SACRAMENTO — Derek Fisher hasn’t called out his players very often. They gave him a reason to do so Wednesday night against the Jazz, though, and Fisher looked and sounded more upset than he ever has in his two seasons as Knicks coach.
They’ve had plenty of lopsided losses during Fisher’s watch, but this might have been the worst, all things considered.
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This isn’t last season’s 17-win team, but it looked like that in a 106-85 loss to Utah. The Knicks trailed by as many as 33 points in a game that was out of reach midway through the first quarter, which ended with the Jazz ahead 29-11.
Fisher played Kristaps Porzingis for only 13 minutes and said he was considering changing the starting lineup Thursday night against the Kings. Fisher also challenged the players, suggesting they’ve gotten complacent after starting 8-6. Since then they’ve gone 2-7.
“We just got to continue to respect the game and make sure we’re still approaching this as though, ‘We’re not that good yet,’ ” Fisher said. “We have to really think of that as though we’re still working extremely hard to become good.
“I don’t know if some early decent success of winning some games kind of caught up with us a little bit and thought we had some things figured out. But obviously we don’t.”
If the Knicks don’t right things, they will finish below .500 for the third straight season.
They are falling behind early seemingly every game. They were down 18 points after one quarter on Wednesday night and fell behind by 32 in the second quarter.
The Jazz got any shot it wanted against little resistance on defense. Fisher said this should be a wake-up call for anyone who thought this team had arrived.
“It’s easy to hold your head up and poke your chest out and tell everybody how great you are when it’s going well,” Fisher said. “But you really find out what you’re made of when things aren’t going so well.
“So the guys that are interested in strapping up, going hard, working harder, getting better, those are the guys we want. If you’re not interested in that, then this is not the place. So we’ll continue to make sure that that’s the level of accountability we’re putting out.”
Fisher also pointed out how out-of-the-rotation players Sasha Vujacic and Kyle O’Quinn brought “a different level of activity and energy” when they entered the game.
“At the end of the day, it just comes down to wanting it or not,” Carmelo Anthony said. “Having pride within each individual to go out there and say, ‘We’re going to get it done.’ You can blame it on X’s and O’s, you can blame it on whatever you want to blame it on. But if we don’t have pride as a team, as individuals, then it’s not going to happen.”
Fisher also said this is a critical juncture for Porzingis after the rookie’s worst game as a pro.
“They’re going to have ups and downs and nights where they look like rookies and things don’t go their way,” Fisher said. “You have to accept that as much as you accept the 28 points and 12 rebounds. That’s easy to celebrate that. This is what develops your character and your growth: How do you bounce back from this? Kris has to do it and our whole team has to do it.”
Porzingis agreed. “These are the moments that really test how mentally strong you are and how focused you can stay and not think about yourself but think about the big picture for your team,” he said. “These moments happen during your career. It’s just having that same confidence that I have every night.”