Corey Sipkin/Associated Press
As the New York Knicks flailed to a 2-8 start, the organization’s front office decided to call a press conference to voice its collective frustration. The uncharacteristic move seemed to launch second-year coach David Fizdale into an untenable situation.
Perhaps that isn’t the case, though.
Marc Berman of the New York Post reported Fizdale’s job—at least in the short term—is apparently safe:
“According to sources, the club would need to suffer a severe slide for anything to happen to Fizdale in the near future with the won-loss record not the key barometer. Progress, competitiveness and player development are paramount.”
While the statement seems encouraging, it demands another question be asked: What exactly is a severe slide?
New York is currently 4-13, which is tied with the Atlanta Hawks for the worst in the Eastern Conference. Berman’s report identifies three factors—progress, competitiveness and player development—but they’re primarily subjective evaluations.
Fizdale’s job security hangs on the development of R.J. Barrett, among others.Charles Rex Arbogast/Associated Press
Making those assessments is part of the job for executives, yes. However, it’s a vague statement—perhaps intentionally—that leaves outsiders wondering about the Knicks’ actual target. And, from a pessimistic view, it may allow New York’s front office to cite unquantifiable goals as justification for firing Fizdale.
Without question, the coach deserves criticism for strange lineups and a terribly low winning percentage. Context matters, though, and several factors are seemingly working in his favor.
For one, the Knicks revamped the roster this offseason. Finding the most ideal combinations isn’t done quickly. And secondly, what’s the alternative? Which coaches are can’t-miss options? Why not allow Fizdale to try new things, tweak and change?
That line of thinking seems to have prevailed for the Knicks.
But basketball fans should know better than to dismiss the possibility that New York’s patience abruptly—and maybe hastily—runs out.
NBA Sends Memo About ‘Load Management’
In the aftermath of the Los Angeles Clippers being fined for resting a maybe-but-possibly-not injured Kawhi Leonard, the NBA wanted to clarify its rules regarding load management. The league sent its updated guidelines on Nov. 11.
ESPN’s Zach Lowe obtained a copy of the memo and explained how it (theoretically) will affect the season:
“The short version: Load management is now rest. Period. If you see that term, it will mean a healthy player is taking the night off. If skipping that particular game violates the league’s resting policy, that player’s team will be penalized.”
Kawhi Leonard and Paul GeorgeAndrew D. Bernstein/Getty Images
In the interest of catering to fans, the NBA has in recent years placed stipulations on when players can simply skip a game.
Teams are not supposed to rest healthy players on road games. This is because, for example, a Detroit Pistons fan has one prime opportunity to see Leonard or LeBron James per season. Or a New Orleans Pelicans fan sees Giannis Antetokounmpo once.
Additionally, the NBA wants its superstars to highlight the national broadcasts on ABC, ESPN and TNT.
That much is unchanged within the new memo. So, the league is spelling out that a violation of the above policies means an organization will be penalized—and a fine is likely the go-to choice.
It’s safe to assume coaches and players will attempt to circumvent the rules. Leonard still hasn’t played on back-to-back nights this season, and that probably won’t change. The plan helped keep him fresh to lead the Toronto Raptors to an NBA title last year.
But every time he—or any other superstar—sits, the NBA will be closely monitoring whether a guideline has been broken.
Follow Bleacher Report writer David Kenyon on Twitter @Kenyon19_BR.