Several people familiar with the matter told SNY on Monday that Mills, Perry and Fizdale are all under greater scrutiny amid New York’s 2-8 start. “Everyone’s on notice,” one source said. So the notion that Mills, who has served as either president or GM of the Knicks (under Phil Jackson) since 2013-14, would be immune to the consequences that would come of New York continues to underperform is inaccurate.
Chris Mannix: Should the Knicks eventually move on from Fizdale, there are in-house options -- Keith Smart has been a head coach, Kaleb Canales was an interim coach in Portland -- but the name to be watched is Mark Jackson. He was a pre-Fiz candidate and a favorite of GM Scott Perry.
Ian Begley: David Fizdale says management has been supportive of him when asked about ESPN report that president Steve Mills has laid groundwork to fire him. Asked if he’s gotten any assurance from management, Fizdale notes that he has 2.5 years left on his contract.
Ian Begley: Steve Mills, Scott Perry and David Fizdale talking after practice today. Fizdale said he met with Mills and Perry this morning, as he does almost every morning. When asked about it, Fizdale said he feels he, Mills and Perry are together in sharing blame for Knicks’ bad start. pic.twitter.com/0yi21paf5s
Even before a startling news conference in the wake of a blowout loss to Cleveland, New York Knicks president Steve Mills had started to lay the internal groundwork for the eventual dismissal of coach David Fizdale, league sources told ESPN. Mills is selling owner James Dolan on a roster constructed to be highly competitive in the Eastern Conference, leaving Fizdale vulnerable to an ouster only weeks into the second season of a four-year contract that league sources say is worth $22 million.
Rival coaches and executives see a mismatched Knicks roster slow of foot, without legitimate NBA guard play but Mills is selling Dolan on a poorly coached team that is underachieving at 2-8 to start the season, league sources said. Around Madison Square Garden and the league, the timing and tone of the news conference was met with considerable surprise and dismay -- and considered completely undermining of Fizdale. "Everyone is moving to their positions now," a league source close to management and the coaching staff told ESPN. "This is how they'll make (Fizdale) the fall guy."
Sources told SNY that high-ranking MSG officials weren't thrilled after last Sunday's 113-92 home loss to the Sacramento Kings -- which is understandable, given the result.
Multiple SNY sources familiar with the matter said as recently as Thursday that there was no indication that any major coaching or management change was imminent. But those sources stated that nothing had been ruled out with regard an in-season front office or coaching change.
"Given that this is our 10th game, we felt like we had an obligation to come and speak to you guys," Mills said. "Obviously, Scott and I are not happy with where we are right now. We think the team's not performing to the level that we anticipated or we expected to perform at and that's something that we think we have to collectively do a better job of delivering the product on the floor that we said we would do at the start of this season.
David Fizdale, of course, was resilient and unflinching in his ownership of the mess to date. “I take the brunt of this responsibility because I’m the head coach,” he said. “I make these decisions of what’s going on on the court, what players play, who plays together, what plays we call, the defense system — that’s on me. As much as I appreciate them, I own it. That’s just who I am.”
Knicks fans may want to blame David Fizdale for the team’s awful start, but the coach appears to have the backing of the two people who matter most — general manager Scott Perry and president Steve Mills. “They have been incredibly supportive. We talk every day,” Fizdale said Wednesday before the Knicks played the Pistons. “The beauty of what’s happening inside our building is everyone is connected. They all see the work we are putting in."
Fan frustration boiled over in the second half of the 113-92 loss as the crowd booed and some chanted: “Fire Fizdale.” “I don’t think about that,” Fizdale said when he was asked about the crowd behavior. “I was more concerned about our performance from my seat. I can’t get caught up with how everybody else is feeling.”
If Knicks president Steve Mills and GM Scott Perry are antsy over the team’s 1-6 start, they have not conveyed that to coach David Fizdale. The common refrain is this newly constructed roster with 10 new faces is going to take some time to mesh. The Knicks are tied with New Orleans for the NBA’s worst start.
“They’ve been incredibly supportive,” Fizdale said after Wednesday’s morning shootaround at Detroit Country Day before the Knicks faced the Pistons. “We talk every day. The beauty of what’s happening inside our building is everyone is connected. They all see the work that we’re putting in.”
