Development and training are two of the building blocks for the Knicks to lean on as a youth revival envelops franchise. Here’s the detailed look at the organization’s staff behind the aforementioned pillars.
The New York Knicks are well into the offseason, but the overhaul is still in full effect. With Jeff Hornacek out and David Fizdale in, the support staff on the bench is being revamped once again. The Daily News‘ Stefan Bondy and Frank Isola named David Bliss, the Knicks’ player development coach and Kristaps Porzingis favorite, among those given the pink slip.
Jud Buechler, a Lakers’ assistant since 2016, is currently the frontrunner for Bliss’ position on the coaching staff, giving the Knicks another new face for the 2018–19 season.
Right now, it appears that the rest of the development staff will remain on the Knicks payroll, but just who are these people? With development being one of the most crucial buzzwords in this new Knicks regime, it’s important to consider who’s who in the process.
Craig Robinson, the vice president of player development, G League Operations, appears to be at the helm of Knicks development. Although Fizdale will obviously have the last word and an insurmountable influence, Robinson’s primary role seems to be managing the development staff and guiding the strategy for cohesive programming. The lofty title of vice president suggests he’ll be managing and steering the stratagems, similar to how Steve Mills and Scott Perry oversee the entire organization. Like any manager, his impact won’t be obvious, at least from a day-to-day standpoint, but he’ll likely work closely with his subordinates and Buechler, if the Knicks bring the former player aboard.
Erwin Benedict Valencia, Director, Training & Conditioning
Boasting an extensively thorough pile of degrees, Valencia deserves a full report unto himself. New Jersey-born, he started his Knicks tenure as a team physical therapist and assistant athletic trainer in 2014–15. He’s the first Filipino-American to be on the medical staff of both an NBA and MLB team, and now also heads the team’s medical and performance staff. His role in development appears to be in oversight, or in other words, a more hands-on version of Robinson’s position. Essentially, he’s the leader of the ground team, responsible for the technical application of the development programs that the support staff designs for roster players. However, I doubt he’ll be involved with offseason player development—his website shows how dedicated he is to his other arrangements. Still, if “E’s” trendy website is any indication, he’s as dedicated to the Knicks’ mission as much as Perry.
Roger Hinds, Head Athletic Trainer
If Robinson is the executive behind player development and Valencia is the coach, then Roger Hinds is the seasoned, veteran floor general leading the hands-on staff. Hinds background and accolades extend past his 25 year career as an NBA athletic trainer. He spent eight years as the head athletic trainer for the Dallas Mavericks before taking over in New York, where he’s been in the same role for 13 years. Serving as the strength and conditioning coach for the U.S. Olympic Team in 1996, his extensive experience speaks for itself. If Fizdale wants to get up-and-down the court, Hinds will be the trainer focused on getting the players on the roster in shape to accumulate a ton of mileage every game.
Mubarak Malik, Director of Performance and Athletic Development
Malik, or “Bar,” as he prefers, appears to be the most active of the support staff. If his social media profiles are any indication, he is willing to go above and beyond for the team—going so far as to fly overseas to assist Kristaps Porzingis in his recovery. A dedicated glue-guy on the support staff is essential in sports. For some teams, it’s a hard-working team manager. From what we can tell, that guy for the Knicks is a developmental specialist. If the Knicks are serious about improving players’ individual skills that will lead to a successful and cohesive team, Mubarak’s contributions are a key ingredient to the formula. His NBA.com profile states that he oversees all strength and conditioning, along with Shimon Ishikawa, his de facto assistant. If the 2017–18 season was any indication, Frank Ntilikina, who will reportedly be listed as 6’6” in the upcoming campaign, is in dire need of strength training. When Mubarak finds the opportunity to help Ntilikina with his strength this summer, it could mean a big step in the right direction in his athletic development. He might even exchange the sophomore slump for a sophomore jump.
While it may appear that the Knicks haven’t put a huge focus on player development in recent years, they have actually fielded quite a reputable support staff dedicated to the team’s improvement. Perry and Fizdale’s frequent references to steady improvement won’t do much to satiate a fan base hungry for wins, but a staff dedicated to the mission should alleviate tension enough to keep the paper bags at bay. With a new face on the bench and the team getting younger every summer, the staff in charge of development will have an intense workload coming into the season. Nevertheless, if Perry has faith in their ability to handle the next wave of newcomers while keeping pace with the team’s current pieces, then the Knicks should be in good shape.