Even before a 21-point blowout loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers, New York Knicks president Steve Mills had started to lay the groundwork for the firing of head coach David Fizdale, according to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski and Malika Andrews.
Mills is selling owner James Dolan on the premise that he brought him a highly-competitive roster, one that Fizdale hasn't been able to bring to fruition. That prospect has left the second-year Knicks coach vulnerable to be fired only weeks into the second season of a four-year deal worth $22 million.
Days prior to the awaited return of exiled star Kristaps Porzingis with the Dallas Mavericks, Mills built up the narrative that the Knicks struggles aren't due to roster shortcomings, but the lack of a “consistent level of effort and execution.”
Scouts and executives had criticized the Knicks' signings after striking out on big names like Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, and Kawhi Leonard in the offseason. The Knicks signed Julius Randle, Bobby Portis, Taj Gibson, and Marcus Morris — all power forwards during one summer, leaving many with head-scratching questions about the franchise's direction.
Mills justified that by prompting that the aforementioned were highly versatile and able to play multiple positions, though that has resulted in a game of musical chairs through the first 10 games of the season, after falling to 2-8 after a 108-87 loss to the young Cavs.
“Everyone is moving to their positions now,” a league source close to management and the coaching staff told ESPN. “This is how they'll make (Fizdale) the fall guy.”
The front office of Mills and general manager Scott Perry were ordered to address the media following Sunday's loss, which resulted in a further smear of Fizdale.
“Scott and I are not happy with where we are right now,” said Mills after the blowout loss. “We think the team is not performing to the level that we anticipated or we expected to perform at and that's something that we think we collectively have to do a better job of delivering the product on the floor…”
Mills has a 165-337 record during his tenure in the front office, including 48-126 since taking the job over from Phil Jackson in 2017.