The Knicks have had a terrible start to the season, and much of the blame is being placed on head coach David Fizdale. Among other things, here are the five most significant reasons the Knicks should fire their head coach.
5. DeAndre Jordan left because of him
A critical aspect of being a coach is keeping your essential and best players happy. As part of the disastrous Kristaps Porzingis trade (not Fizdale’s fault), the Knicks received from the Mavericks DeAndre Jordan, who was on a one-year contract. While Jordan was past the prime of his career, and not on the latter end of as many lobs, he seemed happy to be a Knick. He understood the Knicks were in a rebuild, and Jordan was comfortable being a mentor to the young guys.
So what did Fizdale do? He promptly benched Jordan for the final seven games of the season and gave his minutes to fellow big men Mitchell Robinson and Luke Kornet. Yes, it may have helped two young players get minutes, but Fizdale failed to keep Jordan happy. Jordan signed with the Brooklyn Nets in July. While Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving were likely never coming to the Knicks, it’s worth mentioning that each is a close friend with Jordan. Fizdale’s benching of Jordan shows how much of a poor job he does managing his most important players.
4. Players haven’t developed well under him
Since the start of last season, Fizdale’s rotations have hurt the development of several Knicks players.
Let’s start with Frank Ntilikina. No, it’s not Fizdale’s fault Ntilikina was drafted ahead of Donovan Mitchell and John Collins, among others, but he’s done a horrible job managing his playing time. I wholeheartedly believe Ntilikina is a complete bust, and that’s not Fizdale’s fault. Still, at a certain point, every coach has to commit to a player fully, or get rid of him. Check out Ntilkina’s game log from December and January of last season. Fizdale would go on a week-by-week basis of benching him, then giving him some minutes off the bench, then even giving him some starts … and then back to benching him again. How is any player supposed to develop if they’re getting such inconsistent minutes? This season, the French guard played just three minutes in the Knicks’ first three games of the season before starting each of their past five games. This is just Exhibit A of Fizdale’s inability to commit to his players.
Now, let’s evaluate Kevin Knox. This is partially on the Knicks’ front office for signing Marcus Morris and Julius Randle, but realistically, if Fizdale wants the player they took ninth in the 2018 draft to develop, he should be starting him. While Knox struggled with his efficiency and shooting last season, he also has stretches that showed he had potential. Having Knox come off the bench and play between 20 and 25 minutes a night does him no good. That’s a bad job by Fizdale.
While not as well known as the other, Damyean Dotson is another player Fizdale has done a poor job managing. On a team with almost no hope last season, Dotson was someone the Knicks could always count on to be at most a consistent scorer. Therefore, it makes no sense as to why Fizdale benched him to start the season. Fizdale claims he wanted to motivate Dotson to earn his minutes, and that is absurd. For a second-round pick in 2017, Dotson outperformed expectations last season and deserved a spot in the rotation this season. Dotson has played over seven minutes just twice this season.
It’s hard to balance a roster with several young players and several solid veterans, but at a certain point, a coach has to either commit to or abandon his players. When Fizdale benches players some games, but then gives them extended minutes other games, that does no good for his players.
3. He is incredibly arrogant
Before Fizdale was the head coach of the Knicks, he worked as an assistant in Miami during the Big 3 era, and then as the coach of the Memphis Grizzlies. Fizdale likes to take credit for himself when it’s not his place to take credit.
First, let’s talk about Chris Bosh. When Bosh first came to the Heat, he chose not to shoot threes and played much of his game in the paint. During the last few seasons of his time with Miami, Bosh, with Fizdale as the assistant coach, started taking more threes in-game. Fizdale, in his mind, likes to think he’s the one who turned Bosh into a shooter.
“I wouldn’t have a job right now as a head coach if Chris Bosh couldn’t shoot threes, and he developed that in Miami.” This is what Fizdale told ESPN during an interview after he first got his job with the Grizzlies. However, Chris Bosh was always a capable shooter. In his seven seasons with the Raptors, Bosh attempted 168 threes and shot 40 percent from deep during the 2007-08 season. So, Fizdale did not teach Bosh how to become a good shooter. Bosh was already a good shooter, and when Fizdale first arrived in Miami, Bosh started taking more threes because it fit Eric Spoelstra’s system.
