Frank Sinatra knew about the workings and rhythms of the NBA:
That’s life, that’s what all the people say
You’re ridin’ high in April, shot down in May
But I know I’m gonna change that tune
When I’m back on top, back on top in June
The opening lyrics from “That’s Life,” his 1966 hit, capture the very transitory nature of NBA seasons, and the teams and coaches which try to survive within them.
It’s rather jarring to look at the firing of Derek Fisher in New York, and the (likely, upcoming) firing of George Karl in Sacramento, in light of where each team stood just a few weeks ago.
Last week, we documented the arrows and slings of outrageously bad fortune for the Kings. This team had won five in a row. Sacramento had moved into the No. 8 spot in the West, ahead of Utah and Portland. DeMarcus Cousins was anything but a disruptive, corrosive presence on his team. He carried the Kings on his back, and when he scored 56 on Jan. 25 against the Charlotte Hornets — with mercurial point guard Rajon Rondo dropping 20 dimes — it should have been enough to win… but it wasn’t. Appalling officiating mistakes… and yes, not enough production from the Kings’ supporting cast… led to a brutal one-point double-overtime defeat.
The team has won one game since then (against the Bucks, which represent a sad story in their own right).
Now, the noise and news are all over the web: George Karl is just about to get fired. Sacramento’s ownership situation and leadership structure lie in shambles.
Funny how one game — and then two bad weeks — can engineer a 180-degree turn in a season.
The same is true for Derek Fisher and the New York Knicks.
With the Knicks in freefall right now — losers of 9 of their last 10 — it’s worth noting that this team was tearing up the NBA not too long ago. New York tore through a road back-to-back as though it was nothing. The team pushed the San Antonio Spurs on the road, coming as close as any club to denting the Spurs’ perfect home-court record this season.
Coherent, focused, engaged at the defensive end of the floor, poised in the face of adversity, the Knicks were beginning to figure things out. Yes, Carmelo Anthony’s injury had more than a little to do with this team’s failures in recent weeks, but a 13-point loss at Charlotte (which is not the same team it was in the first two months of the season) and Sunday’s home loss against the lower-tier Denver Nuggets certainly represent the kinds of results the Knicks had hoped to avoid. Even when being generous regarding Melo’s health, and even if one is appalled that the organization fired Fisher prematurely, the point remains: The Knicks’ season and coaching situation turned on a dime, as is the case in Sacramento.
In one moment, the Knicks held realistic playoff aspirations. In the next breath, they are sorting through the rubble of a coaching change, floundering as an organization. Right, wrong or indifferent, it is fascinating to absorb the reality of how quickly situations change in the NBA.
Where’s the next abrupt plot twist? You know what they say about the rule of three…