The Fizdale Era Ends But the Dysfunction Continues
By Lenn Robbins
So much for patience. So much for building from the ground up. So much for credibility.
The New York Knicks believability quotient ranks lower than a late-night ad for an anti-aging potion. There is no one – not the owner, not the president, not the GM – who can ever be given the benefit of the doubt. If their lips are moving, they are not telling the truth.
The most recent betrayal of the fans’ trust came Friday afternoon with the Knicks displaying their mastery of decades-long dysfunction. They fired coach David Fizdale after he ran practice. The team then jetted to Indianapolis although it might as well have flown to Planet Lovetron.
The Fizdale Era lasted a mere season and one quarter. When Mills and Perry hired Fizdale they stressed patience. The quick fix was done. They wanted assurances from Fizdale that understood the Knicks were building a new culture.
“I told them, ‘You don’t have to worry about me because I am in for the plan,’” Fizdale told Marc Stein last year. “The plan is we’re going after particular people who are trying to fit what we are trying to build. And if it doesn’t fall in line, then we don’t go down that road.”
That lasted 104 games.
The 4-17 Knicks are the NBA’s of version of 90 Day Fiancé’.
Certainly, Fizdale didn’t offer much cause for optimism that this marriage could turn. His record in New York was 21-83.
After the team’s 44-point road loss to the Bucks on Monday night he said, “I think we didn’t come in with an idea we could beat this team from the beginning.” And he described Thursday night’s 37-point home loss to the Nuggets as “sickening.”
Which might be how Knicks fans might feel about the way Mills and Perry have run this franchise. They bragged about their ability to attract top-tier free agents but got rejected by Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, and never had a shot at trading for Anthony Davis.
With no shiny baubles interested in lighting up Broadway, they spent some $70 million in cap space on mid-tier players such as Bobby Portis, Marcus Morris, Taj Gibson and Julius Randle. What a waste.
It also completely torched the stated culture of developing young talent. Last year’s No.1 pick, Kevin Knox, has been anchored to the bench. Second-round pick Mitchell Robinson has been usurped by Gibson.
And this year’s top pick, small forward RJ Barrett, was played at shooting guard and occasionally at point guard, because hey, if that LeBron guy can go from power forward to point guard anyone can, right?
Barrett was hailed as the team’s new foundation leaving him to negotiate that awkward path while not alienating the Portises and Morrises of the world.
What’s most galling about all this is the way Fizdale’s firing went down. According to reports, Mills and Perry, knowing they were about to ax Fizdale, were seen kibitzing with their dead man walking coach after he addressed reporters following practice.
Let us repeat together: Keep your friends close and your smiling, back-stabbing enemies closer.
“Today marks a culture change for our organization where we reestablish the pride, work ethic and responsibility that comes with playing for the Knicks and representing New York,” read a statement from owner James Dolan when he hired Mills and Perry.
“I’m confident that Steve is the right person to take on this role, and ensure that we return to one of the elite teams of the NBA. He’s got an ambitious plan that centers on building a young team focused on player development, communication and teamwork.”
One problem. The man quoted is a nightmare of a communication and has created a culture of paranoia.
Fans can’t heckle him. Reporters can be harassed for criticizing him. Former players can be banned for expressing their anti-Dolan sentiments. Decent employees are fired by Dolan for reasons only he can fathom.
This reign of odious ownership has resulted in 12 coaching changes but just one playoff series win. Forget patience and credibility. The Knicks are the most toxic organization in the NBA.
Anyone who enters this planet’s orbit does so at his own peril.