In David Fizdale’s vernacular, drop it already.
The embattled Knicks coach got defensive after Sunday’s Sacramento disaster when he was asked why he played rookie RJ Barrett in garbage time considering his minutes overload.
Fizdale said to drop the storyline.
That probably won’t happen soon. Perhaps neither will the fans’ nasty turn on Fizdale, skewered on social media during a 1-6 start. He heard his first — if faint and brief — “Fire Fizdale” chant after going unscathed during last season’s 17-65 tankfest.
Marcus Morris, their leader, was the first player to come to Fizdale’s defense.
“Fiz is putting us in the best position to be successful,’’ Morris said. “It’s up to us to execute the game plan better. Fiz has been nothing but a great coach for us and given us what we need.”
Sources have indicated it’s way too early to start any Fizdale Watch — not with this new roster that needs tender loving care because of its complexities.
How bad would it look for Knicks president Steve Mills and GM Scott Perry to fire Fizdale on Dec. 1 after one season and one month after they passed on Mike Budenholzer, Mark Jackson and David Blatt and didn’t interview Steve Clifford?
Mills/Perry have been spared much of the blame despite constructing a complex collection of players that does not contain enough perimeter shooting or somebody who can carry a team late in a close game.
As one NBA scout said at the season’s start, “They’re more a puzzle now than pieces to a puzzle.’’
As such, Fizdale has used five starting lineups in the first seven games — partly due to injury. The Knicks have missed starting point guard Elfrid Payton, out with a hamstring, and his playmaking more than envisioned.
As far as a communicator, Fizdale got an A from Morris.
“It’s 10 new guys on this team and we’ve played seven games,” Morris said. “It’s not like it’s a game-day decision (on starting lineups). We go and practice with the five that start. So it’s not like it’s just up in the air and guys don’t know what’s going on. He’s very transparent.
“He’s telling us the reason why he’s trying to experiment. You give any coach in the league 10 new guys and see how good they do with them. He’s putting us in the best position to win and it’s on us.”
There was no excuse for Sunday’s debacle and the Knicks appeared like a poorly coached unit without symmetry.
“Looked like there was no follow-through on any of the plays, resulting in a one-pass or a no-pass attack scheme,’’ one former NBA coach said. “It looked like no coordination. And on defense, the rotations were very poor.’’
In fairness, it served as the Knicks’ only truly egregious performance. In their prior six games, five were against playoff clubs with the Knicks winning the lone contest not against a qualifier from last season. In four of the six losses, the Knicks have led in the fourth quarter because of their defense.
Also in Fizdale’s defense, no other organization would have paid Julius Randle $63 million over three years to be the franchise centerpiece except the Knicks. Mills and Perry had cap space to burn after being shafted by Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and Kawhi Leonard.
On the positive end, the next seven-game stretch should be a lot easier than the first. There’s two games against Cleveland and one against Charlotte, Chicago and mediocre Detroit. The toughest foe is Dallas and it hasn’t made the playoffs the past two seasons.
That said, the Detroit-Dallas road trip won’t be a breeze, not with a healthy Kristaps Porzingis waiting to exact revenge on Friday.
It‘s important to note Porzingis’ decision to request a trade in late January was more because of his distrust of Mills-Perry constructing a winning program than on Fizdale. Fizdale wasn’t overly impressive to Porzingis, who gave pause to the rough handling of fellow European Enes Kanter. But the 7-foot-3 Latvian would still be here if he believed more in management.
Essentially, Randle has replaced Porzingis as a No. 1 option, but his confidence is at a low ebb. One item to note, though, is Randle’s numbers progressively got better after November the past two seasons.
“We can’t quit, it’s too early in the season,’’ Randle said. “We weren’t trusting each other enough [versus Sacramento]. It’s got to be expected with new players but we got to start figuring it out.’’
That’s Fizdale’s job now after getting just four preseason games (the max is six) to create chemistry. Mills and Perry signed Randle to form a starting frontcourt with center Mitchell Robinson that may not jell.
That’s on Fizdale. And that’s on management, too.