I was way too hard on Knicks head coach Derek Fisher in the buildup to Saturday's win over the Washington Wizards. I disagreed strongly with his starting backcourt. I wanted Langston Galloway to start* ... which, based on his play of late, wasn't exactly the most unreasonable request.
*By the way, Langston scored 22 points the last time the Knicks faced the Spurs, who just so happen to be Monday's opponent. Food for thought.
But Fisher stuck stubbornly to the geriatric tandem of Jose Calderon and Sasha Vujacic. So I ranted and raved and cursed his name to the basketball gods.
And then the Knicks stunned Washington, thanks to a heavy dose of late-game composure and an offense that impressed even John Wall:
John Wall on the New York Knicks' new-look offense. pic.twitter.com/Q8K0rEeX8b— Alex Kennedy (@AlexKennedyNBA) November 1, 2015
Fisher deserves a good deal of credit for all this. He showed real growth by the end of last season, and it has carried over so far into 2015-16. I, for one, was so caught up in complaining about the starting lineup that I ignored how well the team actually played in the first week of the season.
As a way of making it up to him, here are some of the positive signs of Derek Fisher's coaching aptitude:
- The Knicks are third in the NBA in offensive efficiency, scoring 111.5 points per 100 possessions. We knew they'd probably have to score at an elite clip to outpace their defense, and so far they have.
- The offense has done the serious damage despite two rough shooting nights for Carmelo Anthony, not to mention the complete absence of presumed No. 2 scoring option Arron Afllalo. In the 47 minutes Melo has been on the bench this season, the Knicks are averaging a preposterous 126.4 points per 100 possessions.
- Believe it or not -- and I'm still not sure I believe it -- the Knicks rank 10th in the league in pace. Fisher said they would play more uptempo, and so far he's kept his word.
- Melo isn't even in the top 50 in minutes played per game right now (32.3). Yes, two of those games were blowouts, but when did that ever stop a Knicks coach from sending him out there for 42 minutes?
- Jerian Grant and Kristaps Porzinigs have been handled fairly well. They're playing regular minutes, and their roles have gradually been increased. Most important, they're being held accountable for their mistakes, which is why Grant didn't play in the fourth quarter after failing to handle Washington's pressure defense in the third.
- Calderon and Derrick Williams are at the bottom of minutes list for rotation players, as it probably should be.
- Speaking of Williams, I really appreciated the way Fisher handled him Saturday night. D-Will was completely out of control in the first half, bricking a series of insane fadeaway jumpers he had no business shooting. Fisher gave him a quick hook, and didn't initially put him back out with the bench unit in the third quarter. Whether or not something was said, the message was clearly received: Williams played within himself in the second half, drawing four free throws.
While it may be far too early to know for sure if he will be a good NBA coach, we should at least admit that Derek Fisher is an improving NBA coach. He finally has an NBA-worthy roster to work with, and the early signs are encouraging. At the very least, he's better than Mike Woodson.