GREENBURGH, N.Y. — Back in the summer when the talk of the rebuild was in full swing, David Fizdale certainly knew there would be hard times in his first season.
The seven straight losses that the Knicks carry into Friday night’s game in Brooklyn, sure, he could see that coming. Maybe even the 10-36 record, even if he didn’t want to think about it.
Fizdale is trying to navigate through a season in which the organization shudders at the mention or notion that it’s tanking. Now he’s dealing with the dysfunction that comes with the mounting losses and realistic decisions to move on from the last generation of players.
Enes Kanter is openly speaking about his frustration with his reduced role — a role that evaporated to zero Wednesday night. Kanter was told in the morning that he would start against the Rockets, was informed before the game by assistant coach Keith Smart that he would come off the bench, and then never came off the bench.
Tim Hardaway Jr. and rookie Allonzo Trier screamed at each other on the court — and maybe more disconcerting, Trier is sniping on social media.
Asked if he is worried that all this will become a distraction that damages what he’s trying to do, Fizdale smiled and said, “What are we going to do? Lose more games?
“I shouldn’t make light of it. Sometimes you’ve got to laugh. No, it’s a lesson for all of them. Because they’re all going to end up in different scenarios. So what I try to do is take all of these situations and teach them and prepare them on how to handle this stuff. None of them are going to be perfect in it. I’m not going to be perfect in it. But at the end of the day, we all got a job to do. They pay us a lot of money to come here and do it.”
The Knicks can plot for this summer, the lottery pick that all of the losing will bring and a chase of a star in free agency. But in the meantime, the losing is wearing thin on a team that has shown little signs of the player development set as the goal for this season.
Kanter, Lance Thomas and Courtney Lee have seen their minutes disappear, but mostly in favor of players such as Emmanuel Mudiay and Noah Vonleh — both free agents at season’s end. The most recent lottery pick, Kevin Knox, has gotten a crash course with huge minutes, but the previous lottery pick, Frank Ntilikina, has struggled to find his place.
So now Kanter is teetering on a trade demand, saying he is leaving the situation to his agent, Mark Bartelstein, and general manager Scott Perry. And Hardaway didn’t seem pleased — first by Trier not passing to him on a two-on-one break early in Wednesday’s game and then by learning that Trier had sent a direct message to a fan that put the onus on Hardaway for a defensive lapse late in the game.
A fan criticized Trier for his defense on Eric Gordon’s three-pointer with 12.4 seconds left that put Houston in front. Trier responded in a direct message that the fan posted publicly. Trier admitted that the expletive-laden message came from him. Hardaway was told of the tweet about a play in which Fizdale said Hardaway was supposed to switch on to Gordon. Hardaway said, “Oh, so [Trier is] blaming other people, basically?”
Said Trier: “It was me being frustrated about the game, letting social media get the best of you . . . So my apologies for doing that. It’s not the way I want to represent myself or this organization. You learn. That’s something that won’t happen again. I didn’t think he would take a picture of it and post it, but he got his little clout or whatever, his little 15 seconds of fame. That’s why you don’t send stuff like that out. That was just the competitor in me. Sometimes that can be your gift and your curse.”
Fizdale spoke with Trier. “I talked to him about it and just said I know where it’s coming from because he’s frustrated,” Fizdale said. “He wants people to understand how much he wants to win and compete. But it can’t come out in that kind of anger and frustration, and it definitely can’t come out on social media.”
The Knicks figure to resolve some of their issues by the Feb. 7 trade deadline. Kanter is being shopped around the league, and several others could be traded.
When asked if he thinks he’ll be a Knick after the deadline, Kanter said, “I mean, I have no idea. I don’t know what’s going to happen at the trade deadline. It’s not in my hand. I would love to be here. Like I said from the first day, I love this organization. I love the fans. I want to be part of the future. But they treat me like I’m 34 years old. I’m 26.”
“That’s out of my realm right there,” Fizdale said. “I don’t care who’s in a Knicks uniform, I am going to coach the hell out of them and try to make them a better player and person. Whatever agents and our front-office people decide, I’ll go with the flow of that. But right now, I’m just focused on them.”