A number of New York Knicks players expressed their disappointment at the decision to fire David Fizdale following the team’s defeat to the Indiana Pacers.
Handed their ninth straight loss in heartbreaking fashion against the Pacers on Saturday, the Knicks fell to 4-19 on the year, equalling the record set in 2014 for the worst start in franchise history.
It is familiar territory for the Knicks, as they failed to attract star free agents like Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving in the off-season, with the bright lights and glamour of New York City eclipsed by six consecutive losing seasons.
Even the sudden firing of head coach Fizdale, intended to reset the team’s trajectory, seemed to backfire, with stunned players lamenting their leader’s departure.
“It’s a family thing,” center Mitchell Robinson told reporters after their 103-104 loss in front of a rowdy hometown crowd. “[Fizdale is] still going to be part of us no matter what. He looked after us besides basketball but as people as well.”
While a gobsmacking 129-92 loss against the Denver Nuggets on Thursday and Monday’s 132-88 drubbing at the hands of the Milwaukee Bucks should have foretold the coach’s impending fate, Fizdale’s departure nonetheless “caught everyone by surprise,” according to guard Dennis Smith Jr.
“We didn’t want it to fall all on him,” Smith told a scrum of reporters in the locker room, prior to Saturday night’s contest. “We talked about that actually, like, ‘we’ve got to start taking responsibility,’ because he would stand up in front of y’all and take all the bullets for all of us.
“It’s not 100 per cent on him.”
Indeed it seems like those at the top may agree, with New York Knicks president Steve Mills’ job reportedly under threat, according to Frank Isola of The Athletic.
Sources believe Mills, who has been at the Knicks since 2013, could be fired because of the team’s struggles during his tenure – when they have never made the playoffs or finished with a winning record – and that owner James Dolan will try to convince Toronto Raptors President Masai Ujiri to join the franchise.
Regardless of what’s happening at the top though, the slate of NBA regular season games never slows down. Power forward Julius Randle, who missed a second free throw that would have tied Saturday’s game in its final moments, told reporters the team had no choice but to “keep fighting.”
“We’ve got a long season ahead and we have to keep moving on,” said Randle.
The team next flies west to take on the Portland Trailblazers on Tuesday, kicking off a bruising four-game road trip that proves there is no rest for weary.
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