Charlie and Bryan give their takes on how Fizdale’s first week as Knicks head coach went, plus the variables of Joakim Noah, Kyle O’Quinn, and Enes Kanter making the center position a headache for New York.
Charlie: So we’re one week into the David Fizdale era. What have we learned thus far?
- MSG continues to give good press conferences.
- The coach has done a really good job of “owning” the conflict with Marc Gasol that cost him his last job.
- Fiz can throw a first pitch without embarrassing himself.
Other than that, the team has put out some pretty strong signals they intend to rebuild slowly, that they’ll aim to get younger, longer, more athletic and tougher on defense, and that they’ll be looking to draft a wing.
Of course, no week in Knick history is every truly without controversy. In the background, we also had Marc Berman’s moles at MSG dropping hints that Scott Perry is disenchanted with Frank Ntilikina and ESPN’s draftniks pushing Alabama point guard Collin Sexton as their primary target in the draft (assuming they don’t move up from the no. 9 spot.)
And that’s before we even start to talk about Joakim Noah.
The Fizdale presser was mostly a waste of a hour of my life. All the basic talking points were expected and known with Mills, Perry, and Fizdale sticking to the script the Knicks have been pushing for about a year now.
I did enjoy Fizdale essentially telling Emmanuel Mudiay he’s been terrible and needs fixing. I legitimately LOL’d at that.
If the Knicks had hired Mark Jackson as coach, that was going to be a breaking point with my Knicks fandom; I’m not as strongly against taking Sexton as I was for hiring Jackson, but taking him makes no sense with what’s going to be available when New York picks. Either of the Bridges or Zhaire Smith are all similarly or more talented than Sexton and fit the roster logically. If the Perry stuff with Ntilikina is true, from not valuing him to thinking point guard isn’t his position, it’d be quite concerning from a talent evaluation perspective. Taking Sexton and then dealing Frank would be absolutely maddening. This is not me being against Sexton the player, his ability to get to the free-thorw line might be a truly elite skill and is a great sign for his future development.
The Noah stuff is pretty cut and dry to me (DO NOT STRETCH HIS CONTRACT). Bring Noah back with Fizdale and give him a fresh start. He will either increase his value by playing well, get hurt like he always does, or will play poorly and not be able to hold onto a rotation spot. When the time comes, if the Knicks have the opportunity to sign a player of such a high stature that it needs to be done, you can use a draft pick to get rid of his deal. However, they’re not at that point yet.
I don’t know the college players well enough to have a strong opinion on the relative merit of Sexton vs. Smith or one of the Bridges-es. What I find truly worrisome is that somebody at Madison Square Garden decided to drop the “Mills and Perry are having a disagreement over Ntilikina” story this week.
Just days after they tried so hard to show the world that things were changing at MSG and that everyone is on the same page.
The way I see it, reasonable people can disagree about what sort of player Ntilikina will be when he reaches his peak. But if Mills and Perry are having that disagreement, I don’t want to know about it. Disagree. Sure. But keep it in-house. Otherwise, it looks less like a reasonable difference of opinion about a talented-but-raw player’s long-term ceiling and more like yet another power struggle within Knicks management. And nobody needs that.
(That said, I do absolutely see wing as a much bigger need than guard in this draft. Sometimes I feel like the Knicks haven’t had a true, natural three on their roster since Johnny Newman.)
As for Noah, I’m inclined to agree… they probably should just wait out his deal, especially given the fact that there’s no real benefit to getting him off the books right away. Unless the situation changes pretty dramatically, they should probably bring him back this season. That said, I’m looking at the roster as presently constructed, and by my count—assuming both Enes Kanter and Kyle O’Quinn don’t opt out—they’ve got 13 players under contract for the upcoming season.
And that’s not counting two picks in this year’s draft, or their two “two-way” players from last season, Luke Kornet and Isaiah Hicks.
I’m wondering how badly they’re going to need Noah’s roster spot.
Salient point on the Perry vs. Mills stuff regarding Frank that I didn’t think about. You’re 100 percent right about it being poor form.
Another thing to remember with Kanter and O’Quinn is they now have the same agent, which adds another layer to the decision regarding their player options. I’d assume Mark Bartelstein understands it’s best for both players to not be on the Knicks roster in the final year of their deals fighting for the same 48 minutes.
KOQ seems to fit more of the type of player Fizdale wants than Kanter, but Kanter would be completely out of his mind to pass on his upcoming salary in this market. It’s a truly fascinating situation.
One other thing that jumped out about Fizdale’s media blitz after getting hired was the hyperbole he used regarding the players on the roster. There’s no reason to ever speak Lance Thomas and Draymond Green or Mudiay and Dwyane Wade in the same sentence, even though I do grasp what he’s trying to do with the positivity. I watched this first hand with former Suns head coach Earl Watson (I’m based in Phoenix and covered the Suns when Watson took over) with the ridiculous comparisons and it wasn’t pretty. It leads to unnecessary backlash and creates an uncomfortable situation with the people covering the team who eventually have to question the ridiculous notions. Fizdale should tone down the rhetoric and be more realistic while staying positive.
I prefer O’Quinn over Kanter for a wide variety of reasons. He’s a more versatile player and a much better defender, and I think he complements Porzingis (as opposed to being a guy that Porzingis has to cover for on the defensive end). He makes a lot less money, too. And he works the occasional Bar Mitzvah, so there’s that. In a perfect world, they’d both opt out, the Knicks take their lumps playing some combination of Noah and Kornet at the five until Porzingis is available, and the team has a ton more cap flexibility going forward. But if one has to stay I hope it’s KOQ.
I don’t really mind the ridiculous comparisons at this point. Sure, comparing Thomas to Green is insane. But Fizdale is trying to build a rapport with these guys. It’s his “I believe you can be great” message to his players. Soon, he’ll follow up with, “but you’ve got to get in the best shape of your life, and you’ve got to buy in to the system and culture I’m trying to establish.”
As far as sending messages through the media goes, it beats the hell out of Phil Jackson trashing Carmelo Anthony via Charley Rosen’s columns.