Sources have indicated it’s way too early to start any Fizdale Watch — not with this new roster that needs tender loving care because of its complexities. How bad would it look for Knicks president Steve Mills and GM Scott Perry to fire Fizdale on Dec. 1 after one season and one month after they passed on Mike Budenholzer, Mark Jackson and David Blatt and didn’t interview Steve Clifford?
Fizdale was a good soldier during last season’s 17-win tank-a-thon, but how hard this team plays in the next few weeks is worth watching. One name to consider if the season really starts to careen: Mark Jackson. The ex-Warriors coach (and ex-Knick) was a favorite of GM Scott Perry during the interview process in 2018, and Jackson has made no secret about his desire to coach again. Fizdale won’t be expected to perform miracles with this group but New York can’t let the season slip away quickly.
August 11, 2022 | 2:12 am EDT Update
There’s good reason for pessimism, Durant’s ultimatum to Nets owner Joe Tsai did not light a fire under trade talks. If anything, it made it far less likely a deal gets done in the short term. — why would Boston improve its offer now? It robbed the Nets of leverage. For example, Brooklyn was trying to get Boston to put Smart in the trade, but why would they even consider it now? That said, even without Smart (or Robert Williams III, sources told NBC Sports he is not available), a Celtics offer with Jaylen Brown may be the best one the Nets will see.
Chris Mannix: I had one executive who was not involved in the Durant sweepstakes say to me ‘if the Nets don’t have the stomach to bring him to training camp, they should find a way to do a deal with Boston because they’re not going to get a better player in a deal than Jaylen Brown’.
Ric Bucher: Joe Tsai has already shown he’s willing to play hardball with Kyrie by taking a max extension off the table almost immediately. Now, part of that may be Kyrie’ doing. I’m told he wanted his new contract to guarantee he wouldn’t have to play more than 60 games in a season and would not have to play any back the backs which he apparently referred to as inhumane.
Ric Bucher: I’m told that they wanted to trade Kyrie midway through this past season, and KD told them absolutely not. And they went along with it. Now, I’ve also been told while they’re still good friends, that maybe KD doesn’t value him quite the same way as a teammate. I’m not so sure about that.
Ric Bucher: I’ve been assured that this is correct in spite of another report that says it never happened. And that’s as far as I’ll go with that, too. I’m not going to punch down. Ben Simmons was in a group chat with some of the other teams players. And on it, they asked Ben if he was playing in game four. And not only did he not answer, he dropped out of the chat. Now, as I said, there’s another reporter out there who suggested the event never happened. I’m well aware that that reporter has, let’s say he has vested interests in painting things a certain way. And again, I will leave it at that his comments prompted me to go back and double check with my source. And that source insists that it did indeed happen, and explain why someone might report it another way. So I’m sticking with it.
Patrick Beverley is not one to whine about getting moved from one team to another. The Utah Jazz guard recently addressed claims from fans about how the Minnesota Timberwolves “did him wrong when in fact that sentiment goes completely against how he views and interprets his offseason fate. Here’s Patrick Beverley going full Jay-Z, referencing the GOAT’s “I’m not a businessman, I’m a business, man” bar in explaining why he is thankful to the Timberwolves franchise.
Still, Caleb Canales’ decision to leave the NBA and coach in Mexico is not without risk. Broadening his experience on an international stage could help him get back to the league and to the job of his dreams, but his leap of faith could also be ignored. Despite a growing stable of foreign-born superstars and the NBA’s expansion to new markets overseas, the league has been slow to embrace coaches with international experience. European champions like David Blatt and Igor Kokoskov came and went last decade, as did successful foreign-born assistants like Etore Messina. “The coaching side, you always have to be ready to adapt and adjust,” Canales says.
While skepticism may remain in some NBA circles regarding the value of international coaching experience, there’s no doubt the league is putting effort in to diversify its coaching ranks overall. As of the 2022 offseason, half the league is led by Black head coaches. Nash and Kerr were born outside the U.S., and Miami Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra is Filipino-American. Canales credits the work of David Fogel, executive director of the National Basketball Coaches Association, and Karen Marrero, its director of communications, for things improving over the last few seasons. “They’ve been so creative, and they’ve been so willing to help us, as coaches,” he stresses, highlighting the coaching profiles as well as a newly deployed coaches database the NBCA has set up to assist teams in finding and hiring talent outside the same small coaching pool.