David Fizdale

Knicks Notes: Fizdale, Randle, Smith, Bullock

The vultures are circling in New York. After a blowout 120-102 defeat to the lowly Bulls, the 2-9 Knicks are still reeling from press conference comments made by president Steve Mills and GM Scott Perry on Sunday. Head coach David Fizdale‘s days in New York appear to be numbered.

On ESPN’s SportsCenter today, Adrian Wojnarowski speculated to Stephen A. Smith that a Fizdale firing felt like a fait accompli. Wojnarowski elaborated, noting that Fizdale could be the first member of the New York brain trust to be shown the door by owner James Dolan amidst this disastrous — though hardly surprising — start to the Knicks’ season.

Marc Berman of the New York Post postulates that Fizdale could be gone within the Knicks’ next 10 games if they don’t make a drastic improvement in the win column. ESPN Insider scribe Kevin Pelton suggests that the Knicks front office leaders, who were so quick to blame Fizdale for stumbling out of the gate, need to recognize the limitations of the team’s disjointed roster.

There’s more from New York:

  • About that roster — one of the Knicks’ best backcourt prospects, Dennis Smith Jr., has missed seven of the team’s past eight games due to the death of his stepmother. He returned to action yesterday, scoring zero points on 0-for-3 shooting from the floor. Once Smith settles in, the Post’s Greg Joyce thinks that his presence could positively affect the team’s dire point guard situation. Frank Ntilikina remained the starter yesterday in Chicago, but Smith could be a helpful scorer and facilitator in a bench capacity. Elfrid Payton, the starting point guard when the season began, remains out of commission with a hamstring injury.
  • An NBA personnel man who spoke to Marc Berman believes the Knicks are making a tactical mistake in treating Julius Randle like a No. 1 option. Berman observes that Randle, a good scorer and the team’s highest-paid player, lacks the chops to be a good team’s lead ball-handler. Fizdale himself addressed the big man’s decision-making, as Ian Begley of SNY reports. “For him, we’re just trying to build that habit of having more balance and when you decide to go and when you decide to work with getting someone else involved,” Fizdale said.
  • The Knicks’ depleted backcourt could eventually get some more help in the form of shooting guard Reggie Bullock, whom the team signed to a two-year, $21MM contract over the summer. According to Chris Iseman of NorthJersey.com (Twitter link), Bullock has been progressing in his rehabilitation enough to partake in non-contact drills in team practice. He will be re-evaluated in early December. Bullock, a career 39.4% three-point shooter, underwent surgery for a cervical disc herniation in July.

Knicks Management Need To Show “Progress” To Keep Jobs

Earlier this week, reports surfaced that the Knicks front office was laying the groundwork for the eventual firing of David Fizdale and that may not be the only change that could impact the team’s hierarchy.

Sources tell Ian Begley of SNY.tv that owner James Dolan had a heavy conversation with the team’s front office that left management under the impression that their jobs were in jeopardy unless the Knicks “showed progress” this season.

What does “progress” mean? It’s not clear what Dolan has in mind with regard to the improvements he wants to see. The conversation took place before the team’s 18-point loss to the Bulls and those kinds of outings don’t do much to provide Fizdale with more security.

Begley adds that in addition to Fizdale, team president Steve Mills and GM Scott Perry are also on notice. However, the pair of executives are expected to be given the remainder of the season regardless of what happens with Fizdale.

New York’s offseason was filled with failure with regard to its goal of attracting max free agents. The club was able to add non-star talent, though the collection of new players has led them to a record of 2-9 so far.

Knicks Notes: Fizdale, M. Jackson, Ujiri, DSJ

Asked today about his reaction to an ESPN report that suggested team president Steve Mills is laying the groundwork to eventually fire him, head coach David Fizdale told reporters that he talks every day with Mills and GM Scott Perry, and that they’ve been supportive of him (Twitter links via Ian Begley of SNY.tv). However, it doesn’t sound as if Fizdale hasn’t received any specific assurances about his job security.

I got a two-and-a-half year contract,” Fizdale said, per Mike Vorkunov of The Athletic (Twitter link). “That’s my assurance. That’s our business. The assurance is that I have a contract.”

According to Begley (video link), Knicks ownership isn’t expected to have a “heavy hand” in the team’s head coaching decision. Any move involving Fizdale would be made solely by Mills, says Begley.

