It should have tipped us off when during the offseason, Kevin Durant admitted playing for the New York Knicks wasn’t considered cool anymore.
Can you believe that? One of the NBA’s flagship teams, in the greatest city in the world, that plays in Madison Square Garden, is circled by crime scene tape by the players.
They couldn’t be more correct, you know. The Knicks are the league’s longest-running dumpster fire, seemingly incapable of taking any steps forward in the Eastern Conference for seven years.
And it’s only getting worse. Every iteration of the team’s management, every new coach – and there have been many – seems incapable of putting together a competitive roster. It’s so bad they are now second-class citizens in their city to the Brooklyn Nets, now all jazzed up with Kyrie Irving and Durant.
The Knicks were expected to make some progress this season, even though it started out very poorly when they lost the Draft Lottery rights to Zion Williamson. The team cleaned house, signed a number of lower-tier free agents and put the product into the hands of coach David Fizdale.
The Knicks actually spent around $74 million on these show-stoppers: Reggie Bullock, Wayne Ellington, Taj Gibson, Marcus Morris, Elfrid Payton, Bobby Portis and Julius Randle.
The Las Vegas sports books had the Knicks over-under for victories at 28. Not very inspiring. But spot-on.
It’s already been a disaster. The team is 2-8, and after getting blown out at home by the lowly Cavaliers on Sunday, some unusual things took place postgame that seem to indicate another change of direction is on the way.
Instead of Fizdale addressing the media after the game, Knicks president Steve Mills and general manager Scott Perry took the podium to express how dissatisfied the organization was with the start.
This kind of stuff never happens with the Knicks. Mills is notoriously media shy, so it was immediately assumed he was sent out by owner James Dolan to take the heat.
“Scott and I are not happy with where we are right now,” Mills said. “We think the team is not performing to the level that we anticipated or we expected to perform at, and that’s something that we think we collectively have to do a better job of delivering the product on the floor…”
This has also led to conjecture Fizdale is already in trouble and the impromptu press conference was merely the organization’s way of giving everyone a heads-up. Of course, the problem is Fizdale is in just the second season of a four-year deal that league sources say is worth $22 million.
Here’s the deal: The Knicks have very few players you’d want to comprise a core group. They have no real point guard, other than maybe Dennis Smith, Jr., and don’t seem capable of matching up in transition, where the money is made in this league.
On Monday, Fizdale told reporters the front office has been supportive of his efforts.
“The fact we talk every day,” Fizdale told reporters after the Knicks practice. “We are in constant communication with each other. We’re very raw with each other. Good or bad. None of us have an ego about it. We’re all on the same page of where we are trying to get to. End of the day, we are all in this together.”
Mills has been in the middle of many Knick meltdowns. The team has had five coaches on his watch and has won only 47 games since he replaced the well-compensated, but terribly overmatched Phil Jackson in 2017.
Remember, this is an organization that didn’t push hard for the A-list free agents last offseason. You never heard the Knicks mentioned when the discussion turned to Kyrie, Durant, Kemba Walker or Kawhi Leonard.
And this is an organization that totally disenchanted Kristaps Porzingis and was forced to trade him to Dallas in February when he essentially told the Knicks he’d never play for them again.
“I take the brunt of that responsibility because I am the head coach,” Fizdale said. “I make these decisions — what’s happening on the court, what players play, who plays together, what plays we call the defensive system. That’s on me.”
The Athletic is reporting the Knicks may be thinking about pursuing Masai Ujiri, the successful president of the NBA champion Toronto Raptors. Perhaps if he was in place last year, his reputation would have allowed the team to at least get into the conversation with Leonard and Durant. But he is under contract through 2021 and prying him out of town is going to require a lot of cash and muscle.
This is a big week for the Knicks. They are in Chicago on Tuesday and then return to the Garden to face off again with the Porzingis and the Mavericks, a team the Knicks actually beat on the road prior to the Cavaliers debacle.
If the Knicks perform poorly again, the reality they are headed to a seventh-straight losing season may be too much for Dolan to deal with. Forget Fizdale. The entire front office may be fired.
Typical Knicks, right?