Phil Jackson embarrassed the Knicks by stating they’d make the playoffs then falling just 21 games short in 2014-15.
New York’s management avoided that mistake this season. President Steve Mills and general manager Scott Perry set no clear postseason expectations.
Privately, though, expectations for the 2019-2020 Knicks were set during the team’s first official meeting. Members of the front office addressed the players in the meeting and conveyed two distinct messages, according to SNY sources familiar with the discussions:
1. They said, in no uncertain terms, that they believed that the Knicks were a playoff team and anything less than that was a disappointment.
2. Players who were entering free agency in the summer of 2020 were told that they would be judged much more heavily on the team’s win-loss record than their individual play.
There can be value in setting high expectations and challenging people to meet those expectations. Perhaps, telling players to focus on team success – not individual play – could have brought everyone together.
The Knicks started 4-18 then fired David Fizdale as coach. Fizdale didn’t distinguish himself, but he wasn’t the underlying problem, either. New York’s roster just wasn’t good enough. Pretending otherwise clearly added pressure then dysfunction.
At this point, the Knicks (12-33) must realize they’re headed toward another lost season. All preseason postseason goals are off the table.
This will be New York’s seventh straight season outside the playoffs. Perhaps, Mills will pay the price for this mess.
But whoever runs the front office, James Dolan will remain the owner. Dolan sometimes has unrealistic expectations. When the Knicks lose, he gripes. Infamously, he ordered Mills and Perry to address the media after a game this season, instantly casting a cloud over the rest of Fizdale’s tenure.
These problems start at the top.