If David Fizdale is going to be made the scapegoat by Knicks president Steve Mills for his hodgepodge roster, it’s going to take a little while longer.
According to an NBA source, Monday’s 44-point blowout loss in Milwaukee did not put the Knicks coach in any immediate danger, as bad as the optics were. Fizdale, though, must still show a modicum of progress as the winter deepens.
The Knicks host Denver on Thursday and Indiana on Saturday before a grueling four-game western trip that begins with Carmelo Anthony’s Blazers in Portland.
There could be plenty of embarrassment ahead — as if their worst 21-game start in team history (4-17) isn’t bad enough.
With a seven-game losing streak, Fizdale is far from safe to make it to the All-Star break. But management was encouraged by the Knicks showing progress during that second 10-game stretch during which they recorded a 2-8 mark after also going 2-8 in the first 10.
After that 2-8 start, Mills staged a wild postgame press conference that essentially put Fizdale on alert.
The season’s third 10-game segment could not have opened any worse — blown to bits by the Bucks, who have a league-high 12-game winning streak.
Fizdale can’t afford many more egregious losses, but for now team brass looks at the Milwaukee Massacre as, according to a source, “a one-off.’’
The Knicks were playing the second night of a back-to-back, facing the Eastern Conference favorites and were without their two best defensive starters in Frank Ntilikina and Marcus Morris.
Still, it was alarming performance, with Fizdale acknowledging “we didn’t come in with an idea we could beat this team from the beginning.’’
That was a damning comment and perhaps the first sign of players losing confidence in themselves. That eventually will lead to Fizdale’s undoing.
The Post has already reported the major deterrent to make a coaching change this early is the alternative is unappetizing. Plus, Fizdale has two years left on his pact.
An interim replacement of either Jud Buechler, Caleb Kanales or Mike Miller, their former G-League head coach, would be hard pressed to make this convoluted roster sparkle. If Fizdale goes, he likely will take his top assistant, Keith Smart, with him.
Fizdale was stunned at the Milwaukee mess in which the club fell behind by 47 points. The Knicks had gone toe-to-toe twice against the Sixers, losing second-half 17- and 16-point leads, and they nearly upset Boston on Sunday, squandering a late six-point advantage.
Management’s concern is whether the coaching staff can strategically figure out a way to snatch close games in the fourth quarter. But without a designated closer, it will be difficult for Fizdale to do so.
Rookie RJ Barrett is not ready for such a prominent last-minute, go-to role, and the Knicks realize Julius Randle has never been a No. 1 option.
Still, Fizdale needs to be better and the lottery picks need to progress. Fizdale’s record as Knicks coach stands at 21-82.
Fizdale had a glorious reputation in Miami as a beloved assistant coach and did well for one season in Memphis (43-39). Then he fought with his star player, Marc Gasol, during his second season and got fired after an 7-12 start.
The $74 million question is whether Fizdale has enough to work with. Mills spent $74 million on free agents for this season.
“It’s a combination,” one NBA personnel man said. “Fiz looks to be a better assistant coach — not a head coach. He needs to understand how not to be everybody’s friend.”
Firing Fizdale this soon would also make Mills and general manager Scott Perry look awful. The duo tabbed Fizdale over 10 other candidates, including Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer. And they failed to interview Steve Clifford or Frank Vogel.
How could they be so wrong about Fizdale after raving about him as a magnet for free agents and connecting well with millennial players?
Mills is becoming aware this roster might not be the one to snap the six-year playoff drought, but the brass is thankful about its cap flexibility. Six free agents were signed to one-year deals, so the franchise is not trapped.
Even Randle’s two-year guarantee is a movable contract, especially next season, if needed for a future blockbuster trade.
Beginning Dec. 15, all seven of the Knicks’ free agents signed last offseason are eligible to be traded. If the season continues to go off the rails, management will reconsider and attempt to trade some of its veterans such as Morris, Elfrid Payton, Wayne Ellington and Bobby Portis for draft picks.
Not that any — save for Morris — has enhanced his trade value. Payton has been out the last 17 games with a hamstring strain, but is expected to be cleared for his first full-blown practice Wednesday and could dress against the Nuggets on Thursday.
The point-guard situation is an issue. The Knicks lack the true floor general needed to perhaps unlock guys such as struggling Kevin Knox, Mitchell Robinson and even Randle.
“Fiz needs a point guard to really be successful — the way he wants to play,’’ one NBA assistant coach said.
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