Sometimes it’s hard to write about the Knicks. They’re uninspiring and do things like lose by 37 at home to the Denver Nuggets three days after a 44-point loss to the Milwaukee Bucks, which itself was five days after a 28-point beatdown by the Toronto Raptors.
But you still watch the blowouts and absorb their impact. You wonder how it’s possible that the team is still tumbling down the hill. How far down does the hill go? Is it a hill the Knicks are tumbling down, or would the better analogy be that the team has jumped out of an airplane but forgot parachutes are necessary in order to successfully skydive? Will the free fall eventually end with the Knicks dropping into a pit filled with poisonous snakes and poison-tipped spikes?
These are some of the relevant thoughts and questions less than three months into the 2019-20 campaign. Prior to Thursday’s massacre by Denver Nuggets, the Knicks were 4-17 through 21 games. Last year, when the Knicks tied the worst record in franchise history, the team was 7-14 at that same point. In 2014-15, when the Knicks initially set the franchise record for franchise futility, the team was 4-17. So — and this sentence is going to end with a question mark — at least the Knicks show consistency when it comes to the integers involved in their record through 21 games?
Coming into the season, the Knicks said they intended to act like dogs and protect their home court. The team is 3-9 at Madison Square Garden. Maybe the pressure of playing at home is too intense, and the Knicks are more confident on the road? The answer to that inquiry is no, as the Knicks are 1-9 in away games. If the Knicks are dogs, they are a squadron of Shih Tzus.
A few weeks ago, David Fizdale’s seat was starting to get hot. Today, his chair is charred from a fire that no one knows how to extinguish. It turns out that the puzzling press conference held by Steve Mills and Scott Perry in early November failed to ignite a fiery fury within the Knicks. Instead, it served as kindling for the ongoing blaze that this paragraph is all about. Someone should probably call the fire department.
"I don't care about all of that, I don't even think about that really"— Knicks Videos (@sny_knicks) December 6, 2019
- David Fizdale on if he's worried the Knicks' struggles will be blamed on him pic.twitter.com/mCjpxkpNUO
Perhaps the Knicks should fire Fizdale and install Mike Miller as an interim coach. Miller, an assistant on Fizdale’s staff, won G League Coach of the Year in 2017-18 as head coach of the Westchester Knicks. He might very well be better than Fizdale, who currently holds an overall record of 21-83 as head coach of the Knicks, which is equivalent to a winning percentage of roughly 20 percent. Or, put the opposite way, Fizdale has lost about 80 percent of his games since taking the job in New York. Take that for data.
It’s certainly possible that a coaching change could lead to a turnaround of some kind, but a complete about-face is unlikely. Though they claim to be dogs, the Knicks will not sniff the postseason this year.
Their best bet is to trade players like Marcus Morris for assets if they can convince a decent team that they might be the missing piece. Their worst bet would be trading young players like 21-year-old Frank Ntilikina or 20-year-old Kevin Knox because they haven’t yet proven whether they are going to be good, great, bad, horrible, decent or somewhere in between.
A true solution isn’t even really in sight. Fire Mills and Perry? In the middle of the season? That’s chaos. It might also be necessary. But what then? Pay Masai Ujiri an ungodly amount of money to leave the defending champion Raptors and come serve at the mercy of James Dolan?
The only team worse than the Knicks right now is the Golden State Warriors, which are still unarguably in a better position than the ‘Bockers, seeing as Steph Curry and Klay Thompson should be healthy and ready to go by next season and the Dubs will be armed with a high draft pick.
The Knicks should also receive a top selection in the next NBA draft, and the team does have some solid young players, but R.J. Barrett is currently the only one who looks like he could be the top dog on a decent team. If we’re being honest, it’s still unclear whether a team with Barrett as chief canine could even be all that good. And why should we even assume he’ll be here a few years from now? Barrett seemed pumped to be a Knick when he was drafted, but when’s the last time a first round pick stuck around in New York for more than a few seasons? If you follow the Knicks, you should already know the answer is Charlie Ward.
It seems obvious that the rest of this season should be solely about developing Barrett, Ntilikina, Knox, Mitchell Robinson and Dennis Smith Jr., along with other youngsters like Damyean Dotson and Allonzo Trier. See how the young’uns react to the endless embarrassment and attempt to evaluate which ones should be retained for the long term.
The more likely reality, however, is that the Knicks will continue to tinker with lineups in an attempt to scrounge up a few victories. Unfortunately, the team has no more games against the Dallas Mavericks this season. Maybe the Knicks can be like Bobby Boucher in The Waterboy and picture the head of Kristaps Porzingis on every opponent they play for motivational purposes.
It can sometimes be hard to write about the Knicks, but then suddenly the words start flowing out like water from a fire house that won’t shut off. Won’t somebody please turn that fire hose in the direction of MSG?