Nope. Not going to do a recap this time.
We lost by 32 but honestly the final score doesn’t even begin to tell the story of this game (and of this team). Look, it’s not about individual performances. Every single Knick sucked tonight, someone a little less, someone a little more (looking at you, Frank: -36 +/-, 1/7 from the field, 2 points and 2 boards. Let it be known that this is the night I officially give up on Frank. I’m not saying he should be traded or whatever. Keep on giving him minutes, this is a lost season. But the odds are completely against Frank ending up as an NBA player after his rookie contract. I’m not even sure it’s his fault. If he was a second-round pick probably things would be a little bit better. Dude’s a mess mentally and he’s regressing badly even on defense). Tonight it was about being a team. The Knicks totally failed at being a team.
Losing a game by 32 is bad enough, even in a tanking/rebuilding year. I won’t complain about the loss. I’ll complain about the fact that nobody, once Vonleh picked up two quick fouls, seemed to give a single fuck about being on the floor with other four human beings and trying to compete, if not win altogether. This was not a back-to-back night. Utah is not a deadly offensive machine. Gobert is not Gozer the Gozerian. Thabo Sefolosha shouldn’t be supposed to post a double double, like ever (B-R says he has posted 15 in his whole career. There must be a glitch at that site). Dante Exum shouldn’t dish 12 dimes in the first half just by running elementary pick-and-roll variations.
Most important of all, our guys are supposed to suck but are supposed to care! To care about what? About themselves, at least. Isn’t defense, at some point, a matter of pride? Ok, defense won’t get you a lot of money, but shouldn’t you be personally offended if the other team scores at will on you? I would be. And yet, nobody other than Vonleh seemed to take action. And definitely it wasn’t enough. Let it be known, though, that Vonleh posted a +11 plus/minus in a game we lost by 32 (Burke did, too, but he was playing against random people picked from the stands at that point).
So, well, our guys suck. Big news, huh? We have lost 7 straight and have the second-worst record in the whole league (now this is great news).
You know who I put the blame of this pathetic outing onto?
The coach, that’s who. Nobody with a sane mind should advocate firing a coach in the midst of a tanking season. It just makes no sense. And yet, Fizdale’s credibility as a good coach is already over, if you ask me. I guess you all remember how we were fine with him at the time of his hiring. I was too (Budenholzer would have never come here unless we handed him the GM role too, and he was a terrible GM in Atlanta. Great, great coach, but a terrible GM)! I was enraptured by his manners, the League waxed poetic about him, and he had the support of LeBron and Wade, for what it’s worth. I thought he was a step in the right direction, maybe two.
It was good to see him take the young players to watch playoff games together. This was a man interested in building a team and making it grow organically, it seemed. Yeah, he was saying strange things here and there (“I see Lance Thomas as our own Draymond Green”; seriously? It’s like saying I see Domino’s Pizza in downtown Bologna as my own five stars pizzeria in Positano, where you can eat the best calzone in the world while looking down and watching the soothing movement of the Mediterranean waves in a warm Sunday in June), but he looked like an alright guy. And the charisma! Dude oozes (oozed, I guess) charisma like he rolled three six on his character sheet. And then the first cracks in his armor. Kanter sulking. Burke sulking. Dotson getting DNPs. Hezonja starting for a stretch. Frank regressing (not sure if that’s Fiz’s fault, the kid looks completely lost). Weird rotation shuffles. Kanter sulking again. And so on.
Then, this game came around. Anyone who has ever played basketball, or any team sport, knows what it means when a team gives such a performance. Let me spell it out for you: the coach has lost the team. I don’t know when it happened or why. I don’t even think he lost everyone. I guess Knox, Mudiay, Vonleh and possibly THJ, Dotson and Trier aren’t actually against Fizdale. He just lost the entire team, as in “we don’t know what we’re doing here on the court and we actually couldn’t care less about it”. That’s what happens when you preach but don’t put work in. They say defense is the best offense, and I concur, but it’s not acceptable that 37 games in we still don’t have a glimmer of an offensive system in place. You know why I’m sure this is on the coach? You just have to look at what Trier does. In the last two games, there have been some minutes where there was no ballhog on the court. They were few, but they existed. And people shared the ball – not effectively, of course, but they were playing a team game. Enter Trier: the offense grinds to a halt in terms of moving the ball (brief aside: what happened to Zo? I hope it’s the nagging injury, because we don’t need another guy who goes to the rim just to be swatted multiple times in a row and then decides it’s better to pull up from 18 feet again and again until the rim deflates the ball). Now, if the coach wasn’t ok with that, and specifically gave instruction to move the ball, he’d yank the player very quickly. That’s what happens at every level! But no, Fiz is ok with that, and so we are subjected to the “eat what you kill” offense taken from the darkest days of early aughts.
Guys get tired of playing in a system where they never get the ball in their favorite places (unless you’re a chucker, because in that case your favorite place is always your hands) and might receive random DNPs because the coach wants to see if the other guy can chuck a little better. They simply check out and stop paying attention. Which, sadly, is what some of us could be tempted to do.
So, yeah, don’t fire Fiz now. It makes no sense. We’re not playing to win anything, and we don’t have a lot to develop with Mitch sidelined, Trier hitting the rookie wall and the defense wall, Dotson being who he is (by that I mean that I think he’s already reached his ceiling: this version is who he is, and I’m good with that), Frank looking like a bust and Knox looking better just because he got the green light to do whatever he wants in generous minutes – his double digit scoring streak though stays alive, yay for the Elias Sports Bureau! – but I think we should stop pretending that Fizdale knows what he’s doing with this team. It can’t get more apparent than this.
PS: I loved how Kanter got booed by the crowd. I hope he asks for a buyout tomorrow. 0 points and 4 boards in 18 minutes, and he still thinks he’s a superstar? He got to be the most deluded man on planet Earth.
I won’t see you again until next tuesday, so Happy New Year! And let’s keep on Knicksing, I just can’t help myself.