills and Perry are the only ones that matter here. If Fizdale is fired, the decision will rest with Mills. Knicks owner James Dolan will sign off on the decision, but won't be the one to make call, as SNY has reported.
The players, it's worth noting, are still behind Fizdale.
"We're the ones out there playing. We're the ones who have to go out there and protect the ball. We're the ones who have to go out there and make shots, we're the ones that have to go out there and play with effort and energy," said center Bobby Portis. "He can't go out there and play for us. Obviously, everybody points at the head coach with that. But it's on us to go out there and perform well."
Veteran Taj Gibson noted that Fizdale is trying to balance winning games while teaching the Knicks' younger players, which is difficult.
"Coaches get judged on wins and losses. No moral victories. People don't see the things that's outside after practice, they don't see the teaching, the learning," Gibson said. "Because it's different now. Guys are much younger. Guys are still trying to learn and figure out their game. You have to coach and teach at the same time. It's tough.
"He does a lot and we try to help him a lot. He's staying solid. He's been great, he's been leading the right way - always encouraging, always head strong. Especially being in New York, (which is) a tough market. It's New York, people are anxious. But you've just got to be patient and positive, good things will happen. The main thing is be positive, and good things will happen."
Kanter and Dolan are 'text buddies'
Ex-Knick Enes Kanter and Dolan spoke on the court a few minutes after the Celtics' win. Over the summer, Kanter said that some players told him that Dolan was the reason that some free agents didn't want to play for the Knicks. He later clarified to say that he had no issues with Dolan and that the owner was criticized unfairly in New York.
He reiterated those thoughts on Sunday.
"I got no problems with him. Some other people have problems with him, but I have no problem with him. And I will say this: it's terrible they blame it on this guy every time. I feel like he has done nothing to do with it," said Kanter, who described he and the Knicks owner as "text buddies."
"You just have to go out there to play basketball. He cannot push you out there to play basketball. I feel like people put blame on him and people are wrong. And we are buddies now."
On the Knicks in general, Kanter said, "They got so many young guys, they're learning right now. So it's a process and it'll take some time but they have some talented players out there and in a few years they're going to be a dangerous team."
Fizdale sees progress over last 10 games
When they conducted an impromptu press conference after the 10th game of the season, Mills and Perry said they evaluate the season in 10-game increments.
We know that management and ownership is looking to see progress from the group. Fizdale said on Sunday that he thought the Knicks made progress over the last 10 games, despite a 2-8 record.
"I think we've become a better basketball team. I think we got our ass whipped in Toronto (earlier this week). And sometimes that's going to happen to the best of them. It doesn't matter who you are," Fizdale said. "But if you look at our games against everyone else, we won one or two and every other single game we were competing with a chance to win. That's a big thing we were fighting for was to be more consistent and giving ourselves a chance to be more competitive."