Ian Begley, SNY.tv | Twitter |
Marcus Morris has played for seven coaches in the NBA, so he's well equipped to comment on the coaching profession. And, so far, he likes what he's seen from Mike Miller.
"You've got to give Mike credit," Morris said. "It's unfortunate that Fiz got released but Mike's come in, being able to have a team that was kind of wounded and being able to kind of pull it together and get us going in the right direction, that's tough for any coach. He's dealing with it very well."
The Knicks are 3-3 under Miller, while winning just four of 22 games under David Fizdale. Based on that alone, it's clear that New York has improved under their interim head coach. And the players seem to have bought in.
"He just wants us to hoop," Dennis Smith Jr. said. "He definitely wants us to have game-plan discipline as well but he wants us to have fun and leave it all out on the floor. I love it."
Of course, we shouldn't get ahead of ourselves after just six games -- and a back-to-back against Miami and Milwaukee coming up this weekend. Also, the Knicks' last three wins have come against teams with a combined record of 23-60.
But some statistics suggest that the Knicks' success under Miller has staying power:
- They are 12th in offensive rating under Miller; they were 30th before Miller took over.
- Part of the offensive uptick can be attributed to taking care of the ball. New York is third in turnover percentage in Miller's six games after being 20th before Miller took over.
- Part of it can also be attributed to strong ball movement; the Knicks are eighth in assist/turnover ratio under Miller and were 29th under Fizdale.
As Spencer Pearlman points out, the Knicks offense has featured more attempts in the paint, more corner threes and fewer mid-range shots under Miller. The way Julius Randle has been used seems to have changed (he isn't bringing the ball up the court as much). So there are tangible ways that the Knicks have changed under Miller.
"I think as a unit we put an emphasis on moving the ball, playing defense and getting stops," RJ Barrett said.
Miller, who coached in college and the G League for more than 20 years before getting his first NBA opportunity, is even-keeled when talking to the media. But he can get animated with his players. He's quick to call timeouts when he sees something he doesn't like -- no matter the size of the Knicks' lead at the time -- and isn't shy about subbing a player that isn't meeting his standard.
"Mike is laid-back but when he feels like we're not playing, he's going at us," Morris said of Miller, who has a fan in ex-Knicks head coach Jeff Van Gundy. "You can't ask for nothing else. He's a good coach and I enjoy playing for him."
For those hell-bent on comparing Miller and Fizdale, it should be noted here that Miller has had the benefit of a healthy Elfrid Payton. The veteran guard played in just four games under Fizdale due to a hamstring injury. But he's been healthy and effective under Miller, averaging 9.3 points (43 percent shooting), 6.7 assists and 3.3 rebounds for New York.
Regarding the Miller-Fizdale debate, it's also worth noting that some players believe that their recent turnaround was inevitable, regardless of who the coach was. They feel that it was only a matter of time before the free agents and young players started to jell with the rest of the group and started to win (though, that's a tough theory to buy in to given FIzdale's last two games).
Others also point to the players-only meeting before Fizdale's firing -- called by Morris -- as a key to the turnaround.
"I truly believe (the meeting had an impact on the team)," Morris said earlier this week, while also crediting Miller for the team's success. "Guys are using the word accountability all the time. That's something young guys don't buy into, but our young guys are coming into their own, they're trying really hard."
Certainly, the meeting helped the Knicks, as did the younger players getting more comfortable. But no matter how you analyze the situation, Miller deserves a ton of credit for the turnaround.