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January 17, 2019

Knicks pounded by Pacers but are still preaching progress as the tanking continues

January 12, 2019

The Knicks have lost 16 of 18 and are falling off a cliff, but David Fizdale is selling progress.

We’d hate to see what regression looks like for the Knicks (10-32), who forgot to play defense Friday night and were blown out by the Pacers, 121-106.

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“Individually, I think guys are getting better. I think in small areas of the game we’re getting better. But it’s not all collective. It’s not showing in a full game. But I do see great strides in our young guys,” the coach said recently, mentioning improvements in Kevin Knox, Noah Vonleh, Damyean Dotson and Emmanuel Mudiay.

This, folks, is the proper way to tank: throw out as many young players as you can — even if some of them have no future in the organization — and preach development. In one year, most of the players in Fizdale’s rotation won’t be on the roster. Many of them are already on the trading block. But they’re thankful for the opportunity because most wouldn’t get it anywhere else, and they’re happy to give the ball to a 19-year-old lottery pick (Knox), even if he isn’t close to being ready to carry a team.

Victor Oladipo and Noah Vonleh fight for the ball Friday night. (Mary Altaffer / AP)

Tanking 101.

It’s not the Knicks’ fault it makes sense. That’s the NBA’s problem, and attempts to rectify the issue with a reformed lottery system haven’t stopped the race to the bottom. The worst record in the NBA is guaranteed a top-5 pick and a 14 percent chance of No. 1.

The bigger issue is that Fizdale has not installed any consistent system or rotation. The Knicks are all over the place.

“I like what I’m seeing there,” Fizdale said Tuesday, immediately after his team was blown out by 27 points at Golden State. “It’s just a matter of doing it all collectively while we’re taking punches. So like I said, the second half of the season we can really start putting some stuff together and start looking better.”

There are some casualties to the tank, the DNP veterans like Courtney Lee and Lance Thomas (who appeared Friday night for the first time in 2019). Then there are veterans who grumble about the tank (Enes Kanter, who was ill and inactive Friday), and those who accept it begrudgingly.

Tim Hardaway Jr, when asked this week if the team was actually improving, took his answer in a completely different direction.

“I think everybody understands that we’re building something here but also everybody understands that at the end of the day we’re all competitors and we all want to fight. So, losing sucks. It’s a s—ty feeling,” said Hardaway. “But at the same time, you got to take it to the chin and live with the results.”

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