Of the major market teams, no team is in need of success quite like New York. Knicks fans have become accustomed to poor front office decisions, aging assets, and an overall culture that doesn’t foster winning. All of that changed when New York decided to hire former Memphis Grizzlies coach David Fizdale as their new head coach.
A player’s coach
After one year as the head coach for Memphis, Fizdale was fired following on-growing tension between himself and all-star center Marc Gasol. Don’t let this disagreement fool you, Fizdale is a notorious player’s coach.
Following a loss in the 2017 playoffs, Fizdale delivered a press conference classic when talking about the referees.
“They not gonna rook us,” said Fizdale. A simple five word phrase instilled confidence in his players that Fizdale was behind them at all costs.
Those costs included a $30,000 fine from the NBA for publicly commenting on the officiating. Memphis all-star point guard Mike Conley quickly went to bat for his coach, crowd sourcing Fizdale’s fine money from fellow teammates.
New look Knicks
Heading into the 2018 off-season Fizdale found himself as one of the most sought after coaches in the league. New York selected Fizdale as their primary target and signed him to a four year contract in early May. Now, as the head coach of the New York Knicks, Fizdale is faced with the task of reviving basketball in the city that never sleeps.
With New York’s last title coming in the 70’s, Fizdale has a tough task at hand. All time legends like Patrick Ewing, Phil Jackson, and more recently, future hall of fame member Carmelo Anthony couldn’t get the job done. Now, with Fizdale’s ability to bring a team together, his experience, and the talent already on the roster, this generation of Knicks could be the ones to do it.
New York boasts a young roster with massive amounts of upside. Whether it’s their proven superstar, Kristaps Porzingis, scrappy point guard, Frank Ntilikina, or 2018 first round pick, Kevin Knox, this team is full of talent.
Coaching superstar caliber players is no simple task. Not every coach is ready for the experience that comes along with coaching a team that has a truly transcendent player like Porzingis. Luckily for Fizdale, he spent years as an assistant coach for the Miami Heat working along side Pat Riley coaching players along the likes of Dwayne Wade, Chris Bosh, and LeBron James. Porzingis’s development over the next four years will be crucial for the long term growth of the Knicks, and there isn’t a much better coach than Fizdale to do the job.
Frank the Tank
One of the biggest question marks left for New York is the point guard position. Whether or not Ntilikina is the point guard of the future is for Fizdale to decide. In his rookie season, Ntilikina primarily came off the bench. Ntilikina played a minor role on offense, which Fizdale plans to change in 2018.
“The system will help him,” Coach Fizdale said to Marc Berman of the New York Post. “The film work will help him. Me constantly showing him here’s an opportunity,” Fizdale went on to add.
Ntilikina may have had a quite 2017, but he will surely have the chance to take off in 2018. Under Fizdale, Ntilikina has a coach who fully believes in his ability to play and is going to push him to be the best that he can be. Whether that translates into a long-term point guard or a quality role player, will be left for Ntilikina to decide.
Hard Knox Life
Lastly, and easily the most important variable on the roster currently. is 2018 draft selection Kevin Knox of Kentucky. Knox’s athleticism and size are undeniably elite. He stands at 6’9 and a 6’11 wingspan. He can jump out of the gym and defend just about any position on the perimeter. Knox’s biggest question mark is his shooting. A lack of consistency in his jump shot has lead to early signs for concern but Knox is looking to prove his doubters wrong early in Summer League.
In a match up against the Los Angeles Lakers, Knox scored 29 points on 22 shots with nine rebounds. Although Knox had quite a few misses from the field, he shot lights out from three, hitting five of his seven attempts. In the three games Knox has played, he’s averaging 23 points with a 40% shooting percentage.
For a 19 year old at his first time through Summer League, Knox looks like a poised scorer who is ready to contribute immediately as a rookie.
Can Fizdale bring a title to New York?
A 2018 play-off run is possible for the New York Knicks but a championship only seems realistic in years to come. With Kristaps not set to return from his knee injury until after Christmas, New York may struggle early. Enes Kanter’s near $30M contract is set to come off the books following the 2018 season, making New York a premiere superstar destination.
If Fizdale is given the full four years of his contract, I believe a championship is possible. New York’s core matched with Fizdale’s coaching experience will maximize their young roster’s talent. Adding a superstar in 2019 and/or 2020 is a must. If done, a championship seems eminent for the Fizdale lead Knicks.