The Lakers just wasted a year of LeBron James‘ prime with a roster construction he described as “[fart noise].”
The good news for the Lakers: They still have the tools to try again this summer. They’ll have max cap space. They have the No. 4 pick. They have talented young players like Lonzo Ball, Kyle Kuzma, Brandon Ingram and Josh Hart to use in a trade.
But the stakes also might be especially high.
Bill Plaschke of the Los Angeles Times on ESPN LA:
I’m hearing that, if they whiff on free agency, and if they whiff on a trade – which I don’t know how likely that is, but if that happens, they’ve got big trouble with LeBron. Why would LeBron – I mean, the LeBron era could be over before it starts here.
I heard this for the first time yesterday. Somebody very connected said “You know what, if they whiff, LeBron’s going to say either, ‘I’m out of here’ or ‘Get me out of here,’ or the Lakers better just might as well just get him out of here.”
LeBron has denied that the Lakers must repair trust with him.
This seems like an easy thing for people to speculate about. LeBron left the Heat after he thought they weren’t committed enough to winning. He often pressured the Cavaliers to do more. Why wouldn’t he make similar demands in Los Angeles?
But he also locked in for three years with the Lakers, longer than he did on any contract in his return to Cleveland. That’s a lot of trust in a team that has struggled for years. Maybe he did it because, as much as he still wants to win, that’s no longer his sole focus.
At this point, he could prioritize the Los Angeles lifestyle and proximity to Hollywood. Those factors aren’t vanishing, no matter whom the Lakers sign or trade for this summer.
Maybe Plaschke’s “very connected” source knows something. That’s what makes this intriguing.
But this stands against a taller pile of evidence that LeBron will just stick it out with the Lakers.
New York had lost eight in a row, blowing big leads in a couple of those games. The last two games the Knicks were listless — a 44-point crushing by the Sixers, then a 37-point thrashing by the Nuggets — and looked like a team that had given up.
Friday morning, team veterans — led by Marcus Morris — called a players-only meeting before practice to talk about the need for the players to not roll over and play harder. Particularly with coach David Fizdale’s job on the line. That meeting was reported by Shams Charania of The Athletic.
Fizdale then ran the team practice.
One meeting and one practice was not going to stop the inevitable, Fizdale was fired later on Friday. The Knicks have made that official and assistant coach Mike Miller will take over as the interim head coach.
Sometimes there is a boost of energy teams get from a coaching change, but in the case of the Knicks it may well be a dead cat bounce. That is unless the veterans really do take charge and start pushing this roster.
While Fizdale certainly deserves blame for the lack of identity on offense and defense from the Knicks, I’m not a believer that an NBA coach is fully responsible for his team’s motivation. These are professionals getting paid millions of dollars, it shouldn’t take a rah-rah speech from a guy in a tie to get them focused and ready to do their job. It’s on the players. Motivation is always part of a coach’s job, and with a young team keeping the players on task certainly is part of the coach’s responsibility, but at the NBA level a coach should have to worry less about firing his guys up on a nightly basis.
UPDATE: The Knicks have made all the reporting official.
As had been expected, David Fizdale is out as the Knicks head coach after an ugly 4-18 start to the season. This was a case where Fizdale was given an “Island of Misfit Toys” roster to work with that was never going to be good, but he also didn’t do much with it. New York had no identity on either side of the ball. The Knicks have lost eight straight, the last two by at least 37 points, and the team was simply lackadaisical in its effort recently.
Who will coach the Knicks next season depends on the answer to another question: Are team president Steve Mills and general manager Scott Perry safe, or are they on their way out, too?
In the short term, New York promoted Mike Miller into the big chair, and bring up Keith Bogans from the G-League coaching staff to round out the roster, something first reported by Shams Charania of The Athletic.
Miller spent four years as the head coach of the Westchester Knicks, the franchise’s G-League affiliate, and was the G-League Coach of the Year for the 2017-18 season. He was eventually promoted to the Knicks bench.
Don’t expect a major shake-up in the Knicks’ offensive and defensive systems, or with the rotations, at least in the short term. There just are not a lot of practice days built into the NBA schedule to allow a mid-season replacement to overhaul everything. Plus, with this roster, there’s only so much a human being can do.
Fizdale signed a four-year, $22 million guaranteed contract with the Knicks, meaning for the rest of this season and all of next one he can sit on a Miami beach and collect James Dolan’s money. Not a bad life.
This was both expected and right on schedule.
Stephen Curry said almost a month ago that he was going to need a second surgery to remove pins that were inserted during the first procedure back on Nov. 1. Curry suffered a fractured hand back on Oct. 30 when Suns’ center Aron Baynes fell on him, and in the first surgery pins were inserted to stabilize the bone through the healing process.
That second surgery has taken place, reports Shams Charania of The Athletic.
This has been confirmed by Logan Murdock of NBC Sports Bay Area.
Curry has said he fully expects to play this season, although it wouldn’t be until the end of what is a lost cause campaign for Golden State. For now, Curry is focused on recovery.
“[Managing the]swelling is something that’s going to be of the utmost priority early in the rehab process to get me a chance to come back and get my range of motion back pretty quickly,” Curry said last time he spoke to the media.
Without Curry or Klay Thompson yet this season (plus, of course, Kevin Durant on crutches in Brooklyn), and D'Angelo Russell missing a chunk of time as well due to injury, the Warriors have struggled to a 4-19 record with a bottom-five offense and defense.
The hope for the Warriors is to get Curry and Thompson back by next summer and working out, they get a high draft pick, make a couple other moves around the edges, get Draymond Green healthy, and this team is a threat again. This season it’s more like the Warriors are taking a season off to find themselves and travel the world.
The Knicks started 2-8.
Then, it got worse.
Knicks owner James Dolan ordered president Steve Mills and general manager Scott Perry to address the media after a loss. Mills and Perry spoke before coach David Fizdale, a break in decorum that ignited speculation about Fizdale getting fired.
Then, it got worse.
New York lost six straight.
Then, it got worse.
After a 44-point loss to the Bucks, Fizdale said the Knicks entered the game not believing they even could win. They followed that with a 37-point home loss to the Nuggets yesterday that Fizdale called “sickening.”
Finally, with New York 4-18 and on an eight-game losing streak, the Knicks are making a major change.
Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:
This was inevitable. Mills wanted Fizdale gone and knows how to navigate Madison Square Garden politics.
The season was already a lost cause, and it’s likely to remain a mess. Keith Smart, who previously coached the Warriors and Kings, was the only other member of the staff with NBA non-interim head-coaching experience.
The big question: Will Mills and Perry survive?
They gave Fizdale a lacking roster and outsized expectations. Nearly any coach would have been doomed to fail in this situation.
To be fair, Fizdale provided no evidence he deserved to be an exception. The Knicks lacked identity under his guidance, and development of younger players was uneven.
But the problems go way above Fizdale, starting with Dolan.
At least we’ll always have this Fizdale quote comparing the Knicks to slipping in ice, dog poop and pee.