New York Knicks: Time To Question Derek Fisher?

Dec 27, 2014; Sacramento, CA, USA; New York Knicks head coach Derek Fisher watches from the sideline against the Sacramento Kings in the second quarter at Sleep Train Arena. Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 27, 2014; Sacramento, CA, USA; New York Knicks head coach Derek Fisher watches from the sideline against the Sacramento Kings in the second quarter at Sleep Train Arena. Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports /

Derek Fisher is having the worst rookie season in the NBA.

When the New York Knicks hired Fisher, there was (and still is) an understanding that turning the franchise around was an uphill battle. No one knew (Fisher or otherwise) that battle would commence on such steep territory; uphill has been an understatement.

To say the Knicks have stunk this season is an even greater understatement. They currently hold a record of 5-30 and are only one spot above the Philadelphia 76ers, who are at the bottom of the Eastern Conference. They’ve lost 10 straight games and unlike Fisher’s rich history of NBA championships as a player, the Knicks haven’t given any reason for optimism.

Between Phil Jackson‘s coaching legacy and Fisher’s success as a player in the league, you’d think the Knicks have a winning combination. A combo capable of producing more than five wins with a quarter of the season down the drain. The parallel between Fisher’s playing and coaching career is similar.

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Fisher played the bulk of his career under the shadow of stars like Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant, and Russell Westbrook. He’s now coaching under the shadow of Phil Jackson.

It begs the question as to whether (Phil) Jackson is capable of turning the franchise around after being awarded ready-made teams most of his career. The wretched Knicks start makes you wonder if Fisher’s credentials are overestimated, and if Jackson’s career as a Hall of Fame coach lends ability in the front office.

There’s even less hope when Knicks star forward Carmelo Anthony entertains the idea of sitting for an extended amount of time. Anthony has been dealing with a sore left knee for all season long. He’s hinted at shutting himself down to advance the healing process if the pain increases. Anthony also speculated that he might miss the NBA All-Star Game — in New York.

That won’t make things better for Fisher, and when the New York crowd begins to call for his head, what will be his saving grace? When the head coaching position opened up in the summer (after Phil Jackson turned himself down for it), there was a line out of Madison Square Garden for the opportunity.

Jackson settled on the hire he felt worthy and capable of relaying the hoops concepts that made him the most respected NBA coach in the last two decades. Fisher’s ability to relay those concepts is still in question, his long term security with the Knicks should be as well.

Despite the Knicks troubles, Fisher did receive an endorsement from his star player Carmelo Anthony:

“I think if it was anybody else in his position, I think this probably would’ve crumbled already. I think he’s doing a great job of keeping everybody focused on the task at hand and believing in what we’re trying to do.”

Maybe this is a simple case of a rookie taking his lumps in the league. Either way, it’s appropriate to begin grading Fisher as a coach as it relates to the Knicks situation as a whole. He doesn’t own a plate of untalented and lethargic players; there’s talent on this Knicks roster. Certainly capable of producing more than five wins on the season.

While most knew the Knicks would be bad, not many expected them to be this bad. Their triangle has looked more rectangle, square and most times Melo-iso than anything and it’s clear that the Jackson-Fisher era in New York hasn’t been well-received by the Knicks players.

As of late it seems the Knicks have put the blame everywhere else other than on the court. They’ve been able to blame injuries, contract years and a reshuffled roster for what’s been a team blanketed in mediocrity. There are nine players on the Knicks currently on a contract year.

Fisher’s been in possession of a golden carrot, and dangling it in front of his players hasn’t produced much of anything. Typically the aforementioned produces career-years. For the Knicks, it’s done the opposite. They’re visibly less attentive, unemotional and unattached. There’s something to say about a coach who can’t push talented players to a greater level in a contract year.

Fisher has said the Knicks are more of a forward-thinking organization. They’re more focused on the product they’ll put on the floor and how that team competes more so than the current abomination that leaves a bad taste in Knicks fans mouths.

He’s kept the angry mob’s at bay for the most part due to his eloquence and ability to say the right things despite the Knicks climate. Fisher’s been more impressive as a Knicks public relations icon.

Only time will tell if he’ll impress for the job he’s been hired to do.

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