New York Knicks head coach David Fizdale is prioritizing his bond with his up-and-coming guards. He’ll bring three players to the Eastern Conference Finals.
The New York Knicks hired David Fizdale for a laundry list of reasons, but nothing was quite as heavily emphasized as his ability to connect with players. Through trial and error, Fizdale has come to learn that the modern athlete requires more than just a stern voice and a clipboard.
Some have questioned whether or not Fizdale fits the bill following his public fallout with Marc Gasol, but his actions on May 23 should quiet the critics.
In the days since he was hired, Fizdale has made it a point to forge relationships with his players. He held an involuntary workout with a number of his key contributor, as well as a meeting with Janis Porzingis—brother and agent of Kristaps Porzingis.
Fizdale, whose stated goal is to establish “great relationships” with his players, will bring along two of his young point guards in Ntilikina, Emmanuel Mudiay and their 2017 second-round pick, shooting guard Damyean Dotson, on a trip to Beantown.
According to the source, Fizdale hopes it will be a bonding experience they learn from, as the three players, all 24 and younger, experience the intensity level and atmosphere of a championship-level playoff game.
That’s a significant decision by a coach who’s being tasked with changing the culture for a franchise that’s missed the playoffs in five consecutive seasons.
Dotson and Ntilikina were rookies in 2017-18, and Mudiay is a 22-year-old playmaker with untapped potential. All three are physically imposing for the backcourt, with the combination of size, length, and athleticism to defend multiple positions.
In order for the Knicks to return to the postseason, players like Dotson, Mudiay, and Ntilikina will need to understand the incomparable nature of the postseason environment.
If they manage to do so, then defense could realistically become second nature for three of the most important guards on the roster.
Beyond the defense, the Knicks’ three young guards will have a chance to learn from their coach in an unfamiliar environment. The experience could bring the group closer together, as well as provide the future of the team with perspective it’s yet to gain.
Watching the Boston Celtics and Cleveland Cavaliers—teams with conflicting styles and an equal opportunity to make the NBA Finals—should be of even greater aid.
The question is: Will David Fizdale and his New York Knicks guards make the necessary connection during Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals?