CHICAGO — In the wake of another blowout loss that dropped them to 2-9, New York Knicks players are continuing to back coach David Fizdale despite his uncertain job status.
With team president Steve Mills and general manager Scott Perry looking on Tuesday at the United Center, New York fell to Chicago 120-102 on a night that saw Bulls rookie Coby White sink seven 3s in the fourth quarter and finish with a game-high 27 points.
With the defeat, the Knicks tied a franchise record for most losses through 11 games.
Even before a startling news conference in the wake of a blowout loss to Cleveland on Sunday, Mills had started to lay the internal groundwork for the eventual dismissal of Fizdale, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski and Malika Andrews reported Monday.
Fizdale didn’t seem fazed by the speculation during Tuesday’s shootaround, telling reporters, “It’s always a media firestorm in New York, so for everybody else this is a big deal, but for us, it’s a normal environment. So, our guys are focused, they’re connected.”
Despite their frustrations following the loss at Chicago — one in which they turned the ball over 18 times and were outscored 52-46 in the paint — Knicks players were still adamant in their support of the second-year coach.
“We’ve got 9-10 new guys? We’ve got 10 guys that have not played together at all and me who hasn’t even been in the league yet,” said rookie RJ Barrett. “You’re gonna have some challenges, but you’ve got to keep pushing, keep pushing through everything. That’s all I can really say. You’ve just got to stay together.
“He’s up to the challenge. We believe in him,” he continued. “We’re staying together, and like we said, we’re all-in with him and are just gonna keep fighting together.”
New York players are fully aware that everything doesn’t fall on just Fizdale, either.
“Just play hard for him, go out there and give it our all,” said Knicks forward/center Bobby Portis. “We can’t control the wins and the losses, but we can control our effort level and just going out there and playing with the swag and intensity. So, even though shots weren’t falling tonight for us and Coby White went crazy in the fourth quarter, I think that we played hard for Coach and that’s all we ask for.”
The Knicks have started a season 2-9 on seven occasions, with four of those instances coming in the past 20 seasons, according to ESPN Stats & Information research.
Players aren’t willing to give up just yet — on their coach or the team — until something becomes official. The Knicks are set to host the Dallas Mavericks on Thursday.
“Go out there and play hard for him. Go out there and try to pull out wins,” said Taj Gibson, who finished with 17 points and five boards on Tuesday. “You get wins, the noise stops, and that’s the main focus right now is to try and get wins.
“He’s trying to pull us toward a victory in different ways and at the same time we’ve been coming up short,” he added. “We’ve just got to do a lot better and it’s not just on him, it’s on us, too. He’s been trying to will us to wins and it’s been going the opposite way as of late.”