The New York Knicks knew they were getting a player’s coach in David Fizdale upon hiring him during the offseason. Now, they’re seeing it all up close.
The first-year head coach has his hands full with a rebuilding franchise that has been mired in mediocrity for the better part of the past two decades. It doesn’t mean his players aren’t ready to run through walls for him.
Just take a look at point guard Emmanuel Mudiay, who has plenty in common with his head coach.
Like Fizdale being axed in Memphis when he had a row with star big man Marc Gasol last year, Mudiay was shipped to New York by the Denver Nuggets as he was written off as a bust after being selected seventh overall in the 2015 NBA Draft.
The 22-year-old’s development quickly became a priority of Fizdale, who promised Mudiay in his introductory press conference that “we’ll get you right.”
As the two continue to find their footing at Madison Square Garden, things have certainly been looking up for them as of late.
Mudiay has earned the starting point-guard role over Trey Burke and Frank Ntilikina, getting the nod from Fizdale on Nov. 14. Over those seven games, he’s been playing some of the best basketball of his young career, averaging 14.7 points per game while shooting 52.1-percent from the field.
The latter figure provides a dramatic increase from what has been seen over his first three years in the league as he shot just 37.4-percent during that span. The lack of consistency was the biggest hole in Mudiay’s game and one of the biggest reasons as to why the Nuggets dealt him to the Knicks back in February.
In 14 games this season, he’s shooting at a 49.2-percent clip as the Fizdale effect is clearly working.
Meanwhile, Mudiay has become one of Fizdale’s biggest cheerleaders during his start on the Knicks bench.
As Fizdale faced off against his former team, the Grizzlies, on Sunday, Mudiay was ready to do whatever it took to get his coach a win.
“I know I took it personal,” Mudiay said of the way the Grizzlies treated Fizdale last year(h/t NY Daily News). “Actually, all of us took it personal. We wanted to come out here and get a win for him.”
Mudiay did his part, scoring 17 points with three assists, including a monster dunk with 1:35 left to play to help seal a Knicks 103-98 victory.
His performance for Fizdale and the suddenly-streaking Knicks — they’ve won three straight — has shown just how far the right relationship between a player and coach can go.
“He has my total confidence,” Fizdale said (h/t NY Post). “It wasn’t a lot of stuff we had to tinker with in his game — maybe his [perimeter] shot a little bit but it was his spirit. I’m proud of the way he’s leading the first group.”