After Fisher Firing, Knicks in Limbo Again

In some alternative universe the rest of us are excluded from, the Knicks thought they were going to make the playoffs as the 8th seed with an average point guard in Jose Calderon, a competent but not great scorer in Arron Afflalo, always injured and broken body Carmelo Anthony, lottery bust Derrick Williams, and the other cast of characters Phil Jackson assembled this summer. Oh, and lets not forget the Phil Jackson crush on Sasha Vujacic who is shooting 33% this year, evidence of why he had been out of the league so long.

It all so predictable. You amass a team of C-level talent, plug them around a rookie who shows incredible potential, enable a superstar who can’t consistently play games because of his jacked up knees, and have expectations of grandeur. That coach is on the hot seat from day one.

This is not to say that Derek Fisher is anyone’s idea of a great coach. He is not. His communication skills, which were supposed to be his strength, have failed him badly. He doesn’t have the climactic energy you need when you have a team of notorious underachievers. Basically, Fisher is a bore to listen to. He was in over his head from the jump, not in the strategy per se, but in the motivational leadership intangibles. People have to want to follow you.

“Obviously, I’m disappointed, but have learned an immense amount from this experience and hope to grow from it.” (Derek Fisher)

Fisher always appeared uncomfortable, as if he was a kid eating at the grownup table. He would have been better served as an assistant. He jumped the line, never having coached. Time would have been better utilized if Fisher went the television route like Steve Kerr and spent a good amount of time analyzing teams, seeing them up close and then formulating a plan on how he would fix them.

The triangle offense was a nightmare for Fisher. He was being asked to teach an offense he ran beautifully when he had Shaquille O’Neal and Pau Gasol. But this mismatch of Knicks talent wasn’t going to be able to process the offense fast enough for it to matter. They don’t have pure scorers. They don’t have drivers. They don’t have defenders. They don’t think the game. They have Carmelo Anthony, and love him or hate him, Carmelo is never going to change his usage rate or isolation tendencies. He is not going to adjust.

Holy Hell Offense Points FG% 3-Point% Assists Offensive Rating
Knicks 2015-16 99.0 (23rd) 43.7% (24th) 33.6% (25th) 20.4 (25th) 105.0 (15th)

This makes five Carmelo Anthony coaches, and whoever the Knicks hire this summer, they will have to deal with Anthony because Phil Jackson didn’t have the fortitude to underpay Anthony and then watch him walk to L.A.

What does it all mean? The Knicks are 5 games out of the 8th seed with three other teams in front of them. The Hornets and Wizards are better squads with younger, more talented personnel.

Max Player, Carmelo Anthony Points FG% 3-Point % Turnovers PER
2014-15 24.2 44.4% 34.1% 2.2 21.5
2015-16 21.1 42.2% 32.1% 2.5 20.1

The next ten games, the Knicks play four on the road, two against lottery teams (Nets, Timberowlves) and two against playoff teams in the east (Pacers, Celtics). Of their home games, 3 of the 6 are against playoff teams: Raptors, Heat, Pistons. If the Knicks go 5-5 in that stretch, that will be a good showing, but no one expects them not to stumble and fumble and lose to a team they shouldn’t.

The Knicks were 2-2 on November 2nd, after a home loss to the Spurs. They haven’t been .500 in three months but when you lose to the lottery team Denver Nuggets at home, heads are going to roll, particularly when it is your fifth loss in a row and 9 out of 10. Derek Fisher paid the price.

With all the credit Jackson is getting for Kristaps Porzingis, and rightly so, he should be getting skewered for his triangle offense which does not match his personnel.

Enter Kurt Rambis. All he did as head coach of the Minnesota Timberwolves was lose 132 games while winning 32. Not a recipe for success. But then this is the Knicks who fired Fisher because they were unhappy with the team’s progress. On the plus side for Rambis, he is one of Jackson’s closest personal friends and could possibly keep this job as long as Jackson is able to keep his. Right now, that is a huge unknown.

Jackson, married to the triangle system, for better or worse, prefers his own guys and has eyes on Luke Walton and Brian Shaw.  His success with the Warriors makes Walton very cautious about finding the right fit once he leaves Oakland. Brian Shaw, though, is available. Shaw had significant issues dealing with players in Denver who cheered when he was fired.

And so the wheel turns, once again, for the New York Knicks. The 43 year drought continues.

photo via llananba