David Fizdale

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Schmeelk: Biggest Takeaways From Beginning Of Knicks Training Camp

John Schmeelk
October 04, 2019 - 2:23 pm
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Knicks training camp is underway, and we’ve learned a little bit listening to players and head coach David Fizdale talk to the media after practice. Here’s what has jumped out to me. 

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More Than Words This Year?

Fizdale told the media he stressed defense in the first couple days of practice, including a session where all the players had to pick up full court and guard for 94 feet. Apparently, Wayne Ellington made that mandate to his teammates over the summer. You know what doesn’t work in the NBA? Pressing full court. 

More likely to be a motivational tool than an actual defensive strategy, Fizdale was likely just trying to prove a point to his team that they have to work hard on defense. Far more important than guarding for 94 feet is how Fizdale will guard the screen and roll, and whether or not he will prioritize defense in his lineup formations. 

With so many players on the roster than can play multiple positions, and a center like Mitchell Robinson with great side-to-side mobility, switching most screens might be the best way to approach things. It would also keep things simple for a relatively young team. How much Fizdale plays Frank Ntilikina will also be very telling in how much he is actually going to prioritize defense when it comes to dolling out playing time. Last season, he didn’t seem to prioritize defense at all. 

Offensively, Fizdale again preached getting the ball past half-court quickly, as well as focusing on attacking the rim and getting to the free throw line as a number one priority. He said ball movement will also be a priority.  

For now, these are just words, and last year similar words didn’t count for much. They are the right words. We’ll see if Fizdale practices what he preaches in the regular season. 

More Complicated Schemes

On more than one occasion, Fizdale pointed out how last year’s group was incapable of retaining and executing complicated schemes. The problem seemed to be on both the offensive and defensive sides of the ball. Fizdale indicated more off-ball movement offensively, and more complicated defensive schemes because this group is more ready to win. Given the youth and talent level of last year’s team, that wouldn’t surprise me or anyone else that watched the team closely. 

Perhaps we will see a little bit more in-depth coaching and strategy from Fizdale this season given the new players he has on the roster. It was never fair to completely judge Fizdale on last year based on the talent in the locker room. These revelations further indicate he might prove to be a better coach with better players at his disposal. 

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Ntilikina Making An Impression

Despite the rumors around the draft that the Knicks were shopping Frank Ntilikina, it appears Fizdale was still dedicated to making him part of the solution to the team’s woes. He visited Ntilikina twice in the offseason, once in Los Angeles a couple of months after the season ended, and again in Dallas right before he departed for the FIBA World Cup. 

Fizdale also said he watched 90% of Ntilikina’s games closely in the World Cup, and he stole some things that he will implement this season to get the best out of him. He really believes that Ntilikina’s success versus Team USA in the World Cup boosted his confidence. 

Fizdale and Ntilikina both feel confident his offseason work and conditioning will help him survive the rigors of an 82-game season. Fizdale pointed out that it was Ntilikina’s injuries last year that held him back the most. Kevin Knox noted unsolicited that Ntilikina was playing well so far in practice. The arrow will be pointing up. 

Leadership

Marcus Morris is saying things Knicks fans want to hear, but they are also things other players have said before. For some reason, I believe Morris. This is what he said about the team’s identity this year. 

“Old school Knicks," Morris said. "Protect the Garden. My biggest thing is no one’s coming in there and disrespecting us. If anything, if you come in here you’re going to get a hard-fought game. The better team is going to win but we’re not tolerating no disrespect and no one coming in here thinking it’s going to be easy."

You laugh when Enes Kanter says this. Morris, however, is a tough and scary individual. He could have played with and survived the 90’s Knicks. It sure sounds like he will hold people accountable, and won’t accept any nonsense from anyone. He is a tough guy from Philly and Knicks fans are going to love him. 

Will Dennis Smith Jr. Take A Leap

Smith Jr. talked about his reworked jump shot, which he practiced for months before taking it into pick-up game situations. He also said he lost 15 pounds this offseason at the direction of the Knicks’ coaching staff. The fact that a point guard had that much weight to lose is disconcerting, but it might help him be the type of consistent attacker the Knicks need him to be. 

Mitchell Robinson Extends His Range And Game

Robinson has been shooting threes after practice, and while Fizdale says he won’t be jacking up four threes per game, he will be taking some threes. Robinson had the simplest point of all: “Why practice it if you aren’t going to use it?” It will be another valuable part of his game moving forward. 

You can follow John on Twitter at twitter.com/Schmeelk for everything about the Knicks, Giants and the world of sports. You can also find his Knicks Podcast, The Bank Shot, on most popular podcast platforms. You can hear the most recent episode, a season preview with Tommy Beer, here. His quick rapid reaction to Knicks media day is here. You can subscribe on Apple Podcasts here.