Is Knicks president Steve Mills setting up David Fizdale to take the fall for the team's failures?

The New York Knicks are bad. It doesn’t matter if you’re talking about the players, the front office, or ownership, the Knicks are just bad. The assigning of blame can’t be far away, and someone in the front office may already be looking for someone to blame to shift attention away from himself.

According to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN, team president Steve Mills has been working internally to set up head coach David Fizdale as the fall guy for the team’s current problems. While it seems obvious to most that the Knicks’ roster isn’t very good, Wojnarowski reported that Mills is trying to sell team owner James Dolan on Fizdale and his coaching as the source of the team’s failures.

Mills may have shown his cards Sunday night when instead of letting Fizdale speak to the media first, which is customary, he spoke first. He further undermined Fizdale by littering his remarks with comments about effort and consistency.

"Obviously, Scott [Perry, Kicks GM] and I are not happy with where we are right now. We think the team's not performing to the level that we anticipated or we expected to perform at and that's something that we think we have to collectively do a better job of delivering the product on the floor that we said we would do at the start of this season.

"We still believe in our coaching staff, we believe in the plan that Scott and I put together and the players that we've assembled. But we also have to acknowledge that we haven't played at the level we expected to play at. We've sort of seen glimpses of how we can play as a team, when everything comes together. But we've got to find a way to play complete games at the level that we expect our team to play at and that's a responsibility that we take collectively.”

Mills said that he believes in his coaching staff, but every other word he said negates that. He’s setting up the coaching as the problem, and not the roster itself. If Dolan believes that, he’s gullible in addition to being a thin-skinned narcissist who kicks people out of Madison Square Garden for suggesting that he fire himself and sell the team.

That’s not to say that Fizdale, who is in his second year with the Knicks, is blameless here, but he can only work with what he has been given. And what he has been given isn’t a team that can be competitive. Mills trying to convince Dolan of the opposite is a microcosm of the main issue with the entire Knicks enterprise: honesty. No one on the Knicks’ staff is going to stand up and say, “The Knicks were good once, but they’ve been unacceptably bad for way too long, and the only way to fix that is to change literally every single thing we do and think,” because if someone does say that, Dolan will instantly fire them.

David Fizdale may end up taking the blame for this bad Knicks team. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)
David Fizdale may end up taking the blame for this bad Knicks team. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

So in reality, the problem is James Dolan. He is likely to believe Mills when he says that the team is just one good coach away from being decent instead of the laughingstock of the NBA.

Why? Because it’s easy. It’s easy to believe that the solution is firing one person when the alternative is taking a serious, unflinching look at the Knicks and how they got here. And how they got here, to a 2-8 record at the start of the 2019-20 season, is the result of years of consistent mismanagement, often enabled or personally led by Dolan.

It’s hard to imagine Dolan taking that serious, unflinching look anytime soon. Hopefully Fizdale has a backup plan, because if Wojnarowski’s report is true and Mills is gunning for his job, his days are probably numbered.

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