It’s only seven games into the season and Knicks coach David Fizdale is starting to feel some heat.
The Knicks are 1-6, but until Sunday night, they had played well enough on defense to give fans hope that eventually they will put all their new pieces together. There was nothing hopeful, however, about their 113-92 loss to a struggling Kings team.
The Knicks fans vented their frustration in the third quarter, launching into the first “Fire Fizdale” chant that has been heard at the Garden since he was hired and handed a three-year contract last season. Then the usually unflappable Fizdale stepped out of character to vent some frustration in his postgame remarks.
Fizdale called the game “very disappointing” and then took issue with a reporter who questioned whether rookie RJ Barrett is playing too many minutes. Barrett played 41 minutes in the loss and was in the game in garbage time with six minutes left.
“He’s got the day off tomorrow,” Fizdale responded. “Got to get off this load management crap. Latrell Sprewell averaged 42 minutes for a season. The kid is 19 years old. Drop it already.”
Barrett is averaging 37.1 minutes per game. That is three minutes more than any other NBA rookie.
Barrett said after Sunday’s game that he’s fine with the minutes he’s playing. “What do you think? I’m 19,” he said. “I’m good. If I felt it wasn’t [good], I’d tell him.”
Playing Barrett so many minutes isn’t the only coaching decision that is causing fans to scratch their heads. Fizdale has used five different lineups in seven games.
On Sunday night he replaced Mitchell Robinson in the starting lineup with Bobby Portis in the hope that it would space the floor better and open things up for the struggling Julius Randle. The Knicks were outscored by 27 points in Randle’s 27 minutes, and they outscored the Kings by five points in Robinson’s 25 minutes.
Fizdale also has made some curious substitutions or non-substitutions. He pulled Frank Ntilikina after he picked up his second foul five minutes into the first quarter, but Ntilikina played only 10 more minutes in the game despite just picking up just one more foul. Given that he is one of the team’s top defenders, it might have been interesting to see if he could at least slow De’Aaron Fox.
Marcus Morris, the team’s leading scorer, has no problems with his coach’s lineup changes and substitutions.
“It’s 10 new guys, 10 new guys on this team. And we’ve played seven games," he said. "That don’t have nothing to do with basketball. Everybody knows how to play basketball. It’s not like it’s a game-day decision. We go and practice and we practice with the five that start.
“So it’s not like it’s just up in the air and guys don’t know what’s going on. He’s very transparent. He’s telling us the reason why he’s trying to experiment and see how it goes. Any coach, you give any coach in the league 10 new guys and see how good they do with them. Like I said, he’s putting us in the best position to win, and it’s on us.”