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Fizdale enters week-long break on a win, and with a challenge to his Knicks

Knicks coach David Fizdale reacts during the first

Knicks coach David Fizdale reacts during the first half of the team's game against the Hawks on Thursday in Atlanta. Photo Credit: AP/John Bazemore

David Fizdale was already out of his suit and in a comfortable outfit of warmup gear shortly after the game ended, heading from the arena as quickly as possible to a much-needed vacation.

While he left the Knicks' mostly young players with a message to enjoy their time away after finally ending the long nightmare of a franchise-record 18-game losing streak, he wanted them working, too. But for himself, after living through it every day as the face of the team left to explain away every loss, he promised to keep track of the two players bound for All-Star Weekend in Charlotte. Mostly, though, he wanted to relax.

“I’m going to watch them for sure wherever I’m at,” Fizdale said of Kevin Knox and Dennis Smith Jr. “Hopefully it’s going to be on sand with a TV.”

There are, as you would expect for an 11-47 team, no players in the real All-Star Game Sunday night, but Knox competes in the Rising Stars Challenge Friday night and Smith is one of the contestants in Saturday night’s Slam Dunk contest. The rest of the team was scattering for a nearly week-long break, not due back until late next week ahead of Friday’s return to action against the Timberwolves.

The one win didn’t clear the slate on what has been a horrendous stretch, not only with the 18 straight losses and 31 in the last 34 games, but also the risky roster reconstruction ahead of the trade deadline when the Knicks, after insisting that the rebuild was centered around the return of Kristaps Porzingis, traded him. 

“I don’t know what the slate was,” Fizdale said. “The slate was for everybody else. Our guys weren’t caught up in that slate. Our guys focused on each other and getting better and fighting to get this next game. That’s going to be their mentality all the way through.”

While the roster and lineup have shuffled nightly, Fizdale has had to be the constant, put out in front of the microphones to explain away what is happening as the Knicks point vaguely toward a better future. 

So maybe he needed this win more than anyone else in the locker room.

“I was locked and loaded to go the distance,” Fizdale said. “Whatever it took, whenever that win was going to come, I didn’t break my routine. I didn’t break away from anything. I just kept my head down and kept working and trying to tinker to do whatever it took to get a win. Obviously, it feels good for me. But I’m on to vacation now. I’m going to let this one go and get ready for the first one coming out.

"I just challenged our team to not take a day off and to take an hour, two hours every day to get themselves in better condition, to make sure that their shot stays in rhythm. That doesn’t take a lot out of a 24-hour day and so hopefully we can come back in really good shape, hit the ground running and keep building on this win."

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