Veteran Knicks mostly took the firing of Derek Fisher in stride, understanding that it is part of the business, but they also expressed regret that their former coach took the fall for what they described as a group failure.
“I was surprised; in my mind I don’t think the problem was really with one person,” said Robin Lopez, one of four regulars who spoke in the locker room before Tuesday night’s game at Madison Square Garden against the Wizards, shortly after Carmelo Anthony had addressed reporters in a club area just outside the room.
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“We had had some success and I think we all realized as players that it was really on us. That’s how I feel, at least.”
Added Derrick Williams, “I think it’s all of us. It wasn’t just him. It’s the bad thing about this business. We didn’t play well. We were 1-9. We struggled over the last 10 games. Something had to change.”
Jose Calderon said, “I think sometimes coaches get blamed, but it’s just about everybody. He was the guy let go but at the end of the day we are all together, from the top to the bottom of the staff, players, everybody. It’s tough to see him go like that because maybe we weren’t winning games lately, but it’s tough to see somebody go like that.
“It’s on us to turn this around or not and we’ve been saying that for a couple of weeks now. We were right there and we knew it was a tough stretch of games at home and we wanted to win those games to make a push for the playoffs and we couldn’t close games, injuries, whatever it was, but we couldn’t get over that hump to win games.”
Arron Afflalo said, “This is a winning business, and we know that. There could have been a multitude of reasons why change needs to take place and a lot of times coaches get the responsibility, but we’ve got to win. We’ve got to win. This is a city and a franchise that expects to win.
“We have been in games, but we haven’t closed them out or started well enough to compete for 48 minutes. We just have to win.”
Asked what message team president Phil Jackson had for the players, Afflalo said, “Win. Pretty simple word. Don’t compete just to compete. Play together. Get our defensive intensity and focus back and most importantly do what you have to do to win the game.”
Might the Knicks use the triangle offense more under Kurt Rambis than they did under Fisher?
“It’s pretty much all we play,” Afflalo said. “Mainly. I mean, I don’t know how well we execute it, but that’s what we play.”