As we wait to see what’s next for Fizdale and the Knicks, here are a few more notes on the team:

  • Chris Mannix of SI.com tweets that Mark Jackson is a name to watch if the Knicks make a head coaching change, since Jackson is a Perry favorite who was a candidate before the team hired Fizdale in 2018. Sean Deveney of Heavy.com identifies Kenny Smith, Chauncey Billups, Mike Woodson, and Tom Thibodeau as others who could emerge as candidates in that scenario, while Newsday’s Steve Popper (Twitter link) mentions Jason Kidd.
  • In response to a report that the Knicks may pursue Raptors president of basketball operations Masai Ujiri again next year, Josh Lewenberg of TSN.ca tweets that he doesn’t believe Ujiri would ever want to work for Knicks owner James Dolan under any circumstance.
  • While the Knicks have been criticized for their return in last season’s Kristaps Porzingis trade, the club remains hopeful about Dennis Smith Jr.‘s long-term prospects and those two first-round picks coming their way, writes Marc Berman of The New York Post. “We don’t know what Dennis Smith is going to be,” Fizdale said. “He’s 21 years old. We’ve still got two first-round picks out of that. Who knows who that’s going to be? We won’t know exactly what comes out of that for a year or two.”

Steve Mills Laying Groundwork For David Fizdale’s Ouster?

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.

Knicks Execs Express Disappointment In Slow Start

Following a blowout 108-87 loss to the Cavaliers on Sunday, Knicks president of basketball operations Steve Mills and general manager Scott Perry held an unscheduled press conference to address the team’s early-season struggles. New York is off to a 2-8 start in 2019/20 despite making a series of veteran free agent additions aimed at helping the club compete for a playoff spot.

“Given that this is our 10th game, we felt like we had an obligation to come and speak to you guys,” Mills told reporters, including Ian Begley of SNY.tv. “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.”

Mills added that he and Perry still believe in the Knicks’ plan, their roster, and the coaching staff, but reiterated that the results so far have been disappointing. According to Mills, the Knicks’ top execs felt as if it was important to communicate that dissatisfaction to fans, stressing that they’re “committed to making this better.”

As Stefan Bondy of The New York Daily News observes, the timing of the impromptu press conference appeared to be related to a halftime meeting involving Mills, Perry, and team owner James Dolan. A source tells Bondy that Dolan expressed his disappointment during that meeting, while Frank Isola of The Athletic hears Mills and Perry were ordered by Dolan to address the media after the game.

Jim still believes in the plan that we put together, but he’s passionate as we are about this,” Mills said after the game, per Begley. “So he would want us to have better results on the floor as well, but I think Jim is a fan and believes in what we’re doing. But he has the same expectations that we have and this is really about how we feel about what we should be doing, what we should be delivering as a group. We all take responsibility for that.”

Based on Sunday’s presser, it’s fair to wonder just how hot head coach David Fizdale‘s seat is getting. Multiple sources told Begley that there’s no indication that any head coaching change – or management change – is imminent, but those same sources said nothing has been ruled out with regard to in-season changes.

For his part, Fizdale claimed responsibility for the Knicks’ struggles so far and admitted he’s beginning to feel some urgency to start winning games, as Bondy relays. However, he also pointed out that there’s plenty of time for New York to turn things around.

“A good friend of mine told me to never overreact to overreactors,” Fizdale said, according to Steve Popper of Newsday. “We’re two games from the eighth seed. The team that’s in the eighth seed right now has four wins. So it’s not that like, oh my God, everybody’s acting like the world is coming to an end. It’s not. We just have to find our consistency in our games so we can start playing better basketball.”

Sean Deveney of Heavy.com writes that Fizdale has the support of several Knicks players, including RJ Barrett, which is one factor working in his favor. Marcus Morris and Bobby Portis were among those to publicly back their head coach on Sunday, according to Bondy.

“Fiz is a great guy, great coach. He’s a frontline dude,” Morris said. “He’s always going to speak on it first but he’s not coming out and giving up 20-point leads. At the end of the day, f–k the X’s and O’s. We have to come out and we have to be better.”

Although a head coaching change is typically the first move made by a struggling team looking to shake things up, Mills and Perry shouldn’t necessarily be considered safe either, Isola writes. As of last week, the plan was to give the Knicks’ top executives at least the rest of the season to figure things out, but that’s not set in stone, per Isola.

Several people familiar with the Knicks’ thinking believe Dolan intends to take another run at Raptors president of basketball operations Masai Ujiri next year, according to Isola. It’s safe to assume the Knicks would be willing to make it worth Ujiri’s while financially if they pursue him, but the Wizards reportedly attempted a similar push in June and had no luck (they later denied having interest). There’s also no guarantee that Ujiri would view working for Dolan as an upgrade on his current job.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Knicks Notes: Porzingis, Robinson, Dolan, Fizdale

Kristaps Porzingis wanted out of New York even though he was committed to staying in the weeks prior to the trade, Ian Begley of SNY TV writes. Something led Porzingis to change his mind in January prior to the blockbuster deal with Dallas, Begley continues, and it’s fair to assume that Porzingis didn’t have enough faith in team president Steve Mills and others in the current regime to create a winning environment.

