PHILADELPHIA — By late on Jan. 8 in Oakland, there is a chance the Knicks will own the NBA’s worst record. That is how murderous the Knicks’ schedule will turn starting on Christmas and ending against the Warriors.
Knicks coach David Fizdale said he’s just trying to cope, “rewire” his brain and keep reminding his players of that symbolic ax the club schleps to all of its road games. After a 131-109 blowout loss to the Sixers on Wednesday night, the Knicks (9-24) have lost eight of their last nine and carry the league’s fifth-worst record.
And it’s probably going to get much worse.
“This season I’m finding victories in small things,” Fizdale admitted at the morning shootaround at Wells Fargo Center. “I’ve had to shift the way my competitive [nature] because all of us are bred as athletes your whole life to win at all costs. When you don’t win it’s death. You’re hardwired that way. But now that I’m coaching this team and I understand struggles we’re going to go through, I’ve had to kind of reboot myself to say, ‘OK, what’s really a victory for us?’”
Fizdale admitted Sixers coach Brett Brown, who presided over the embarrassing, five-season “Trust The Process” stretch, also had to change.
“I can only imagine the rewiring that Brett had to go through to get through — three, four years of that struggle,” Fizdale said. “I’m hoping ours is not that long obviously. I don’t know if I’m as tough as Brett that way. I know Brett. Brett’s an animal competitor. And so for him to go through that, he had to do some retooling mentally as well.”
So what stands as a victory nowadays?
“A victory is Kevin [Knox] getting a double-double, Mitchell [Robinson] not fouling when his hands are in here,” Fizdale said. “Little stuff like that is where I start to see that more consistently, because I know if I can get that part consistent, the real wins will come.”
Fizdale makes no bones about how young the youngest team in the league really is. He has switched to a college zone defense for parts of a recent road trip to adapt.
“It’s not used as much in the NBA,” Fizdale admitted. “It’s much more of a college defense. But I got a college team.”
After the Knicks get through with the powerful Sixers, they have a breather Friday against Atlanta. Then comes Christmas and a holiday stretch that may taste like spoiled eggnog.
The Knicks play host to the out-for-revenge Bucks on Christmas Day before a monstrous six-game swing out west against six formidable clubs that will feature meet-ups with LeBron James and Kevin Durant. Only playoff-stalwart Utah carries a below-.500 record (14-17).
The holiday death march starts in Milwaukee on Dec. 27 before veering all the way west through the new year, into Utah, Denver, Los Angeles (Lakers), Portland and Golden State.
“They’re all tough for us, man,” said Fizdale, whose club lost in their prior outing to the league-worst Suns at home. “This group, we can’t look at any game different than any other game. They don’t get deflated with the losses. They come back to work every day and to the next game trying to win it. For me it’s keeping even. That’s what I’m doing, keeping even, coming in every day. We say chopping the tree, but it’s true. I keep that frame of mind.”
“Chopping the tree” is Fizdale’s 2018-19 motto. All the players signed the handle of an ax in November vowing to not lose sight of the big picture.
Asked if he picks up the ax in the locker room, Fizdale said: “Always. Just a reminder. It’s our covenant. We all signed it. We all put our name on it. So anytime one of us is feeling down or we’re feeling that things may creep in when you’re losing it’s like, ‘Remember.’ And they all know. They go, ‘OK, you’re right, Coach.’ We just gotta keep at it, we gotta get better. And eventually we’ll have our breakthroughs.
“The ax goes everywhere with us,” Fizdale added. “Everywhere. Don’t tell customs.”
For now, Fizdale is coping well enough with losing that he hasn’t used the ax in an untoward way.
Source: Read Full Article