We understand the won-loss record isn’t supposed to mean much this season and that there will be plenty of growing pains as the Knicks continue their slow process of trying to rebuild into a contender. But gee-whiz.
The Knicks were actually favored Monday night against the Suns, who entered the Garden with just six wins on the season. But the Knicks delivered one of their worst performances of the season in a 128-110 loss that was every bit as ugly as it sounds.
A putrid third quarter when the Knicks were outscored 41-17 doomed the home team and prompted boos and chants of “Sell the team” from some frustrated customers in crowd.
“This is our painful path to growth,” head coach David Fizdale surmised after the Knicks dropped to 9-23.
This wasn’t growth. It was two steps backward as Fizdale admitted his team “didn’t show much mental toughness” in the third quarter when it turned a 66-59 lead at halftime into a 100-83 deficit entering the final 12 minutes.
One bad “deflated quarter,” as Fizdale put it, has been a season-long ailment that can blur the narrative the Knicks are headed in a positive direction under team president Steve Mills, general manager Scott Perry and Fizdale, who is in his first season as the head coach.
The fans who booed were certainly justified and many more nights like this will continue to test their patience.
“We have to figure out how to put together 48 minutes competing at a high level,” rookie Kevin Knox said.
The horrid defeat came on a day when owner James Dolan stirred memories of a dark time in Knicks history when Phil Jackson was in charge of the franchise. In an interview with ESPN.com published Monday, Dolan talked about how the Knicks were never on the same page during Jackson’s era and that his eventual firing in 2017 was “more about the triangle thing,” along with Jackson’s inability to “get the group to buy into it.” Later Dolan added, “I think he tried hard to get his system in. I just don’t think he ever got it in.”
Bottom line: It was never going to work. Jackson was an executive who forced his coaches to run his system. Whether the coach was Derek Fisher or Jeff Hornacek, Jackson wanted the Knicks coached his way. It was a flawed approach the franchise is still trying to dig itself out from.
Jackson has since been replaced by the current three-headed committee of Mills, Perry and Fizdale. While there are no guarantees this trio will be a successful union, at least they seem to be on the same page and in agreement with the current direction of the franchise off the court and on. Fizdale has the freedom to play who and how he wants. That’s why even with a defeat like the Knicks endured against the Suns, there is a reason to preach hope.
“We spend so much time together every day, nothing is ever a surprise between us,” Fizdale said of his dealings with Mills and Perry. “We talk a lot. I probably talk to them more than I talk to my wife. Everything is always on the table when we’re communicating.”
There were a few highlights Monday night. Emmanuel Mudiay had 32 points, while Knox was productive early before settling for 17 points. The problem was on the defensive end where the Knicks allowed the Suns to shoot 52.2 percent from the field.
“The water was coming through the dam through so many holes,” Fizdale said.
Games like this are frustrating and awful to watch, leaving you scratching your head about the Knicks. Sure, the won-loss record is always tempered by the progress of the young players who could eventually help turn the franchise into a winner. But gee-whiz.
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