Eric Walden: With David Fizdale’s firing, the Knicks’ clown car rolls merrily on

Executive chairman and Madison Square Garden CEO James Dolan watches during the first half of an NBA basketball game between the New York Knicks and the Sacramento Kings in New York, Sunday, Nov. 3, 2019. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

Does Knicks owner Jim Dolan really not understand why fans of the franchise clamor for him to sell the team? To his face? Does he think such occurrences are isolated incidents?


There’s got to be a significant amount of hubris involved to not recognize that you, in fact, are the problem.

Coach David Fizdale was made the latest scapegoat for Dolan’s ineptitude on Friday afternoon, fired for amassing a 4-18 mark that included eight straight losses, the last two of which came Monday in a 44-point embarrassment against the Bucks, and Thursday in a mind-numbingly awful 37-point blowout at the hands of the Denver Nuggets.

To be fair, Fizdale was not particularly good — his .202 winning percentage over his 104-game tenure with the team is the fifth-worst with a single team, with a minimum of 100 games, over the last 30 NBA seasons, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported.

The New York Times’ Marc Stein also noted that mark gave Fizdale the worst winning percentage among the 29 head coaches in Knicks history — worse even than the ignominious likes of Larry Brown and Derek Fisher, which takes some doing.

So yeah, even among the more veteran members of the Dolan Cast-offs Support Group, Fizdale was uniquely unsuccessful.

Then again, in his defense, none of his predecessors were ever gifted a roster comprised almost exclusively of power forwards.

Remember that spending spree the Knicks went on this past summer after both Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving made it apparent they wanted no part of that clown show (and the team responded by trying to spin it that they didn’t really want either player)?

Three years and $63 million for Julius Randle? Two years and $31M for Bobby Portis? Two years and $20M for Taj Gibson? One year, $15M for Marcus Morris? Also … Elfrid Payton, Wayne Ellington, and Reggie Bullock?

The Knicks’ top four signings in free agency ALL PLAY THE EXACT SAME POSITION. What was Fizdale supposed to do with that group?

That’s why it was particularly laughable when team president Steve Mills and general manager Scott Perry busted out an impromptu news conference following a rout at the hands of the Cavaliers back on Nov. 10 to opine that they had high expectations, and Fizdale wasn’t meeting them.

Why on earth would anyone have high expectations of that roster?

New York’s 100.5 points per game are last in the NBA. Their 42.2 FG%? Also last. The negative-10.8-point scoring differential? You guessed it — last. The 101.9 offensive rating (points scored per 100 possessions) is not merely last, but, as Woj noted, “on pace for the [league’s] worst mark since the 2015-16 Philadelphia 76ers, who finished 10-72.”

Again, Fizdale wasn’t awesome, but also again, it’s not like he had a well-constructed roster to work with.

Randle leads with team with 8.5 — Eight. Point. Five. — rebounds per game, which is bad enough. It’s worse still that he’s also leading the team with 3.5 assists per game. Dennis Smith Jr., the primary return piece in the trade that sent disgruntled star Kristaps Porzingis to Dallas, is shooting 33% from the field. Prized rookie RJ Barrett is shooting 39% overall and 30% from 3. Last year’s lottery pick, forward Kevin Knox, is averaging 7.9 points, 3.0 rebounds, 1.2 assists, 0.3 blocks, and is shooting 37%.

If John Wooden himself was brought in, he’d look at that group, shake his head, mutter a few expletives, and walk out the door.

No, no one other than the Knicks are blaming Fizdale for this mess.

“Im so happy for coach Fizdale!” ESPN analyst and former player Kendrick Perkins exclaimed live on the air, seconds after the news was broken. “… Scott Perry, Steve Mills — how long do they have? They’ve been running this for over a decade now, no success. Can’t keep blaming the coaches. I’m happy for Fizdale, in a good way.”

Except the team does keep blaming the coaches.

Since Dolan’s first full season as owner of the team, back in 1999-2000, the Knicks have had 12 head coaches. Jeff Hornacek, Kurt Rambis, Fisher, Mike Woodson, Mike D’Antoni, Isiah Thomas, Brown, Herb Williams, Lenny Wilkens, Williams (again), Don Chaney, even Jeff Van Gundy — all of them were the apparent problem at some point under Dolan’s watch.

Never mind that the Knicks have made the playoffs just five times in Dolan’s 19 seasons as owner, and have won just one playoff series in that span. Never mind that they’ve missed the postseason six straight times (soon to be seven). Or that, as Bloomberg noted this past July, New York’s .416 winning percentage is the worst of all NBA teams in the 21st century, “despite paying more luxury tax for exceeding the salary cap than any other franchise. In short, Dolan’s New York Knicks have spent the most to perform the worst.”

As David Fizdale might say, take that for data.

There’s one common denominator in all the Knicks’ awe-inspiring awfulness, and it isn’t him.