On the same day the New York Jets were blown out of the water, the Knicks put up a dud of their own—falling to the Magic. Here are Charlie and Kyle’s thoughts after back-to-back losses.
Charlie Zegers: I had it all thought out.
After watching the Jets sleep-walk through a hideous, “let’s get our coach fired, and maybe the general manager, too” performance against the Bills this afternoon, I was inspired.
“I’ll write about how the Knicks—like the Jets—are rebuilding around incredibly promising young players. But while the Jets are just painful to watch most of the time, the Knicks are fun, play hard, and are competitive almost every night. And that’s a testament to the work David Fizdale is doing with these kids.”
And then I got back from my son’s Boy Scout meeting, flipped on the TV, and…
Down 28 points? To the Orlando freaking Magic? With Fizdale playing a Kanter/Hardaway/Hezonja/Burke/
What in the name of Clyde Frazier is going on here?
Kyle Maggio: Desperation is the operative word there, Charlie. The Knicks were down 10-0 to start the game. Then it was 14-4. Then at the end of the first, it was 30-10. Nikola Vucevic and Evan Fournier were having their way, as Mitchell Robinson picked up two fouls in the first three minutes, Frank Ntilikina looked lost, and Tim Hardaway Jr. cooled off immensely.
It was the perfect storm of bad, embarrassing, and inexcusable given the competition, but they are an incredibly young team who looked the part of one coming off of a back-to-back.
I understood experimenting in a game like this, but I was surprised on the insanely short leash given to Frank.
Charlie: Should we be worried about Fizdale’s treatment of Ntilikina last night?
During the game, I couldn’t help wondering if he was hurt; maybe the only real injury is to his confidence. Either way, this has been an ugly stretch of games for him. I expect setbacks against the Torontos and Bostons of the league; the fact that he was such a non-factor against Orlando is disappointing.
Of course, given the state of the roster, some number of ugly losses are inevitable.
Fizdale only really has two somewhat-reliable scorers available: Hardaway and Kanter. Unfortunately, they’re both major liabilities on the other end. When shots aren’t falling for the two-way guys—Ntilikina, Trier, and Dotson—Fizdale is forced to lean on Kanter, Hardaway, and Burke more. Sometimes that works; sometimes they give the team a jolt of offense and keep games competitive. And sometimes they just put the team in an even-deeper hole.
I will say this: I’m already sick to death of writers celebrating Kanter’s stat-padding double-doubles as a bright spot for this team.
Kyle: I don’t think we should be worried about Fizdale’s handling of Ntilikina, given that he’s been allowed in the past to work through the kinks. I think had Sunday night played out like usual (a scrappy, competitive game) he would’ve played. But playing poorly a few games in a row, then having the Magic, of all teams, blow you out early, I don’t blame Fizdale for trying something else out.
Kanter has had his moments, but yes, focusing on his impact-less double-doubles is tiresome. While I think he’s a fine player in spurts, he’d be better off in a proper role like he had in Oklahoma City. He’s not a guy you can win with in big minutes as a main cog.
The real bright spots from last night were easily identifiable in the second half: Kevin Knox and Mitchell Robinson.
We saw Knox play aggressive all night—taking 10 trips to the charity stripe. The main highlight, the rim-rattling put-back on Mo Bamba, was the cherry on top, but he looked pretty comfortable in the flow of the offense.
Throw it down, young fella! pic.twitter.com/VVnzTQRezj
— The Knicks Wall (@TheKnicksWall) November 12, 2018
Mitchell Robinson, despite his weaknesses, hosted a block party by his lonesome, as he was the only man committed to defense last night. Big Mitch racked up nine blocks, setting a Knicks single-game rookie record. I don’t think he’s fully ready to be a quality NBA starter yet, but he’s MUCH further ahead of schedule than I anticipated, and boy, that is a delight.
Charlie: And there’s the bright side we should be talking about. Whatever else happens this season, it certainly looks like Scott Perry has found a three of legitimate future big-minute players in Knox, Robinson and Trier.