The Knicks feared that Porzingis would accept their qualifying offer after last season and then become an unrestricted free agent next summer, which led to their decision to comply with his trade request, Begley adds.

We have more on the Knicks:

  • Porzingis regrets the way he reacted after the trade, Begley writes in a separate story. “It definitely wasn’t the way I wanted it to happen,” he said. “There wasn’t really another way how to do it, and with all the emotions going on (during) that moment when I got traded, I put out some stupid Instagram stories laying in my bed late at night. We all make mistakes — it wasn’t perfect. … It got a little bit ugly, but it’s in the past right now.”
  • Second year center Mitchell Robinson is sidelined with a concussion suffered against Detroit on Wednesday, Marc Berman of the New York Post tweets. He’s been ruled out of the team’s game at Dallas on Friday, the team’s PR department tweets.
  • Investor Clifton S. Robbins, whose Blue Harbour Group hedge fund owns a 4 percent stake in MSG, is pressuring owner James Dolan to increase the value of the team by selling off stakes to wealthy investors, Josh Kosman of the New York Post reports. A spinoff has been planned to separate MSG’s sports teams from its other assets, such as Radio City Music Hall. Robbins believes the Knicks and NHL’s Rangers combined worth should be approximately $7.2 billion, rather than the $5.55 billion price tag they have been given by Forbes, Kosman adds.
  • MSG’s plan to separate its entertainment and sports holdings has been unanimously approved by its board, Mike Vorkunov of The Athletic tweets.
  • Coach David Fizdale has taken heat for the team’s slow start but he’s heard nothing but positive feedback from the front office, according to Berman“They’ve been incredibly supportive,” he said. “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.”

Atlantic Notes: Stevens, Fizdale, Load Management

Brad Stevens‘s new-look Celtics are off to their best start in his tenure as head coach, with a sterling 5-1 record. A. Sherrod Blakely of NBC Sports Boston opines that the Celtics’ winning ways are attributable to five key factors: an easy connection with new point guard Kemba Walker; strong second halves on offense and defense; a relative dearth of contract drama; no idle chatter of Stevens mulling a return to the NCAA; and Stevens’ willingness for self-reflection following the disappointment of the 2018/19 Celtics.

Here’s tonight’s full run-down of Atlantic notes:

  • Marc Berman of The New York Post posits that it’s way too early for Knicks head coach David Fizdale to be on the coaching hot seat. Though the Knicks are tied with the Zion Williamson-free Pelicans at a league-worst 1-6 record, Berman suggests that the front office duo of Knicks president Steve Mills and GM Scott Perry have saddled Fizdale with a head-scratching assortment of talent, heavy on mediocre frontcourt pieces but light on outside shooting or clutch end-of-game leadership.
  • In a piece for The Athletic, Frank Isola supports Fizdale’s staunch defense of playing promising Knicks rookie RJ Barrett extended minutes, an argument echoed by former Knicks coach Jeff Van Gundy and by Barrett himself. “Has anyone stopped to consider that maybe by playing Barrett a lot of minutes David Fizdale is advancing Barrett’s career forward?,” Van Gundy said to Isola. “Is there anyone who really believes that the way you get better is by not playing and by not practicing?”
  • On the other side of the wins-losses spectrum, the Raptors appear to be taking a similar approach to the struggling Knicks when it comes to one hot-button health topic. “I don’t really see much point in (load management) right now for anyone we’ve got,” head coach Nick Nurse said on Monday, per Ryan Wolstat of The Toronto Sun.Kyle [Lowry] will be somebody maybe we do something with down the road, maybe Marc [Gasol] as well. But it’s not really in the forefront of my mind this year like it was last year.” The Raptors famously conserved the play of eventual Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard last season. 33-year-old Lowry is currently leading the league with a heavy 38.8 minutes played per game, while backcourt mate Fred VanVleet is logging 37.8 minutes a night.

Knicks Notes: Fizdale, Robinson, Barrett, Ownership

Knicks coach David Fizdale is already feeling the heat after a 1-5 start, Mike Vaccaro of the New York Post writes. “Fire Fizdale” chants were heard from the home crowd as the team was getting blown out by Sacramento on Sunday. While the team plays hard, its interior defense is lacking and there are long stretches of inefficiency on both ends, Vaccaro adds. However, a coaching move would be costly. Fizdale has two more years remaining on his contract after this season.

