Knicks executives Steve Mills and Scott Perry rarely speak publicly. Like all of their predecessors, they never do it on the spur of the moment, such as an impromptu news conference after an ugly loss when tempers are escalated.
But after the Knicks’ humiliating 108-87 loss to the Cavaliers at the Garden on Sunday, when the door to the conference room opened, it was Mills and Perry who stepped to the microphone.
While the two spoke about their need to address the media and the fans in the wake of a 2-8 start to the season, Mills acknowledged that Madison Square Garden chairman James Dolan had spoken to them during the game (all three were conspicuously absent from their seats for much of the second half). After an offseason spending spree that hardly fulfilled the sort of promise of stars that Dolan expected, it is clear that no one at the Garden is happy right now.
“I mean, Jim still believes in the plan we put together,” Mills said. “But he’s passionate as we are about this. He would want us to have better results on the floor as well. But I think Jim is a fan and believes in what we’re doing. But he has the same kind of expectations that we have. This is really about how we feel about what we should be doing, what we should be delivering as a group. We all take responsibility for that.”
The Knicks remade the team, and other than an effort such as Friday’s win in Dallas, which seems like an anomaly when measured against the other games, it has been a massive letdown.
Julius Randle led the Knicks with 20 points and 16 rebounds Sunday night, but they got little from anyone else. Collin Sexton had 31 points for the Cavaliers.
The Knicks are stocked with veterans and have the goal of improving drastically on last season’s 17-65 record, but they have trailed by at least 18 points in all four of their home games. They trailed the Cavs by as many as 30.
“Obviously, Scott and I are not happy with where we are right now,” Mills said. “We think the team is not performing to the level that we anticipated or we expected to perform at, and that’s something that we think we collectively have to do a better job of delivering the product on the floor that we said we would do at the start of this season.
“We still believe in our coaching staff. We believe in the plan Scott and I put together and the players that we assembled. But we also have to acknowledge that we haven’t played at the level we expected to play at. We haven’t played.”
“They’re [expletive] right,” Marcus Morris said. “Who likes losing? There’s always a sense of urgency when you’re losing. Who likes losing? They’re right — we need to win. We got great players, we got great chemistry, we got great guys on this team. We got to win, guys.
“If I was the front office, I’d be upset, too. We need to win. Our coach is doing a good job. We just got to do better. They’re not the ones giving up 20-point leads in the first half. That’s us. That’s all on us. We have to own it and we have to be better.”
Coach David Fizdale took the blame on his shoulders, which he should be cautious about stating too loudly. Blame trickles down fast and furious at the Garden. All he has to do is check out the tenures of the coaches who have preceded him to know the job is a tenuous one.
“We’re always in communication with each other,” he said. “None of us are happy with it. But ultimately, that falls on me as the head coach. I have to figure out a way to build some consistency with this team throughout whatever the built-in excuses may be.”
If 10 games seems early to make drastic changes, Perry didn’t point to 82 as the measuring stick, either. “We’ve been below the line to this point,” he said. “But hopefully this next stretch of 10 games, we’ll get above that line and have more consistent results.”
Fizdale tried to defuse some of the panic, noting, “A good friend of mine told me to never overreact to overreactors. We’re two games from the eighth seed. The team that’s in the eighth seed right now has four wins. So it’s not that like, oh my God, everybody’s acting like the world is coming to an end. It’s not. We just have to find our consistency in our games so we can start playing better basketball.”