Can Kurt Coach?

First and foremost, my deepest apologies for the long hiatus. I’d been waiting for an opportune moment over the last couple of weeks to swan-dive back into everybody’s favorite one stop site for all things Knicks basketball only to be greeted by the ugliest, most depressing stretch of this otherwise promising season. When Phil ultimately decided he’d had enough on Monday and fired head coach Derek Fisher less than two years into his five year contract, I took it as a sign to stop ignoring the carnage going on in MSG and re-commit myself to the Knicks for the rest of 2016.

In theory, I’m not opposed to the move. There were more than a couple of analysts who noticed development from Fish in his second year on the job, shortening his rotation to a handful of key reserves and working towards fixing a couple of classic Knicks’ achilles heels in protecting the three point line and inbounding the ball in key situations. Hell, for all of the noise about how the Knicks consistently fall apart in the last minutes of close games, they are actually fourth in the league in offense during those periods. I’m not sure how much the New York front office is really serious about making it to the Eastern Conference 8th seed and getting ripped on by Lebron in the first round, but firing Fisher was not about that. This was personalities clashing behind the scenes.

And, as much as I wanted to watch the game last night for the inevitable Phil Jackson interview and the cryptic soundbites out of the Zen Master (“It’s not paramount, but at some point I’m going to have a relationship with somebody who’s going to coach this team”), I was really more interested to see how the Knicks players would respond to the firing of Fisher. Would interim coach and long-time triangle devotee Kurt Rambis be able to provide a much-needed spark for a team that had gone 1-9 in the last ten contests.

A couple of thoughts from the game:

  • The Knicks lost. Of course. Which made the decision of firing Fisher and putting in Rambis only one game ahead of All-Star weekend, which would have been a more natural break to the season, an even more curious decision in hindsight.
  • For the most part the Knicks looked exactly like they looked under Derek Fisher. Flat out of the gate, mounting a furious comeback during the second half and throwing the game away with about three minutes left.
  • The Wizards absolutely RIPPED us from three. I don’t know how much of that was just statistical randomness that will happen every now and then (thanks Nate Duncan!) and how much of it was John Wall absolutely obliterating our point guard defense and finding open shooters but this team finished over 60% from downtown with a particularly unpleasant 10-12 at the half. Raining in the Garden.
  • Carmelo played pretty well, finishing 12-22 with 33 points and 13 rebounds and Rambis showed an inclination to ride him for big stretches, keeping him in for the first 16 minutes of the game and letting Derrick Williams see the court only sporadically.
  • Excised from the rotation completely was Jerian Grant in favor of 14 minutes for Sasha Vujacic, who was somehow a plus 10 in those minutes and looked pretty good rebounding the ball. I don’t have anything else to say about this guy. Just a sub-par NBA talent and an absolute failure for this organization to not give Grant some more play heading forward.
  • With the game on the line and a little under 6 minutes in the game Rambis went small, using the starting lineup with Porzingis at center and bringing in a defensive backcourt presence with Galloway. I was encouraged by the creativity and the fact that he realized Calderon had basically watched John Wall make out with his girlfriend all night. The dude finished with 28 and 17, taking a dagger to all of the voters who chose Kyle Lowry as the premier point guard in the East.

Can’t say I have much more to report. I flipped over to Golden State and Houston instead of watching any postgame Kurt comments (great decision by the way), but it certainly doesn’t look like this guy is going to be shuffling the deck in any kind of meaningful way. And, on a night that started with Rambis saying he’d do all he could to get us into the playoffs by the end of the season, this can’t really be viewed as anything other than a big stumble and fall out of the gate.

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