Inside Fiz’s Mind As He Considers Lineup Possibilities

I recently reached out to Coach Fizdale requesting a one-on-one interview about the upcoming season – his goals, his rotation, coaching adjustments he planned to make – and he said, “I’ll do you one better! How ’bout you hook my brain up to a psychological supercomputer and read my thoughts while I work!” I thought it was an odd request but, of course, agreed.

What follows is a live transcript – August 19th, 2019 – as he works on his rotation:

*

Alright, baby! This is the year! I got the green light from Pat for true positionlessness, so here we go: ‘Bron at the one, D at the…

[Realizes where he is, sobs for approximately 46 minutes]1

Get it together, Fiz. I mean, bright side – at least you’re not in Memphis. Right? You good? Good. Back to Fizness. New York Knickerbockers. Go New York Go New York Go. We on our way up, and Step One is beating last year’s win total. Shouldn’t be hard with the talent we added. Just gotta find the right combinations. Let’s go. Starting five…

Payton / Barrett / Knox / Randle / Robinson

Duh. Now, rest of the ten-man…wait a second. Uhh, Allan Houston, we have a problem. We’re trying to win games, and I’m pretty sure to do that someone’s gonna have to stick a jump shot. I mean, Julius is the best three-point shooter in this lineup! 2 Nah. Can’t do it. Yeah, Knox looked good in Vegas, but lots of stuff looks good in Vegas; then you sober up and you’re…never mind. Point is, until he does it in a real game, it ain’t real…

And who’s playing defense in front of Mitch here? Payton’s alright, and Julius’s 8-pack might scare some people, but no. No good. Ball-handling and play-making, sure, but no shooting and very little D. Can’t win that way.

mubarakmalik/IG

Payton / Trier / Barrett / Randle / Robinson

Shooting’s up at least. I love Zo. Love him. His near-40% from deep should help us do some things. Four guys who can get into the paint, two-and-a-half that’ll create for others, the best rim-runner in basketball…but…ahhhhhh.

I love Zo but I don’t love him and RJ together, at least not to start. Both need the ball, and so does Elf since he can’t spot up, and Julius is going at his man off the bounce…

Payton / Dotson / Barrett / Randle / Robinson

Dot’s good without it, and he’s probably our best perimeter defender, except wasn’t their some French dude? Is he still on the team? Anyway, this is more balanced. Let’s settle here for now. So who does that…well, might be easier to do it this way: who’s out of the rotation altogether?

Reggie B – street clothes for a while.

Big Taj – I like him, and I’m gonna play him, but spot minutes.

IGGY – I LOVE this kid. And how’s that saying go? Love means never having to spell his last name properly? But where are the minutes coming from? We’ll bring him along slow. Wait for injuries. Turn him loose in 2020.

Wayne – The guard version of Taj – just lead and stay ready and I’ll get him PT when I can.

Knick-a-leena?That’s his name! Frank whatever. Great defender, unselfish, leadership qualities…but he drives blindly into four defenders so…

That leaves these reserves:

Smith / Trier / Knox / Morris / Portis

Okay, shooters in the frontcourt – think of the space that’ll create for DSJ and Zo! And if Kev’s shot is fallin’, that’s four good shooters! And you seen those videos of Denny working on his mechanics? This ain’t bad. Defense still an issue, though. Lots of pressure on Twin to lead this unit, but that’s what the 15 mil is for…

Who passes in this lineup? I’m not even talking, like, a good passer – who’s a willing passer? I mean, yeah, I love reckless aggression as much as the next guy, but you need at least one…

A ha! I got it:

STARTERS: Smith / Dotson / Barrett / Randle / Robinson
RESERVES: Payton / Trier / Knox / Morris / Portis

If he’s finally put the J back in DSJ, then this works. Slight step back on defense, maybe, but Junior did average almost a steal-and-a-half with us last year. What he lacks in actually stopping guys he makes up for in pressure and steals, right? Right?

