The Knicks hired the coach everyone was lusting after and in the short term everything and everyone is happy in Gotham but here’s the really big thing no one wants to talk about. David Fizdale will become Knicks coach number 10 since the 2004-05 season. The longest tenure in that span was Mike D’Antoni who lasted 3 years and a half.
This much we can say about coaching for the Knicks. If it isn’t working Jim Dolan is pulling the plug. Fizdale signed a 4-year deal. The first year will be learning the system. The last year is lame duck and give me an extension year. So his most important years will be 2019-21. That is when Fitzdale will either thrive or fail. In the 2019-2020 year, there will be money off the books and the Knicks will have $36 million in cap room, if they move no one. So there is a little light at the end of the tunnel.
For sure Fizdale, brings some positive cred. He’s young and ambitious. He’s coached in the playoffs. He’s been on a championship team and understands rituals and habits. Players not named Marc Gasol are devoted to him. The Knicks have a leader. But even they won’t know if it will work.
There are elephant in the room issues that follow the Knicks around. The list.
Joakim Noah: What to do with his contract? He has two more years. One for $18 million and then $19 million in 2019-20. The problem is Noah can’t play anymore. The modern NBA has determined his game has a very Jurassic dinosaur feel to it. He doesn’t space the floor. He’s not explosive. His rebounding doesn’t cover any of his weaknesses. He’s marginal. Can they find some sucker to take him off the Knicks hands? Or can Fizdale rehabilitate Noah, get something out of him. Noah will be 34 in the smack middle of 2018-19. He has a bad attitude when he is reminded his game has left the building. In other words, good luck.
Three Point Shooters: The Knicks were next to last in three point attempts and for good reason. There is no talent. No one can make long range bombs except Courtney Lee. If you can’t make threes in this era you aren’t making the playoffs or anything close to it as you are figthing two against three all the time. A three point attack increases the pace. It creates fast breaks. It puts the defense in confusion mode. It’s a back breaker and a way to erase a lead fast. The Knicks need to find some thee point specialists and fast.
Creativity Please: The Knicks don’t have multiple creators who can drive to the rim, finish through traffic and get fouled. They lack explosiveness. Rarely did the Knicks get to the free throw line. They didn’t stop the game, draw fouls on the opponent’s best player, get easy baskets, make defenders have to think about how they are going to guard. The Knicks made it easy on their opposition. Too many jumpers. Not enough postups and fouls or drives and fouls.
Youth Is Wasted On the Young: David Fizdale is a very young coach and I don’t mean his age (he’ll be 44 before the NBA Finals is over). I mean he hasn’t been a head coach long, just 101 games. Just one full season plus some spare change to buy a cup of coffee. Jeff Hornacek had more head coaching experience. Fizdale is going to have mistakes and the NY media loves to point out mistakes. In a way, it is a perfect marriage that Porzingis is out and Fizdale will have to mentor and develop younger players while he is developing. He’s going to have bumps in the road. He learned the hard way with Marc Gasol that certain players matter more than the coach. He’s going to have his humility lessons because coaching in the NBA is hard. (see Brett Brown up by 22 points on the Celtics and losing. Or Dwane Casey of the Raptors).
Like most non-playoff teams, it is a roster problem in the short term. But even with an incomplete roster, habits, style of play, pace, what is a good shot, how to defend on a string, footwork , can be developed so when the free agent year begins in the summer of 2019 talented veterans see the Knicks core as something to be a part of.
It starts with the draft and trying to find a Donovan Mitchell or Kyle Kuzma. Then Summer League and the Fizdale system. He coaches defense. Defense. Defense. He was an Erik Spoelstra disciple. If Spoelstra can get his team into the playoffs without a star and a bunch of average players, the Knicks can compete by playing hard, being tough and leaning on a basketball I.Q.
Fizdale has never had this empty a cupboard of talent. Not in Miami. Not in Memphis. In Memphis, no one paid attention. Now all eyes on him. Welcome to New York brother.