The New York Knicks are in the midst of their best stretch in more than two years. The reward for interim head coach Mike Miller? Constant conjecture about his job security.
Miller will look to continue making a case the Knicks should look no further for their 2020-21 head coach Wednesday night, when New York hosts the Washington Wizards in the final game before the All-Star Game for both teams.
The Knicks have been off since Sunday, when their four-game winning streak came to an end with a 140-135, double-overtime loss to the host Atlanta Hawks. The Wizards will be completing a back-to-back set after beating the visiting Chicago Bulls 126-114 on Tuesday night.
The four-game winning streak was the Knicks’ longest since a four-game run from Dec. 10-16, 2017. A win Wednesday would give New York its best six-game stretch since it went 5-1 from Dec. 10-21, 2017.
But instead of focusing on a long-shot charge at the Eastern Conference playoffs — the Knicks enter Wednesday six games behind the eighth-place Orlando Magic — most of Tuesday was spent wondering who might replace Miller as New York’s next head coach.
At practice, forward Julius Randle kidded with reporters that John Calipari, his coach at the University of Kentucky, would jump back to the NBA and take over the Knicks along with his agent Leon Rose, who is leaving the world of representation to assume the presidency in New York.
“I talked to him yesterday — he said he’s coming, he’s in,” Randle said before clarifying he was joking about Calipari. The Kentucky coach said last Friday he wasn’t leaving the Wildcats to return to the NBA, where he spent 2 1/2 seasons as the New Jersey Nets’ head coach in the late 1990s.
The Knicks presumably found Randle’s comments more amusing than the ones also made Tuesday by new “branding consultant” Steve Stoute, the former record executive who all but fired Miller during an appearance on ESPN’s “First Take.”
The Knicks are 13-19 under Miller, who took over for David Fizdale on Dec. 6. But Stoute said the Knicks need to find “a coach and a coaching staff that’s going to help develop a team.”
Shortly thereafter, the Knicks issued a press release declaring Stoute “does not speak on behalf of the New York Knicks personnel and basketball operations.”
The Wizards’ recent strong play has come without accompanying drama. The win Tuesday was the fourth in the past six games for Washington, which has moved into ninth place in the Eastern Conference, three games behind the Magic.
Washington guard Bradley Beal scored 30 points vs. Chicago, Rui Hachimura added 20, and five other Wizards finished in double figures.
The contest against the Bulls marked the first of four straight for the Wizards against teams currently on the outside of the Eastern Conference playoff picture. Washington is scheduled to face the Cleveland Cavaliers on Feb. 21 before a rematch with the Bulls two days later.
Regardless, head coach Scott Brooks realizes any chance at building momentum rests on a strong performance Wednesday.
“We still have one more game before the All-Star break, and we have to focus on it,” Brooks told reporters Tuesday night. “We want to be able to say to ourselves that we’re going to be locked in mentally and we’re going to be sharp and focused.”
–Field Level Media