David Fizdale got to see the Knicks at their best on Friday. Fizdale led the team in practice — seemingly the only place his team thrives — on Friday, following back-to-back shameful losses to the Bucks and Nuggets. The pressure around Fizdale’s job has reached a high point after a 129-92 loss to the Nuggets on Thursday night at Madison Square Garden.
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“I don’t think about that stuff,” Fizdale said after practice. “I don’t think about it at all. I go into – every day is I come in here, I see 17 guys that I’ve got to make better and I see a team in Indiana that we’ve got to try to go out and beat. I take it day-by-day that way. Even if we were on a 16-game winning streak, I would be going about it the same damn way. Just focused on that. I think it keeps my mind clear and it allows me to keep them in a good space where they’re connected and that they’re fighting for each other.”
Fizdale has mentioned wanting to run a faster-paced offense, though that could be challenging with the forward-heavy roster constructed for him, “I’ve had to adjust and it makes it difficult, but it’s also a different way that we have to do it,” Fizdale said. “We have to be willing to advance the ball with the pass and it’s not always a guy pushing the ball up the court and really getting guys to commit to running the floor hard regardless of if you’re faster than somebody or not. But just making those commitments to getting your bodies up the floor and the guy with the ball willing to advance the ball with the pass and then we get into actions quicker and hopefully give ourselves more opportunities and possessions.”
But when you lose by 44 and chalk it up as something that happens and you follow it by trailing by 43 points in an eventual 37-point defeat, then change is usually in the air. And with a 21-83 record since taking over it’s hard for anyone to argue he shouldn’t go. “I don’t care about all that,” Fizdale said. “I don’t even think about that, really. I think about the next team we’re playing, I think about the guys in the locker room and how I can help them. At the end of the day, that’s all I care about.”
Asked if he believed he was still, as has often been stated, on the same page with the front office, he said, “Yeah. Absolutely. I’m still coaching this team. I’m still pushing them. I’m still preparing them. We had a hell of a practice before this game, it was just a disappointing output.” “You can’t let the rope go,” Taj Gibson said. “You’ve got to continue to keep fighting, continue to keep pushing, because nobody in this league is going to feel sorry for you. Fiz is doing a good job preaching and keeping guys in tune, but at the same time we have to do a better job, including myself. He can’t keep taking the bullets for us. We have to step up. We have to grow. We have to mature and mature quickly.”
The Knicks trailed by 43 points in the fourth quarter three nights after a 44-point loss to the Milwaukee Bucks, and Fizdale said the team’s effort was “sickening.”
According to a league source, if the Knicks made an in-season coaching move one of two assistants – Mike Miller or Pat Sullivan – would likely be promoted. Miller coached the Knicks G League affiliate. Coincidentally, assistant coaches Keith Smart and Kaleb Canales all have head coaching experience. Royal Ivey, who has drawn interest around the league over the summer, and Jud Buechler would not be under consideration.
The lingering question after the Knicks’ 44-point loss in Milwaukee is this: how much longer will David Fizdale be on the sidelines? We don’t have a definitive answer, but one member of the organization said late last month that he expected management to fire Fizdale soon, per SNY sources. The person who expressed the thought isn’t someone who would make the decision to fire Fizdale. But the idea that a member of the Knicks believes a coaching change is coming says a lot about the level of uncertainty in New York right now.
If Fizdale is fired in-season, he’ll have two years left on his contract, according to reports. It’s unclear if those two years are fully guaranteed. Mills and Perry also have years remaining on their deals. Mills, per sources, has a double option on one of the remaining years of his deal. So Dolan would pay them money not to work if he decides to fire them.
If Mills fires Fizdale, the next question is if he and Perry will keep their jobs beyond this season. In a conversation with Mills and other front office members after the Mills/Perry press conference, Dolan gave off the impression that Mills and Perry would be safe if the team showed progress, as SNY reported. Just how Dolan defines progress is unclear. But if Fizdale is fired, it seems as if the Knicks would have to play much better under the interim coach for Mills and Perry to keep their jobs and have a chance to hire another coach in the offseason.
According to sources, the club would need to suffer a severe slide for anything to happen to Fizdale in the near future with the won-loss record not the key barometer. Progress, competitiveness and player development are paramount.
The Knicks had to really sink south for a coaching change to be made by Game 20. Indications are it was far-fetched for a change to be made this early anyway. Was owner James Dolan, who has given Fizdale private reassurances, really going to let president Mills hire a new coach from the outside on a long-term deal with Fizdale still having at least one season fully guaranteed on his pact for 2020-21? Sources indicated the major deterrent to making a change at Thanksgiving was the sketchy alternative of promoting one of the assistants – Jud Buechler, Keith Smart or Kaleb Canales.
