DENVER — Shortly before David Fizdale coached his final game for the Knicks, Nuggets coach Michael Malone complimented him, praising him for how he was managing the team in a difficult situation.
Before facing the Knicks on Sunday night, with Fizdale having been replaced by interim coach Mike Miller, Malone came to the deposed coach’s defense.
“Well, they needed to make a change and they made the change they felt was appropriate,” said Malone, who once was an assistant with the Knicks, as was his father, longtime NBA coach Brendan Malone. “Obviously, there has been so much written and talked about since David has been fired. But is David the fall guy? Does it start higher up with the front office and ownership? You know, I can’t answer those questions.
“I know Fiz is a good coach. I know he’s a good man and I know all the players in that locker room still believe in him. From what I hear, the day he got fired, the players had a player-only meeting and talked about how they have to go out there and do a much better job. So it doesn’t all fall on Fiz.
“I think the one thing I can say is I’m the son of a coach. We all know when you get into this business what it entails. When things don’t go right, the first guy they’re going to look at is the head coach. Unfortunately, that’s what happened with Fiz. I feel he’ll wind up back on his feet because he’s a good coach and he’s very well respected.”
The Smith saga
Dennis Smith Jr. was healthy but took a DNP-coaches decision Friday in Sacramento and again Sunday.
“I’m just supporting them,” said Smith, who added that he has never been in this situation in his life. “Hope they keep playing well, and it is what it is. Be a good teammate. That’s all I can do. Control what I can control. I can’t control if I play or not. I can control if I’m a good teammate, support my guys.’’
Smith said he hasn’t talked to Miller about the situation. “I ain’t really like the wait-around-type guy,” he said. “I just put in extra work. I ain’t playing in the game, put extra work in.”
Said Miller, “He’s healthy. He’s well. Everybody is available and ready to go tonight. So the strategy would be whatever we need. We’re kind of in that mode where their point guards are explosive. We’re going into it ready knowing we have confidence in three guys that we can play. We see that as an advantage.’’
With Allonzo Trier sidelined while in concussion protocol and Wayne Ellington out with a sore left Achilles, Kadeem Allen rejoined the Knicks as an insurance policy Sunday.