Although the NBA preseason games are officially meaningless, they contain indicators that may reveal what the regular season will be like. With the Knicks’ first game coming soon (October 8th), the good folks here at KnickerBlogger have put together a guide for the keys to watch for.
The Knicks offseason contained a number of impactful moves. Perhaps swapping defensive robot Tyson Chandler for bombardero extraordinario Jose Calderon will have the biggest impact on the court. Perhaps one of the bevvy of 20ish Knicks like Iman Shumpert, Tim Hardaway Jr., Cleanthony Early, Shane Larkin, Thanasis Antetokounmpo, or Cole Aldrich (he’s still only 25!) might become an impact player in ’15. However I think the biggest change won’t occur from the roster, but rather the bench.
Derek Fisher accepted the Knicks job this summer, albeit he was not the Knicks’ first choice. After Steve Kerr apparently declined the offer — because the Knicks — Jackson settled on the next available reliable former guard. With either choice the Knicks would have been depending on an unknown quantity to lead their team. While Kerr has been a television analyst and former general manager, Fisher is a bit less experienced wearing a suit. He spent last year in a Thunder jersey.
Unlike hiring a seasoned commander, no one knows what Fisher’s tendencies are. The previous two Knick coaches, D’Antoni and Woodson, each had their own style and it was predictable what the team would look like under them. So to figure out exactly who Derek Fisher is, there are a few things to key in on.
The first is what style does he play? While it’s unlikely the Knicks will take the warmup games too seriously & some veterans will see more bench time than usual, there are other aspects to judge. One aspect I’ll be looking at his pace and lineup formations. D’Antoni was noted for his small lineups and quick shots, while Woodson loved putting in as many 6-9 or taller players because bigger is always better (BIG EAST!). So does Fisher let his guys run, or does he prefer to hold the ball and look for the open shot? Will he play big or small? What kind of combinations does he like? Will he put out offensive or defensive heavy combinations?
The second thing to keep an eye out for is his play design. Under the last 2 coaches, the Knicks struggled to convert after timeouts (ATOs). Is Coach Fisher capable with the Sharpie and Dry Erase? What kind of plays does he use? Is he creative or does he play it straight? Most importantly, are the players getting open shots?
Third, what is Fisher’s demeanor during games? Is he demonstrative? Does he hold players accountable? If a player takes poor shots (*cough* J.R. Smith *cough*) or makes boneheaded defensive plays (*cough* Bargnani *cough*) does he light a fire under their seats? Does he try to control the game with timeouts during runs, or does he adopt Jackson’s Zen-like attitude of “the universe will work itself out, man”?
Finally, how does the new Knick coach handle the pressure of decision making in the final minutes? Does he keep track of his timeouts and use them wisely? Does he do proper offensive and defensive substitutions?
My philosophy on NBA coaches is that the great ones who can add a few to the win column are few and far in between. It’s far more likely to have a coach that will cost a team a few wins through his own inept bumbling. The rest are average who bring the same number of strengths and weaknesses to the table. If Fisher lands in the second group, the 2015 Knicks’ season is going to be a long one.