How does David Fizdale tune out the speculation about his job status? The Knicks coach revealed Tuesday that he has the backing of the one fan who matters most: Knicks owner James Dolan. “Every game, every game. Jim Dolan comes in and gives me a vote of confidence, a pat on my back and really has just been incredibly encouraging over the last year and a half or whatever it’s been,” Fizdale said. “All we talk about is just sticking to the process of making these guys better and building for a future of sustainable winning.”
One step: Mills and general manager Scott Perry addressing the media after Sunday’s loss to the Cavaliers while Fizdale was still in the locker room. Mills and Perry stressed that the team wasn’t meeting expectations, seemingly a veiled shot at the coach. Adrian Wojnarowski on ESPN: The dismissal of David Fizdale is inevitable, and there was, I think, a bond broken between management and their head coach with how they handled things after that loss Sunday night.
Despite their frustrations following the loss at Chicago — one in which they turned the ball over 18 times and were outscored 52-46 in the paint — Knicks players were still adamant in their support of the second-year coach. “We’ve got 9-10 new guys? We’ve got 10 guys that have not played together at all and me who hasn’t even been in the league yet,” said rookie RJ Barrett. “You’re gonna have some challenges, but you’ve got to keep pushing, keep pushing through everything. That’s all I can really say. You’ve just got to stay together. “He’s up to the challenge. We believe in him,” he continued. “We’re staying together, and like we said, we’re all-in with him and are just gonna keep fighting together.”
Fizdale didn’t seem fazed by the speculation during Tuesday’s shootaround, telling reporters, “It’s always a media firestorm in New York, so for everybody else this is a big deal, but for us, it’s a normal environment. So, our guys are focused, they’re connected.”
Despite another defeat, there was a clear attempt to calm roiling waters surrounding Fizdale. Sources indicated Mills and Perry felt their unprecedented James Dolan-inspired press conference Sunday came off as too harsh in the form of pinning the blame on the coach.
Eric Woodyard: Knicks coach David Fizdale says the last couple of days haven’t created any tension. “It’s always a media firestorm in New York, so for everybody else this is a big deal but for us it’s a normal environment,” he said. “So, our guys are focused, they’re connected.” pic.twitter.com/PWToA0wWUF
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.
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July 2, 2022 | 10:21 am EDT Update
Sources told both Jazz writer Tony Jones and me that Danny Ainge pushed hard to include McDaniels. Earlier versions of Utah’s ask included the four first-rounders, McDaniels, multiple pick swaps and some second-round picks as well. The Timberwolves held firm in refusing to include McDaniels, a versatile defender who blossomed under the glare of the playoff spotlight against Memphis and is entering his third season in the league.
Given all that, and the third-year leap they anticipate from Edwards, the stability they hope will bring even more out of Towns and the belief that it would be hard to find another star player who is open to Minnesota the way Gobert was — sources told The Athletic that Gobert expressed excitement about the opportunity of playing with the Timberwolves and that Towns, in particular, was supportive of the move — that one question just kept gnawing at the group while they labored over the decision.
Word started to circulate on Thursday evening that there was progress being made toward a Gobert deal, but Wolves sources were pessimistic almost the whole way through. By Friday morning, sources said, the deal was in peril. Both sides were sticking to their guns and the Timberwolves started to look hard at other available rim protectors. In addition to Gobert, they had been linked to Indiana’s Myles Turner and Atlanta’s Clint Capela in previous reporting. The Wolves also made several calls to Brooklyn on Kevin Durant, sources said, but the Nets were asking for established All-Stars and a mountain of picks.
Bob Myers warned of an eventual salary limit, an undefined financial threshold where Joe Lacob would finally say no. That red light came on the first night of free agency. The Golden State Warriors let Gary Payton II walk. They offered him the taxpayer mid-level, which sits at $6.4 million. He received north of $8 million from Portland, plus an extra year on an incentivized deal. The difference in the tax penalty — somewhere around $15 million extra in the immediate, a whole lot more throughout a longer-term deal — caused Lacob and the Warriors to balk. It stung several in the organization, per sources. They’d found Payton and grown to not only love the person but also understand the value of his unique skill set. It translated to winning. For the first time, they’d failed to retain one of their own due to an unwillingness to meet a financial demand.
The Washington Wizards announced today that they have re-signed forward Anthony Gill, bringing him back for his third season with the team. “AG provides us with additional frontcourt depth and is the epitome of the type of player we look for in building our team,” said Wizards President and General Manager Tommy Sheppard. “He is a true professional, a leader in the court in the community and is always ready to contribute on the court in a variety of ways when his number is called.”
Lamar Odom says he still feels the presence of his late friend and former teammate, Kobe Bryant … telling TMZ Sports, “He comes to me in dreams.” Odom, wearing the incredible Kobe and Gigi tribute pendant he got as a gift earlier this year on the anniversary of the duo’s tragic death, told us out at LAX this week that it actually happens “often.” “[He’s] just talking to me all the time,” Odom said of the dreams. “‘Hang in there. Keep fighting.’ A lot of s***.”