The Knicks have new life. The optics tell as much of a story as recent results. However, don’t be fooled by what you’ve seen from the Knicks since their former head coach, David Fizdale, was forced to walk the plank less than 24 hours after a disturbing 129-92 loss to the Denver Nuggets at Madison Square Garden on Dec. 5. Yes, they have played more competitively under interim head coach Mike Miller, who has clearly given the team a bolt of energy. Yet the Knicks’ issues still run deep.
The NBA is a league of talent. The best teams have the most gifted players. The Knicks have earnestly tried to upgrade to be on a level with the top-tier programs but year after year fall frustratingly short of constructing a winning group. This season has already become one in which the Knicks have been compelled to focus on starting over, beginning with decisions owner James Dolan will have to make regarding who will be running the basketball operations. Currently, Knicks president Steve Mills and general manager Scott Perry are tasked with moving the franchise forward.
They should be pleased with the results Miller has produced, including a 143-120 thrashing of the Atlanta Hawks at the Garden on Tuesday night. “I’m really, really happy for our team,” said Miller after the victory over the Hawks. “The way they’ve played, the way they’ve come together with each day. They’re doing a great job.”
Unfortunately, three wins in their last four games isn’t a sustainable rate of success given the Knicks’ many flaws. Neither is playing .500 basketball. Their next two games are against the Heat in Miami tomorrow and the Milwaukee Bucks at MSG on Saturday, the latter the best team in the Eastern Conference and arguably the world. The probability the Knicks will continue to experience losing more than winning is high. They are last in the NBA in average points per game at 102.7 and last in foul shooting percentage—a direct correlation to their low scoring output—at 68.4.
Nevertheless, Miller, who earned G League Coach of the Year honors in 2018 with the Westchester Knicks, evidently has motivated the players to give maximum effort in a way Fizdale could not.
It’s unfair and unreasonable to hold Fizdale primarily responsible for the Knicks being stagnant debatably regressing over the past two seasons. He was just part of a much larger problem. The organization now must look forward, not just at marquee-named coaches like Jeff Van Gundy and Mark Jackson. The premise put forth by some that the next Knicks coach should have New York roots or connections is absurd.
The next Knicks coach should be capable of doing what Miller has done in his small six game sample size: Inspire and drive the team to play hard and competently consistently.