The 2016/2017 New York Knicks have been a massive disappointment. As President of Basketball Operations, Phil Jackson must make a clear decision on the direction of the team and commit the time and resources towards crafting an identity that is clear to fans.
Beginning with Derrick Rose’s proclamations of “super team”, the Knicks have continued to endure set back after set back, both on and off the court. The Knicks stand at 25-37, four and a half games out of the eight spot in the Eastern Conference standings. While Phil Jackson has forgotten more basketball than most people know, he continues to be caught between a rebuilding and win-now philosophy that has confused fans, and ultimately, been a detriment to the team. Jackson must concede that his decision to re-sign Carmelo Anthony, and subsequent moves like signing Joakim Noah, and trading for Derrick Rose have not worked. Furthermore, Jackson must embrace the draft and give Jeff Hornacek the control needed to run and design his own offense.
Phil Jackson and has often been criticized for championing the triangle offense which runs against the league’s current trend of a pace and space offense. In an interview with Jackie Macmullan in November of 2016, Jackson made some interesting comments regarding his beloved offense http://www.espn.com/nba/story/_/id/18043923/truehoop-presents-new-york-knicks-president-phil-jackson-qa-nba
It’s my feeling when everybody does the same damn thing it becomes, ‘Who has the best Rolls-Royce? Who has the best, fastest stock car in this race we are running?’ So if you have LeBron, wow, we’re going to do the same thing even though we don’t have the Rolls-Royce? You have to be unique.
This is the allure of Jackson. He generally sounds like the smartest guy in the room and is always looking to stay ahead of the curve. However, two and a half years into this experiment, neither Derek Fisher, Jeff Hornacek, nor any of the Knicks players have executed the triangle to the point where it translates into consistent wins. Currently, the Knicks seem to be implementing the triangle offense during their half-court sets, but the philosophy and identity need to be clear. Either find the players and coach that will run the system properly or give Jeff Hornacek the power to run his own offense, free from the ire of Jackson in his ivory tower.
In addition to the ever controversial triangle offense, an equally frustrating topic is the 2017 NBA draft and whether the Knicks should be tanking to get the highest possible draft pick. Again, Jackson’s previous decisions have made the Knicks a glutton for punishment and a figurative pinada in back pages of the New York newspapers. Re-signing Carmelo Anthony to an almost near max deal in 2015 was the first mistake. At this point, the Knicks were committed to the win-now philosophy, trying to compete and contend in an Eastern Conference, dominated by LeBron James, with an aging star, who has been one of the most polarizing figures in New York sports in the past decade. Jackson hit his first reset button mid way through Derek Fisher’s first season as coach, trading away JR Smith and Iman Shumpert for cap space and draft picks. The Knicks won a franchise low 17 games, but drafted Kristaps Porzingis.
Following the 2014/2015 season, Jackson seemed to makes very sensible personnel and cap friendly decisions by signing Robin Lopez and bringing in low risk high reward players/contracts in Aaron Afflalo, Kyle O’Quinn, and Derrick Williams. However, after another disspointing season in 2015/2016, Jackson hit the reset button again. This time, trading Lopez and Jerian Grant for Derrick Rose and Justin Holiday, and signing Courtney Lee and Joakim Noah to four year deals. Brandon Jennings, who was also signed during the 2016 summer, was recently waived two weeks ago. In defense of his decisions, specifically trading for Rose, Marc Berman of New York posthttp://nypost.com/2016/06/24/phil-jackson-shows-carmelo-anthony-he-wants-to-win-now/, quotes Jackson discussing a conversation between himself and Anthony.
“Are we moving fast enough to accomplish goals you have for yourself and your career? … Carmelo and I talked about that. Whether we’re on the [same] time frame with him?” Jackson said. “This is a positive move. If he sees it as a positive move, that’s reinvigorating for him.”
And thats the problem. The Knicks need to be focused on drafting the best players possible to pair with Porizingis, yet, this becomes a far more difficult task when Jackson signed Anthony to a five year deal, almost certainly, committing towards a win-now philosophy. Despite this, credit Jackson for not trading away draft picks, as the Knicks will certainly look towards the 2017 NBA Draft to add a player with hopes of becoming a mainstay for franchise destined to find its way back to relevance in the NBA. Jackson may have the ability to improve the Knicks franchise, but he will have to avoid the temptation of short-term success in order to build a perennial contender.