The Knicks were officially eliminated from playoff contention Monday night, March 4, with a 115-108 loss to the Sacramento Kings. It came one day after being trounced by the Los Angeles Clippers 128-107. That game was essentially over after the first quarter, which ended with the Knicks down by 18 points.
“We were in mud,” said Knicks head coach David Fizdale afterward. “No matter who I put out there they were just heavy-legged and just really out of it mentally. It was a total lack of competitive preparation.”
That assessment illuminates the continued education of an inexperienced team under the direction of a green leader. Fizdale has only been an NBA head coach for 166 games. He coached 101 with the Memphis Grizzlies from 2016 to 2018 and now 65 with the Knicks in his first season with the franchise.
After a 50-51 record with the Grizzlies before being terminated only 19 games into last season, Fizdale was 13-51 with his new team before the Knicks completed their final game of their last western road trip against the Phoenix Suns yesterday (March 6) evening. The Knicks went into the game battling the Suns for the unenviable distinction of having the worst record in the league. The Suns were just one win better at 14-51. They return to the Madison Square Garden to face the Kings again this Saturday, March 9, (12 p.m.)
Fizdale has often openly admitted to making schematic and strategic errors after some of the Knicks’ losses. But it has not been the prevailing factor as to why the franchise will be left out of the playoffs for the sixth straight season and the 12th time in the last 15. He has too many unsharpened tools to utilize in the form of 12 players 24-years-old or younger.
Fizdale is accountable for the team lacking a discernible positive identity with only 17 games left in the season. They were tied with the Miami Heat at 25th in the league in points scored per game (106) and 25th in points allowed (114.3) prior to last night’s game. The Knicks don’t play consistently hard and their collective confidence wavers. No one is more emblematic of this mental roller coaster than first-year forward Kevin Knox.
Yet there are promising signs as rookies Allonzo Trier and Mitchell Robinson are ending their rookie campaigns trending upward and Fizdale has maintained the respect and attention of the team. However, there needs to be more evident signs of growth over the concluding five weeks in what has been another arduous season for the Knicks and their fan base.