And that second unit now – a pure facilitator surrounded by shooters! Done. Let’s not overthink it. Let’s not worry about what the media will say about Kev bumped from the starters, or the fact we got $38 million in free agency money coming off the bench…

*This was completed prior to official signings of Marcus Morris and Ignas Brazdeikis and re-structuring of Reggie Bullock*

…this is the most balanced these lineups are gonna get: facilitators and scorers, shooters and drivers, defense and, well, no defense…maybe it changes after watching these guys work out and scrimmage, maybe it changes in training camp, maybe injuries force me to change things, but for now, this is what we’re going with! Boom!

Now the fun sh**: specialty lineups!

BIG AS BIG GETS
Barrett / Knox / Morris / Randle / Robinson

Part of me wanted to play Randle at the two or three to make room for Portis, but that’d be ridiculous. Or would it? #positionless

BIG BUT MORE TRADITIONAL
Barrett / Dotson / Knox / Randle / Robinson

BIG WITH MORE SHOOTING
Barrett / Dotson / Morris / Portis / Robinson

I can’t wait to turn RJ loose at the one. It’ll be Harden-esque. This writer sitting next to me would call my Harden-RJ comparison insanely premature and unreasonable…just don’t get so excited that you say it out loud, Fiz!

SMALL
Payton / Trier / Barrett / Knox / Randle

#positionless

I really wanna see the Knox-Randle frontcourt. I know, revolving door on D, but that offense? Watch out, now. Five athletes, five ball-handlers…I can run my offense through my center!

Maybe I should put in an offense…

ALL SHOOTING, ALL THE TIME
Trier / Ellington / Dotson / Morris / Portis

Or as I like to think of them:

39.4% / 40.3% / 36.8% / 37.5% / 39.3%

In an ideal world, Knox will shoot his way into this, and then, my boy: IGGGGGYYYYYYY!!!! Man, I can’t wait for trade season to make room for Ignatius. Ignacio. Ig – whatever. Bro-zeikis. Love that kid.

NO PASSING…AS IN, WILL TRY TO INBOUND TO HIMSELF
AFTER MADE BASKETS TO GO COAST TO COAST

Trier / Barrett / Knox / Morris / Portis

Hell yeah, this is what I’m talking about. Keep-what-you-kill thoroughbreds, forget about the white noise and go get me buckets. RJ’s got the potential to grow out of this lineup, but my four guys with NBA experience? Averaged a COMBINED 5.9 assists per last year. That stat can’t be right, can…yep. Yep, it’s right. Four men. 5.9 assists. WOW.

#KNICKSTAPE – HIGHLIGHT REEL
Smith / Trier / Barrett / Knox / Robinson

Adding an ACC-record-breaker to the flashes we saw last year? Am I drooling?

EXPERIENCE
Payton / Ellington / Morris / Randle / Gibson

Years of service: 5 – 10 – 8 – 5 – 10

We got a 24-year-old and a 25-year-old in our “Experience” lineup, and media will still find ways to kill us for late-game meltdowns. This city is a beast, man.

Bullock, if healthy, would be in here somewhere, since he’s going into Year Six, but I don’t see him suiting up at all this season if I’m being honest with myself. At least not for us. Weird deal, the way that all went down.

YOUTH
Ntilikina / Barrett / Brazdeikis / Knox / Robinson

How did the French guy get in here? I meant to put Dennis, but…whatever…since I broke the seal…

DEFENSE
Ntilikina / Dotson / Bradzeikis / Morris / Robinson

No one will score. Not us. Not them. No one.

PASS-FIRST
Payton / Ntilikina / Dotson / Randle / Robinson

Gimme a second, just trying…okay, sorry…almost threw up. Too much unselfishness. Can’t stomach it.

Actually, now that my nausea’s subsiding, I kinda like this lineup. Enough defense to hide Julius, I can run the offense through him and Payton, got Dot working off the ball for open jumpers, Prince coming off a World Cup run and some summer Instagram workouts…you know what? These Frankie lineups are interesting. Maybe I’ve had him all wrong. Maybe he belongs in the rotation. Maybe I need to rethink my starting lineup…

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