Let’s also consider Marc Gasol. Sure, during Fizdale’s tenure with the Grizzlies, Marc Gasol did begin to take more threes. However, the reason Gasol went from taking around 10 threes a game over his first eight seasons to now taking over 200 a season has nothing to do with Fizdale teaching him how to shoot.
Fizdale often gets credit for “teaching” Marc Gasol how to become a solid three-point shooter. False. Marc Gasol was already an adequate three-point shooter. Before coming over to the NBA, Gasol was one of the better players in the Spanish league. While playing overseas for the 2007-08 season in Spain, Gasol shot 40.7 percent from deep while taking just under one three per game. While it’s not the world’s largest sample size, it shows Gasol was a competent shooter. Gasol didn’t take threes during his first seven seasons in the NBA because head coach Lionel Hollins and David Joerger did not want him to. Gasol started taking threes under Fizdale because it fit the system.
Fizdale’s trying to take credit for those two players becoming shooters shows his arrogance. Fizdale got shipped out of Memphis because he lost the locker room, and his attitude towards his players is a big reason why the Knicks should fire him.
2. He mismanages veterans
This one isn’t as important as the others, but it’s had a more significant effect in that it changes the roles of younger players. Instead of getting a big free agent (not Fizdale’s fault), the Knicks went out and signed several decent veterans to big contracts.
Let’s take Taj Gibson, for example. Gibson has always been a solid role player during his 11-year career, and he received a two-year, $20 million deal with the Knicks. Through the Knicks’ first seven games, Gibson only played over 10 minutes twice and had two DNP-CDs. Then, in the Knicks’ three most recent games, Gibson entered the starting lineup and is playing over 20 minutes per game. No player, especially a veteran like Gibson, can appreciate that.
Wayne Ellington’s playing time has also been bizarre. He’s had games in which he’s seen over 20 minutes and other nights where he receives a DNP-CD. Either play him or play Damyean Dotson, but don’t be inconsistent and anger both players in the process.
Bobby Portis is another veteran player whom the Knicks signed in the offseason. After playing 33 minutes on opening night and playing decently, Portis was only given 10 minutes of action the next night. Since then, Portis, Gibson, and Mitchell Robinson have all had cracks at being the starting center, with not a single one earning the role.
Fizdale’s lack of consistency with his veterans negatively impacts his young players and is likely part of the reason why he has lost the Knicks locker room.
1. The Knicks haven’t gotten any better this season
David Fizdale took over for Jeff Hornacek after the 2017-18 season when the Knicks had gone 29-53. It had been Fizdale’s first head coaching job since the Memphis Grizzlies fired him in 2017. Last year, this Knicks team was terrible, had lots of roster turnover throughout the season, and then failed in the Zion sweepstakes. None of that is directly on Fizdale. However, what is on him is how poor the Knicks have performed to start this season. After they acquired several solid players in the offseason (such as Julius Randle, RJ Barrett, Marcus Morris, and Taj Gibson), the Knicks have a 2-8 record, one season removed from having a 17-65 record.
The Knicks were horrendous on Sunday night, getting blown out by 21 points to Cleveland. After the game, Steve Mills and Scott Perry held interviews to express their discontent with the team.
The following morning, it was reported by ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski that the Knicks had started the early paperwork to be able to fire Fizdale. At its absolute core, when your team isn’t performing well, and players aren’t getting better, ownership has to get rid of the head coach. Fizdale is not right for the Knicks, and it’s time for him to get fired.
Even before Sunday news conference, Knicks president Steve Mills had started to lay internal groundwork for the eventual ouster of coach David Fizdale. ESPN story with @malika_andrews: https://t.co/FqJY7v6WxW
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) November 11, 2019