Knicks coach Derek Fisher had a great deal to work on in the offseason, and he seems to be going the extra mile to correct last season's biggest flaw. The three-point defense? That sluggish, stilted offense? Nah, I'm talking about the real problem with that 17-win club:
Fisher: It was a "mistake" that everybody made last yr in saying NYK could make playoffs. Part of why they won't predict anything this yr.— Chris Herring (@HerringWSJ) October 20, 2015
We did it! We slayed the prediction dragon! Both Fisher and team president Phil Jackson have been frightened away from any wild, ridiculous prognostications...like declaring publicly that their players could make the playoffs. It's hard to blame them -- Jackson was crucified last season nearly as much for the whole "we can make the postseason" statement as the crap-tactular group that played out the regular season. Expressing the possibility of a playoff berth makes your failure twice as bad. You lied to us and you're stupid!!!
What we fans need to understand -- and yes, I'm placing the blame for this squarely on us -- is that a coach's prediction is in no way an actual prediction. That's not a coach's job. Hell, it isn't even really a reporter's job. It's a job for a psychic. Coaches are there to coach, to motivate. Every public statement they make about their team should be with these goals in mind. If a coach says his team can be a 50-win team, he's publicly expressing confidence in his players. The number is practically irrelevant.
Consider for a moment the Utah Jazz, a team that also missed the playoffs in 2014-15, but who enter this season with the mantle of "everyone's sleeper," a popular pick to snag the eighth seed in the West. Well their head coach, Quin Snyder, was having none of that on Tuesday night, ripping into the his team after a loss to Oklahoma City:
Quin Snyder was asked if he wants to see Rudy Gobert get it going before the season starts. This epic quote ensued: pic.twitter.com/Fxbdp9Pyv0— Jody Genessy (@DJJazzyJody) October 21, 2015
He stopped just short of saying the Jazz aren't ready to compete for a playoff berth this season. Does that mean he's predicting that the Jazz won't make the playoffs? Of course not. He's looking at a young squad, perhaps buying too much into the hype, and taking them down a peg.
The Knicks are in the opposite position. There is no hype surrounding them. They aren't expected to make the playoffs. And so Carmelo Anthony laughed when he's told the FiveThirtyEight model predicts them to be a 27-win team. He should laugh -- it's his team as much as any player's, and he has every right to go out and expect better things this season. Fisher should be able to laugh too. He should be able to take the podium and say, "Hell yes, I expect us to have a chance at the playoffs."
But he can't, and for that we are to blame. Knicks fans created the shitstorm that followed Phil Jackson's failed prediction last year, and the media -- particularly those catering to the worst fans -- pesters him about it to this very day.
Look, I love raging at predictions as much as the next guy. I believe they will be much better than a 27-win team. Hell, I believe they can compete for a playoff spot, and you can feel free to come back to this article in April when they're sitting on 23 wins. I'm not sure why you would care, though.
If the Knicks are terrible once again, then Fisher and Jackson deserve criticism -- not for missing some arbitrary win total, but for failing to play up to their potential. Until the season starts, however, all any of us -- coaches, players, reporters, fans -- can do is can guess, and hope.