Like most every coach in the NBA, David Fizdale cringed a little when he saw the Chicago Bulls threaten to stage a revolt against new coach Jim Boylen.
Boylen’s sin, in the players’ eyes, was calling for them to show up the day after back-to-back games, even if the second night of the back-to-back was a 56-point loss in which the starters were pulled as a group just minutes in as the Bulls fell behind 17-0. A text chain among the players considered the option of not showing up. Instead, they orchestrated a players-only meeting before talking with the coaches to express their displeasure.
Fizdale has been a part of many staffs, but a huge part of his foundation was working for Pat Riley in Miami. It’s safe to say that Riley pushed his players harder than Boylen has. Fizdale has taken a much more player-friendly approach as the Knicks have struggled through an 8-21 season. But asked if he would consider a practice in the same circumstances, he laughed.
“I wouldn’t rule it out,” he said. “I wouldn’t rule it out. But at the end of the day, I can’t even think about what’s going on in Chicago. I’ve got a house full of young ’uns that I’ve got to take care of. But you know every coach has got to handle their situation the way that they see fit. I can only speak for my group. I feel like I’ve established a good trust with these guys so they know if I do pull something, it’s probably worthwhile and that they deserve it. So that’s how I view when I really want to crack down on them, I’m hoping that I’ve gotten to a place with these guys that they know it’s coming from the right place.”
It is a delicate balance for a coach today. While Riley or his contemporaries could push their players to exhaustion, as Boylen quickly has learned, it’s a new age.
“I just think it’s a new generation, a new player, a lot more money involved than back in the day,” Fizdale said. “These guys are making so much money now, it’s like you’re working in collaboration a lot of times with players. It’s not the old-school coach-player relationship that it used to be. There’s definitely a difference in that.
“You can’t Bobby Knight these guys. That’s for sure. But there does have to be a level of accountability and some standards that you have and as a coach you’ve got to be able to hold them to. So that’s what we try to do, have an environment of respect and accountability.”
KORNET TURNS INTO A KEEPER
With the Knicks needing to convert Allonzo Trier’s two-way contract into a full NBA deal and open a roster spot for Trier this past week, Luke Kornet was well aware that he was on the bubble.
He survived. In need of a big man more than a guard, the Knicks opted to release Ron Baker. And a day after those moves were made, Kornet found himself in an unlikely spot.
With the Knicks being pummeled and Mitchell Robinson needing to be helped to the locker room after spraining his left ankle in the first quarter in Charlotte, Kornet went from a garbage-time player at the end of the bench to a spot in the lineup at the start of the second quarter.
By the time the game was over, he was being greeted in the locker room with a bucket of ice water from his teammates in celebration of his performance — 13 points, six rebounds and three blocked shots in a comeback victory.
“Luke, it’s a testament to our player development,” Fizdale said. “Coach [Mike] Miller in the G League and Luke’s work ethic. He’s just like the rest of these guys. His number is called and he’s ready. He hadn’t been called on a lot this year and he’s kept himself ready and mentally ready. I threw him out there and he took care of business.”
Kornet insisted that he didn’t change his mindset as the decision day approached for the roster and still hasn’t even after the choice was made in his favor.
“To be honest, I didn’t really have any thoughts of it,” he said. “I mean, I obviously knew something would come because Allonzo’s played great. He deserves it. I just kept my mindset on doing what I could do by playing in the G League and getting there, practicing here, trying to make the most of it I can. It’s really just the best decision for anyone in that position because there’s nothing you can control other than what you do on the court, so I just stuck to that.”
The Knicks finished Friday night’s game with only eight healthy players and won’t be at full strength Sunday. They will be without Mitchell Robinson again (sprained left ankle). Frank Ntilikina, who played less than two minutes in the second half Friday before heading to the locker room with a sprained right ankle, is probable. Damyean Dotson is questionable after sitting out Friday’s game with a sore right shoulder, as is Lance Thomas. Trey Burke, who has missed the last six games with a sprained right knee, is probable.
The Knicks might add Isaiah Hicks, who is on a two-way contract, for the game.
The Knicks did not have a game Saturday, and several of them opted to head to Bankers Life Fieldhouse to watch Indiana beat Butler, 71-68. Noah Vonleh and assistant coach Keith Smart, both of whom played for Indiana, were joined by Tim Hardaway Jr. and Emmanuel Mudiay.