Knicks Start Over Again, Fire Derek Fisher
The New York Knicks are all about new beginnings. On Monday afternoon, they set out to start over again at head coach. Per reports, the Knicks have severed ties with second-year head coach Derek Fisher, ending Phil Jackson’s experiment with his one-time disciple just over a year after he was regarded as New York’s “coach of the future.
Assistant coach Kurt Rambis is set to take over as the interim coach, but is unlikely to keep the job past this season. Following the conclusion of the 2015-16 NBA season, Jackson and co. are expected to make a run at a more permanent presence, with former Jackson disciples Brian Shaw and Luke Walton rumored to be near the top of the list.
Phil Jackson anointed Fisher as the next great Knicks coach the summer after he wrapped up his playing career, narrowly missing out on Steve Kerr in the process. Just 1.5 years at the helm, Fisher struggled with a badly ravaged Knicks roster last season, going just 17-65. New York got back a healthy Carmelo Anthony and drafted big man Kristaps Porzingis and even looked like they might be a part of the Eastern Conference playoff picture after a decent start.
Fisher has lost control lately, however, as Melo’s knee issues have flared up, Zinger has hit the rookie wall and the rest of the team isn’t good enough to keep things going in a positive direction. A mediocre 23-31 record nearing the All-Star break may have been the death of him, but Fisher’s immature antics with players and their girlfriends (see: Barnes, Matt) could have also played into the firing.
State of NYC
With Fisher gone, Kurt Rambis takes over as a competent mind that could easily right the ship. He hasn’t proven anything either way as an assistant or head coach (two years in Minnesota) in the league, but as a former NBA great and long-time Jackson confident, there’s little doubt he’s at least earned the shot to prove himself.
The unfortunate reality is that Melo has a balky knee again and the Knicks aren’t locked into a playoff spot. Even if Rambis coaches extremely well, Melo could still get shut down and the Knicks could see the losses mount.
Rambis and Melo aside, New York needs to think more about the future. That means locking up some trades to better the team for 2016 and beyond. If that means sacrificing a cameo in this year’s NBA playoffs, then so be it.
One big obstacle is unloading point guard Jose Calderon. Calderon is a solid spot-up shooter but he no longer runs an offense at an elite level and has never been a quality defender. He’s a liability and there also is a very interesting point guard prospect in Jerian Grant behind him. Trading Calderon could net the Knicks an asset or two and would also give free reign to Grant, who would have the rest of the season to prove he can be the Knicks’ point guard of the future.
Arron Afflalo, Derrick Williams, Lance Thomas, Langston Galloway and Robin Lopez can’t be off limits in trade talk, either. They all form a respectable supporting cast when Melo is healthy and Zinger isn’t struggling, but when it’s the other way around, they’re just space-fillers that contribute to the losses. If the Knicks can gain assets for them, they might want to consider doing so and try again to quickly rebuild next year with a trio of Melo, Porzingis and Grant as their foundation.
With a decent foundation and some picks for the 2016 NBA Draft to lean on, the Knicks could possibly reel in a prized free agent and also land the head coach of their choosing. That should be Luke Walton, who played a big part in the Golden State Warriors racing out to an NBA best 25-0 start this year. With Walton in tow, the Knicks could very quickly take a big jump as quickly as next season.
No matter what the Knicks do, the interim doesn’t look amazing. Betting on the Knicks to win games consistently for the rest of the way isn’t overly safe and banking on them making the playoffs doesn’t look like the best idea, either.
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