Knicks head coach Derek Fisher is a five-time NBA champion, so when he speaks, his players listen.  

Fisher, who admits that he’s still learning on the job during his second season as the head man, said that while the team has “drastically” improved from a year ago at this time, hovering around the .500 mark still isn’t good enough.  

The Knicks are an improved lot for sure, as their 10th victory of last season didn’t come until Feb. 1, in their 48th contest.  

That’s a stark improvement. But the ultra-competitive Fisher said he needs more. He noted that the team “isn’t shooting for .500 … because our goal isn’t to be average.” 

He added that he’ll continue to push his squad and expects them to not only beat the teams they should - like the Sixers and Nets last week - but also top-tier opponents. 

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“We’ve been able to get some wins early. We’re trying to find multiple ways to make the [opposing] defense work. Once we have multiple guys doing that, it’ll make the game easier for everybody,” Fisher said, noting that rookie Kristaps Porzingis has been a great complement to Carmelo Anthony. “Success always brings a little more of a spotlight, which means teams will soon start to key on him more, too. But that’s the goal, to make us a more well-rounded and effective group.”   

As Porzingis continues to emerge, the Knicks will get more balanced and actually make Anthony even more of an effective player. Point guard Jose Calderon has reveled like a proud papa in helping Porzingis find his way. Calderon is one of the league’s best teammates, as he’s always subjugated his ego for the betterment of the team. He’s thrilled to see Porzingis’s development because he knows it’ll make his job easier and improve the team.

Calderon, a Spanish national team member who played with Pau Gasol and was a former teammate of Dirk Nowitzki’s in Dallas, said he definitely sees the comparisons – and is more than happy to help Porzingis reach those lofty heights, as it ultimately helps the Knicks get to where they want to be.  

“His game is similar to both,” Calderon said of Porzingis, before adding that “Kristaps is better [when comparing the 20-year old to the two future Hall of Famers at the same age]. 

“It took Pau a little bit longer to get those big numbers,” Calderon said, noting Porzingis’s penchant for already garnering double-doubles and game-high block totals. “Pau was the Rookie of the Year his first year … Kristaps is on good start. But let’s see where we are at the end of the year.”     

The end is the only thing that drives Fisher, as he’s warned the team that he’s about to grab the reigns tighter and really push the Knicks to see how they respond to being treated as a surging power and not just some plucky, feel-good upstart.   

 

Knicks notes:  

- While Porzingis favors very well to Gasol on the defensive end, due to his ability to block shots straight-up or from the weakside and for his ambidextrous ways, the rookie is definitely more similar to Nowitzki on the offensive end. But a look inside the numbers shows that Porzingis is actually ahead of Nowitzki in regards to their respective maiden seasons. The future Hall of Famer only played in 47 games in his rookie season, averaging 8.2 points and shooting 40 percent from the field. He improved drastically in his second season, when he shot 46.1 percent and averaged 17.5 points and 6.5 rebounds. But looking at Porzingis’s current rookie numbers of 14 points, 9.2 rebounds, and 1.9 blocks per game in 21 contests – while shooting 44 percent – it bodes well for the rookie’s career arc.  

- The Knicks need to continue to ascend and get in the playoffs this season, as they traded their draft pick to Toronto in 2013 in the Andrea Bargnani deal. So, if they miss the postseason, they won’t be rewarded with a high pick.