New York Knicks; who’s to blame?

Jonathan Bachman/Associated Press

After 11 games into the season, the New York Knicks have stumbled upon a 2-9) record, stuck at the bottom of the NBA. No one is surprised either; except apparently for Steve Mills.

In an interview with ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, team president Steve Mills commented;

We aren’t happy where we are. This is not where we expected to be. … James Dolan still believes in the plan that we put together.

Steve Mills via ESPN

These comments came following an unwelcome but expected result to the home loss 108-87 to the Cleveland Cavaliers, a fellow team sinking around the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings.

After all of these years sinking at the bottom, it’s clear that the problems are rooted deeper than the roster of the Knicks. No matter who they have, they’ll find a way to grow worse. Perhaps it was for the better that Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and Zion Williamson didn’t join the Knicks (Obviously not better for Knicks fans), otherwise fellow Knicks fans would be disappointed even more when they finish with a 17-65 record again.

Following comments shifted the blame to David Fizdale. According to a league source close to New York management and coaching staff, it would be expected that David Fizdale, head coach of the Knicks, was to be seen as the “fall” guy.

Here’s where we start assigning the blame.

David Fizdale

Nathaniel S. Butler

To start his second season of a four year deal as head coach of the Knicks, David Fizdale has a coaching record of 19-73 – leading to a measly 14.1% win rate. Compare that Knicks coaching record to the worst record a team had seen in an NBA season; the Charlotte Bobcats, who had a win rate of 10.6% in the lock-out season of 2011-2012. With only a 4.5% better win rate than the (statistically) worst team in NBA history, it looks like there could be many problems at steak here.

David Fizdale has had an interesting coaching career so far; being part of the LeBron-led Miami Heat championship runs as an assistant coach/associate head coach, spending two seasons helping the grit-and-grind Grizzlies reach their depths in the playoffs and now a new path at Madison Square Garden.

Despite spending time with the Grizzlies as a decent playoff team, his short stint ended on bad terms, when Chris Wallace (Grizzlies general manager) announced that they would be naming J.B. Bickerstaff interim head coach after Fizdale started the season out 7-12, then benching all-star Marc Gasol during the fourth quarter after their 8th straight loss in the 2017 season.

His coaching habits this season have seemed to be a bit… off. Julius Randle last season had been averaging career high numbers with the Pelicans, boasting a breakout 21.4ppg on a decent 52.4% as Anthony Davis’ sidekick. After showing he could be a dominant scorer, David Fizdale has turned Randle into a point-forward (or has tried to). To start the 2019-2020 season, Julius has been dribbling the ball and making plays unnecessarily, instead of popping off a quick and easy shot. It is clear to most fans of New York that David Fizdale has NO offensive scheme whatsoever and does not know how to manage his rotations.

Allonzo Trier, the undrafted surprise rookie for the Knicks, averages 12 less minutes than his rookie season. This is because the rotation scheme that David Fizdale has set up allows veterans to benefit from more playing time and basically neglects the needs of the young players on the team. Fans have noted that the veterans are getting more playing time instead of the young members like Damyean Dotson, Allonzo Trier, Kevin Knox and such.

Perhaps the increase of veteran minutes has purely been because of the absurd addition of win-now players during the NBA free agency that the management made. Either way, Fizdale is a spanner in the works that needs to be removed if the Knicks want to win.

Steve Mills and Scott Perry

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Knicks president Steve Mills and general manager Scott Perry have had their fingerprints all over the lack of success the Knicks have seen in recent seasons. New York is notorious for having an awful front office; giving out terrible contracts (Joakim Noah, anyone?), signing bad coaches (Jeff Hornacek) and making awful trades (Kristaps to the Mavs for a box of chocolates).

Their bad attitude towards their stars (Kristaps and Melo) has forced free agents to turn away from the bright lights of the MSG and to anywhere else. Whilst both members of the front office have kept their faith in the team, it’s clear that the fans have lost faith in them. Even James Dolan, owner of the Knicks has lost faith, saying that everyone in the front office is now ‘under notice’ after the worst few years any team has ever seen.

Things had gotten so bad for them that they had to conduct a post-game interview, apologizing to all of the fans for the lack of success.

Most of the problems that have come out of New York have their roots in the front office. Scott Perry and Steve Mills have stood idly as they watch the team they manage crumble around them, without making any drastic changes (like firing Fizdale), making sure their players are happy and that their fans are happy.

Most fans know that Scott Perry and Steve Mills, whilst having good intentions, do not have the skills right now required to bring the Knicks back to their glory days. Perhaps signing these two as the front office managers was a mistake in itself. This can only be amended by one man.

James Dolan

Frank Franklin/Associated Press

James Dolan; guitarist of music group JD and the Straight Shot, and oh yeah, owner of the New York Knicks.

When you ask any New York fan from casual to die-hard, the one thing that they hate the most about the team, their answer is almost always James Dolan.

James Dolan has made MANY mistakes as the owner of the Knicks, from not re-signing Jeremy Lin purely out of spite and hiring a plethora of coaches simply because he did not do his research (just to name a few mistakes he has made).

Let’s not forget that this is the man that signed Isiah Thomas as both head coach AND president of basketball operations in a bid to turn the Knicks into a winning team. For those that haven’t kept up with Knicks history, they had not seen a winning season under the coaching or management of the Hall of Famer Pistons point guard.

James Dolan was in charge of creating the “superteam” that would supposedly entice Kevin Durant when he was a free agent (then ultimately signed with upcoming dynasty Golden State Warriors). This “superteam” was composed by a young and unproven Kristaps Porzingis, Joakim “four year, 72 million dollar deal” Noah, a washed up Derrick Rose and a rapidly declining Carmelo Anthony. Of course, after KD signed elsewhere, the team was left with an awfully mismatched team that did not know where they stood in the NBA. Let’s also not forget that Dolan had Jeff Hornacek as the coach during this tenure. This team finished 31-51, 12th in the Eastern Conference.

Notice how I didn’t even mention the Knicks executive at the time, Phil Jackson? Most Knicks fans will look to forget that part of recent history, as there has been to much to blame Phil Jackson for. His love for the triangle offence did not lead to any more wins, and in fact lead to even more losses. Phil Jacksons tenure with the Knicks created the wedge that would ultimately force Kristaps out of New York, and for Carmelo to turn over a new leaf with Oklahoma. Viewed as a horrible pick at the time, Phil Jackson made the push to draft Frank Ntilikina with the 8th pick of the 2017 NBA Draft instead of going after Dennis Smith Jr (part of the Kristaps deal, now on the Knicks), Malik Monk, and more. As of this season, it looks like Frank Ntilikina has gained his confidence, and just might be the only good thing that has come out of the Phil Jackson era.

It is clear that James Dolan has no idea what he is doing with his staff. He has spent more time with his band than focusing on his team, leading to poor choice in management, and rash/stupid decisions. If you’ve been to even one Knicks game, you’ll notice the frequent use of the “Fire Dolan!” chant, as Knicks fan have had enough of this clown running the team.

The verdict

Andy Marlin/USA TODAY Sports

New York fans, you’ve got a long way to go if you want to see the Knicks in a successful state. It looks like James Dolan is going nowhere, and effectively, the Knicks aren’t going anywhere either. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure that out; the last time the Knicks had a successful season was the 2012-2013 season.

The only way that the Knicks can go back to their formerly glory is if the entire front office is fired and the team starts again from scratch.

It all starts with Dolan.

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