New York Knicks: How David Fizdale Can Lead Them Back To Relevancy

The Knicks have failed to make the playoffs for the last five seasons, and in recent years have been among the league’s worst teams. Derek Fisher was brought in to replace Mike Woodson after the 2013-14 season but was unsuccessful in his time as head coach. Fisher could only manage to lead the Knicks to a 40-96 record in his two seasons in charge. Jeff Hornacek replaced Fisher for the 2016-17 season, and while he fared better than Fisher, he was unable to guide the Knicks back into the playoffs.

Searching for a change in direction and attempting to add some organizational stability, the Knicks have hired David Fizdale as their head coach going into the 2018-19 season. Fizdale is a veteran coach, working as an assistant for three teams. During his time with the Miami Heat, Fizdale was a part of back to back championship seasons in 2012 and 2013. After leaving Miami, he would go on to be the head coach of the Memphis Grizzlies, leading them to the playoffs in his first season. Fizdale was fired 19 games into the 2017-18 season after a rift in his relationship with star center Marc Gasol.

Fizdale will likely bring a new emphasis on defense to the Knicks. In the 2016-17 season, the Grizzlies were one of the league’s best defensive teams, as they had the second best opponent field goal percentage in the league. They also allowed the third-fewest points per game in the NBA over the course of that season. The Knicks allowed the 12th most points per game in the NBA in 2017-18, so a more solid defense should be a priority this season. While with the Grizzlies, Fizdale was able to use Gasol’s size and presence on the low block to his advantage. Chances are, he’s hoping for a similar outcome with Kristaps Porzingis.

In addition to Porzingis, Fizdale has also seemed to take point guard Frank Ntilikina under his wing. Fizdale attended Game 5 of this year’s Eastern Conference Finals with the young point guard in an effort to expose them to high-level, elite competition. Ntilikina showed a lot of promise at times during his rookie season, but will still need to grow before being trusted as the outright leader of a team. The trip to see the Conference Finals not only shows that Fizdale believes that he can become that kind of player, but also that he is willing to do whatever is necessary to make it happen.

Fizdale’s influence over the Knicks has also extended to their draft process, as the Knicks selected two promising players that will fit well within his system. Kevin Knox and Mitchell Robinson are both athletic, lengthy players who can make plays on both sides of the ball. Fizdale’s emphasis on defense and effort means that both of these players will be more eager to contest shots and get into passing lanes for steals. Turnovers lead to easy, high percentage opportunities at the rim, and both Knox and Robinson are capable of finishing. Both Knox and Robinson showed a great deal of promise and potential in this season’s Summer League.

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A core of Ntilikina, Knox, Porzingis, and Robinson is a potentially exciting combination. All four players have the ability to affect the game, both offensively and defensively. If Fizdale can get them to buy into his system, philosophy, and approach, it could mean good things for the Knicks in the future.

For the 2018-19 season, the playoffs may not be attainable for the Knicks, especially with Porzingis still recovering from tearing his ACL. Still, it will be a great opportunity for Fizdale to get acclimated to his new team, and for his players to do the same for him. The young players, in particular, will benefit from a solid year of development, both in terms of mentality and in terms of their actual play on the court.

It’s been a long time since Knicks fans had something or someone to be excited about. Given the time and freedom to make his mark with a young, up-and-coming roster, David Fizdale has the power to change that.

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