We have more on the Knicks:

  • Fizdale is making a mistake by prioritizing free agent signee Julius Randle over second-year center Mitchell Robinson, Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News argues. Robinson is averaging just 19.2 MPG through six games, more than 10 minutes fewer than he averaged in the final 11 games of last season, Bondy notes. Fizdale moved Bobby Portis into the lineup at Robinson’s expense on Sunday in an effort to get the slumping Randle going offensively.
  • Fizdale bristled when reporters questioned why lottery pick RJ Barrett played 41 minutes in the blowout loss to the Kings, Marc Berman of the New York Post relays. “We’ve got to get off this load-management (nonsense),” he said.Latrell Sprewell averaged 42 minutes for a season. This kid is 19. Drop it already.” Barrett has quickly established himself as a serious contender for the Rookie of the Year award by averaging 18.3 PPG, 6.3 RPG and 3.3 APG in 35.7 MPG.
  • Silver Lake Partners — a firm known for its investments in Tesla and Alibaba — is seeking a big stake in the Knicks and the NHL’s New York Rangers before they’re spun off into a publicly-traded company, Josh Kosman of the New York Post reports.  Silver Lake owns close to 10% of Madison Square Garden and wants a bigger stake but only in its sports teams, Kosman continues. James Dolan will continue to control both teams for the foreseeable future, even as MSG spins off a majority of the teams’ value to current shareholders.

Atlantic Notes: Nets, Crawford, Fizdale, Fall

As the Nets embark in their first season with Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant under contract, the players aren’t the only ones working to establish a new chemistry, as detailed by Brian Lewis of the New York Post.

Kenny Atkinson, Brooklyn’s head coach for the past three years, is known to have strong people skills and a willingness to get to know his players both on the court and off. For Atkinson, this season will be no different.

“I’m trying to personally establish relationships with the new guys, and quite honestly figuring them out off the court and on the court,” Atkinson said, according to Lewis. “We need time to build that relationship.

“You say, ‘Well, haven’t you been watching DeAndre Jordan or Kyrie for a long time?’ It’s just different when they’re in your house and your system and you’re just trying to really figure it out. We’re still in the figuring-out stage. I know we’ve got to move quick. I know this thing goes quick, so we’re trying.”

Despite likely having to play without Durant this season, the Nets have a strong roster led by the likes of Irving, Jordan, Jarrett Allen, Spencer Dinwiddie and others as they look to compete for a spot in the playoffs next spring.

Here are some other notes out of the Atlantic Division tonight:

  • Signing Jamal Crawford could make a lot of sense for the Sixers, Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer contends. Crawford, who remains a free agent one week into the NBA season, averaged 7.9 points off the bench for the Suns last year. He’s currently represented by agent Aaron Goodwin of Goodwin Sports Management.
  • Knicks coach David Fizdale deserves part of the blame for the team’s horrendous start to the 2019/20 season, Tommy Beer of Forbes writes. New York has kicked off the season at 0-3, dropping games to San Antonio, Brooklyn and Boston.
  • Celtics center Tacko Fall made his long-awaited NBA debut on Saturday, checking in to cheers from an electric Madison Square Garden crowd against the Knicks, Marc Berman and George Willis write for the New York Post. Fall, a 7-foot-5 center on a two-way deal with Boston, tallied four points and three rebounds in just over three minutes of action.

Knicks Notes: Popovich, Morris, Irving, Rotation, Payton

Spurs coach Gregg Popovich wasn’t just upset at Marcus Morris. He was also ticked off at the Knicks organization concerning Morris’ free agent odyssey, Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News reports. Morris backed out of a verbal agreement with San Antonio and inked a one-year, $15MM contract with New York. “Who signed him? I thought it was the Knicks that signed him,” Popovich said. “Yeah, that’s what I thought.”

However, Popovich has made peace with Morris, as the two embraced after the teams played each other on Wednesday. “That meant a lot. I didn’t know how he felt,” Morris said. “I spoke to him after I made my decision. So it was good to clear the air.”

We have more on the Knicks:

  • While the organization may have been disheartened by Kyrie Irving‘s decision to join the Nets, coach David Fizdale wasn’t caught off-guard by the All-Star point guard’s decision, Ian Begley of SNY TV reports. “Nothing surprises me anymore,” Fizdale said. “Guys are going to go where they feel is best for them,” he said. “He felt that that was best for him. I’m happy with the guys that we got.”
  • Fizdale admits he’s still a long way from settling on a rotation, Begley notes in the same story. “I’m sure it’s tough for them (not) being set in a rotation. At the same time, we’re not there yet,” he said. “Some teams have the luxury to know here’s my starting five, here’s my backups. Everybody can just dial into when they’re going to play every single night. But right now we don’t have that luxury.”
  • Elfrid Payton has apparently taken the lead in the starting point guard race after the opener, Marc Berman of the New York Post relays. Payton posted 11 points, eight assists and five steals with no turnovers as Dennis Smith and Frank Ntilikina struggled. Rookie RJ Barrett got the start in game one, but that experiment may be over, Berman writes. “By no means is this an indictment on anybody or stuck in stone,” Fizdale said. “I still want these guys to be fighting for that top spot.”