Even before Sunday’s impromptu press conference, Knicks president of basketball operations Steve Mills had been laying the groundwork for the eventual ouster of head coach David Fizdale, league sources tell ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.
As Wojnarowski explains, rival coaches and executives view the Knicks roster as one that’s poorly constructed and lacks “legitimate NBA guard play.” However, Mills is selling owner James Dolan on the idea that the 2-8 squad has underachieved at least in part due to poor coaching and should be competitive in the Eastern Conference.
“[General manager] Scott [Perry] and I are not happy with where we are right now,” Mills told reporters on Sunday. “We think the team’s not performing to the level that we anticipated or we expected to perform at.”
While Ian Begley of SNY.tv reported on Sunday night that no coaching change appears imminent in New York, Mills’ position leaves Fizdale vulnerable to a potential dismissal, writes Wojnarowski. The timing and tone of Sunday’s presser was met around the NBA with “surprise and dismay” and was viewed as undermining of the Knicks’ head coach, Woj adds.
“Everyone is moving to their positions now,” a league source told ESPN. “This is how they’ll make (Fizdale) the fall guy.”
Fizdale’s handling of the Knicks’ rotation since he arrived at the start of the 2018/19 season has been questionable, as he has at times shuffled players in and out of the rotation seemingly at random. Still, he hasn’t been dealt the best hand. After New York’s front office signed several veteran free agents in the offseason, Fizdale has been tasked with finding regular minutes for those players while simultaneously developing young prospects like Kevin Knox, RJ Barrett, and Dennis Smith Jr.
The idea that New York’s roster as constructed should be a playoff team in the East seems laughable, but even if Dolan doesn’t fully believe Mills’ spin, he might decide that a new coach could get more out of the roster than Fizdale has.
Fizdale is only in the second season of a four-year contract worth an estimated $22MM, per Wojnarowski. So if the Knicks do make an in-season change, they’ll have to pay two head coaches for the rest of the 2019/20 campaign and for two more years after that.