The Knicks began their new era the same way they ended the old — with a disappointing performance in front of the Garden faithful.
The fact that New York lost to the revamped Bulls wasn’t the most discouraging aspect. How they lost in their 104-80 thrashing is what presents alarm. The Knicks entered the season full of hope and promise, starting with a slimmed-down Carmelo Anthony, who decided that loyalty — and $30 million extra — were enough to stay. The Knicks also relished the enthusiasm brought by team president Phil Jackson’s hiring of his protege, Derek Fisher, who was hired to coach the Triangle and instill his defensive-minded approach into a squad not known for toughness, grit and defense.
Instead, the home crowd witnessed a drubbing.
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“We’re still doing some good things. It’s just that when we got off to the solid start, it was difficult to sustain when you’re still growing and gaining confidence,” said Fisher. “So because of who this team is right now, we’re still discovering all the possibilities and not fully confident in sticking to what we’ve learned and not refer back to our old habits— and that will change with time.”
New York seemed tentative from the end of the first quarter until the final horn, as observers could almost see the struggling team thinking aloud as to where to be, who to pass to and when to shoot or pass.
It’s obviously going to be an adjustment, as any person who’s ever played in or watched the Triangle offense over the years will testify that it’s a system that won’t be learned overnight. In fact, Jackson’s system of choice usually takes years until a team totally understands the concepts. Unfortunately for Fisher and the Knicks, they perform in a region that is short on patience and long on instant gratification.
“There’s not a calendar or date [for the team to jell]. It could happen sooner than later, or take longer than any date I can give right now. It really just depends on our team and players and their willingness to stick with the process,” said Fisher, who essentially said to expect more unevenness from a team that has a brutal four-game stretch to start the season. “Tonight was indicative of what can continue to happen as we develop our trust in the system we’re running. After the first five minutes, I would’ve thought that tonight was the day [it clicks]. But hopefully five minutes will turn into 10 minutes, and then into 12 minutes, a quarter, a game and so forth.”
There were patches of the game in which the Knicks were down by as many as 30 points, which obviously wasn’t the way it was envisioned, so getting on the right page is essential, especially as the Cavaliers await Thursday night.
“My assessment is we’re going somewhere, but at the beginning of where we’re going, it’s going to be difficult to get wins,” Fisher said. “We have to fight really hard to get wins. And when we do win it won’t be because we’re executing on offense and playing perfect defense, but because we’re working hard and playing with great energy and effort. We’ll get better in recognizing and releasing pressure. It’ll take some time. I know there aren’t any morale victories in professional sports, so we just need to be ready to play tomorrow night.”
Follow Knicks beat writer Tony Williams on Twitter @TBone8.