Derek Fisher wants the Knicks to be better, and understandably so. He’s a five-time champion as a player, and being .500 hardly excites him. Fisher hasn’t pushed all the right buttons himself, but for the Knicks to have a 10-10 mark heading into Saturday night’s game against the Bucks is a definite show of progress for the team and its second-year coach.
The Knicks’ 108-91 rout of the Nets Friday night at the Garden gave them their 10th win. Their 10th victory last season came on Feb. 1, in game No. 48. The Knicks were expected to be much improved, but Fisher expects them to be even better.
“I can’t hate on what the guys are doing right now,” he said. “We definitely had some games we could have closed out. We could have a few more wins under our belt. But to question what our guys are doing and how hard they’re trying to do what we’re asking of them, I think they’re meeting those expectations.
“We’re not shooting for .500. Our goal is not to be average. I’m always going to continue to push and expect more from our group. That’s what my job requires and that’s what they signed up for, so we’ll keep pushing.”
The Knicks had an easy time beating the Nets. They led by 31 points in the second straight game in which they were up by at least 23, having buried the lowly 76ers on Tuesday night.
It can be looked at as a good sign that the Knicks are beating the teams they should, especially at home. Even if that continues, though, that won’t assure them of a playoff berth, a main objective for this season. The Knicks traded their draft pick to Toronto in 2013 in the Andrea Bargnani deal, so if they miss the postseason, they won’t be rewarded with a high pick.
Fisher hopes the rout of the Nets will be the springboard for the Knicks. The ball moved and everyone was involved. The Nets’ defense wasn’t good, but the Knicks were able to spread the floor with their shooting and had strong, efficient games from their three top scorers.
Carmelo Anthony, Kristaps Porzingis and Arron Afflalo shot 23-for-42, including 9-for-14 on three-pointers, and totaled 65 points. Only Anthony played more than 30 minutes. It’s inconceivable to expect that kind of shooting every game, but the Knicks made the extra pass for the better shot most of the night. Fisher singled out point guard Jose Calderon, who took only two shots, scored one point and had 10 assists.
“I remember thinking during the game that Jose was probably the best player on the floor because he was OK with not having any points,” Fisher said. “I don’t think it’s a coincidence that we won the game in an easier fashion when you have a player only thinking about making his teammates better. The more guys we have thinking that way, the game can get easier for us. We can win games in a more efficient fashion instead of down to the buzzer every single time.
“We’ve figured out a way to win 10 games, but they haven’t looked this way necessarily. You can have multiple guys having an opportunity to make the defense work. That makes the game easier for everybody, even Melo. That’s what the goal should be to be a team and force people to have to plan for everybody, plan for our entire offense. I think that makes us a more effective group.”
With Porzingis’ emergence as a real find and a serious Rookie of the Year candidate, improved team defense and better balance, expectations are starting to grow. Fisher welcomes it.
“Success always brings a little more of a spotlight,” he said. “So we have to embrace that. Appreciate the struggles, learn from them. I think we have a number of guys that have done that, including myself, and we’re just trying to get better every day.”