After a disappointing loss to the Wizards in London, a well-rested Knicks team returns to MSG to face Russell Westbrook and the Oklahoma City Thunder.
The Knicks return home from a frustrating London loss for an MLK Day matinee with the OKC Thunder. Thanks to their brief European excursion, the team should have fresher legs, playing only once in the past seven days. Those fresh legs could come in handy against an OKC team that has struggled on defense over their last four games, surrendering 127.3 points per game.
Fortunately for the Thunder, there is a scoring drought in New York. Over their last four games, the Knicks have a league-worst 100.7 Offensive Rating. In that same span, they rank second-worst in assists per game with 17.8.
A lineup change is needed. David Fizdale has gotten a free pass for most, if not all, of this season. Another rotation blunder could lead to a get right game for the Thunder.
Here’s what to look out for during today’s holiday matchup.
No More Free Passes
Development has been the theme of this season. When the front office proclaimed 2018–19 a year of transition, most of us forget Fizdale is included in that. He has a sterling reputation among players, but Fiz still has some work to do.
His biggest failure so far is his unwillingness to experiment. It’s no secret he has his guys; Tim Hardaway Jr., Kevin Knox, Allonzo Trier, and his golden boy Emmanuel Mudiay. Fizdale may have let their early season success go to his head, as they have not seen their minutes manipulated like other guys on the roster.
If the team were winning, then no harm no foul—but they are racking up losses by the boatload. Tanking by developing the young guys is one thing. Losing games with guys who are not part of the future is another thing.
It’s time for Fizdale to start being the coach we think he can be.
Missing the Point
Frank Ntilikina trade rumors continue to drift across the Twitter timeline like a plastic bag in the wind. Stefan Bondy of the Daily News reported over the weekend that some in the Knicks’ front office are unsure of Frank’s potential.
The best way to gauge his potential is seeing him on the floor—something Fizdale has carried over from Jeff Hornacek. It is baffling that Frank has played so sparingly with Knox. Instead, he is kept in purgatory with Damyean Dotson. Mudiay might be his pet project, but he has no future with the team.
The quicker Fizdale comes to terms with this and starts playing Frank, at least even minutes, the quicker the front office can make their decision on what to do at the deadline.
Spotlight: David Fizdale
A bit of a curveball here. The players have their work cut out for them with Russell Westbrook, Paul George, and a strong Thunder supporting cast. At their previous meeting in OKC the Knicks had no answer. They out-hustled the Knicks all night en route to a 128-103 win.
The key for this game is how Fizdale switches up the lineup accordingly to prevent another sluggish start. The Thunder are solid in just about every place you have to be, but recent games against the Hawks and LeBron-less Lakers prove they can be beat by subpar talent. Fizdale will have to find the right combination to kickstart the offense.
Enes Kanter rejoins the team after missing out on the London trip. He is fully recovered from his non-burger related illness.