Will it be boom or bust for Derrick Rose with the New York Knicks?
As New York Knicks small forward Carmelo Anthony is set to turn 32-years of age next month, the clock is ticking on his chances of winning an NBA Championship. Anthony is set to wrap up his 13th NBA season and this is a guy that has only made it past the first round of the NBA Playoffs twice. In 2011, Anthony was able to make his way to the Big Apple when he forced the Denver Nuggets to trade him to the Knicks. Anthony’s arrival in New York was met with a hero’s welcome as the Knicks needed a new face for their franchise. But after the Knicks went 54-28 during the 2012-2013 NBA season which resulted in the team’s first trip to the Eastern Conference Semifinals since 2000, it has been a step backwards for New York who haven’t come close to competing after that. The Knicks lost a franchise worst 65 games last season, and as they’ve already been eliminated from the postseason race for this NBA campaign, they are wasting the scoring ability of Anthony.
It’s been two years since Phil Jackson became the Knicks team president and whereas he vowed to turned things around for the team that he helped to win their only two NBA Championships as a player, the losing that has plagued New York for the majority of this millennium is still in place.
In the summer of 2014, Anthony opted out of his contract with the Knicks to become an unrestricted free agent. And even though that Anthony had lucrative offers on the table from teams such as the Houston Rockets and Chicago Bulls, he decided to stay with the Knicks due to the fact that could they offer him more money than any other NBA team, while Jackson also sold him on his long-term vision. But how long must the City of New York wait for Jackson’s vision to come around?
The Knicks and Jackson did use the fourth overall pick of last year’s NBA Draft wisely when they selected power forward Kristaps Porzingis who is in the running to be the league’s Rookie of the Year as he is averaging 14.3 points and 7.3 rebounds per contest which are both second to Anthony on the club. But as Jackson appeared to have found a building block for the future in Porzingis, the losing continues as there is still a possibility of the Knicks losing 50 games for the second consecutive year which falls into the lap of Jackson who has done a disservice to both Anthony and the basketball fans in the Big Apple with the team that he puts on the court at Madison Square Garden on a nightly basis.
Yes, it took nearly $130 million of Knicks owner James Dolan’s money to keep Anthony in New York, but it was more of Jackson’s gift of gab as he told the nine-time NBA All-Star that he would build a championship team around him. Anthony and Knicks fans took the bait and there is absolutely nothing to show for it at Madison Square Garden but more losing.
What has hurt Jackson so much is that he is hell bent on forcing his “triangle offense” on people along with only hiring head coaches that are familiar with his system. Anthony is not a player that fits into Jackson’s triangle system due to the fact that he is more of an iso-player which is the equivalent of mixing oil and water.
Jackson has already fired Derek Fisher as the Knicks head coach after he led the team to a 38-96 during his stewardship. Fisher was deemed as Jackson’s protege who was going to be groomed by the “Zen Master” into being the next great NBA head coach. But Fisher’s off-the-court immaturity led Jackson to firing him which prompted him to promote assistant coach Kurt Rambis to become the Knicks interim head coach.
Under Rambis, the Knicks are 8-16, and in spite of having a career record of 56-146, Jackson will probably give serious thought to making him New York’s full-time head coach for next season which doesn’t resonate of a celebratory situation. Along with Rambis, you can expect to hear the names of current Golden State Warriors assistant head coach Luke Walton and former Denver Nuggets head coach Brian Shaw thrown around as possible candidates to sit on the bench for Jackson next season as they are also disciples of the triangle.
But with the Knicks not possessing a first-round pick for this year’s NBA Draft, Jackson must make some big time moves this summer in free agency which will be hard to do with Oklahoma City Thunder small forward Kevin Durant expected to be the only marquee name on the market, and the Knicks don’t need another small forward.
Although that Jackson sold Anthony a bill of goods to come back to New York, he doesn’t deserve a free pass as he had enough time to analyze the situation for each team that was interested in his services. And as Anthony’s knee is not going to get any better which will further diminish his ability as a perimeter shooter, his title chances will continue to evaporate. But even with that, Jackson has not done Anthony any favor by putting a subpar team around him for the past two years which simply reeks of typical Knicks dysfunction.
In many basketball circles, the name of Phil Jackson is a revered one. As a head coach, Jackson has won 11 NBA Championships which is more than any other man that has strutted up and down the sidelines in a suit and loafers. In 2014, Jackson decided to make the move to the front office as he became the president of the New York Knicks. Jackson’s name alone gave the Knicks fan base hope as this is an organization that is still searching for their first NBA Title since 1973, as Jackson was a member of that team. But Jackson was brutally honest with the media and fans in New York City from his first day on the job as he proclaimed that a Knicks turnaround wouldn’t come overnight. And that has been the case for the Knicks as they are 52-105 since Jackson took over.
Jackson is known for his renowned “triangle offense” that led to his 11 NBA Championships. But when Jackson was hoisting the Larry O’Brien Trophy, he did it with some of the best NBA players ever as he had Michael Jordan leading the way to six titles for the Chicago Bulls while having Shaquille O’Neal for three titles, and Kobe Bryant for all five of his championships that he won with the Los Angeles Lakers. The Knicks do have a superstar player in small forward Carmelo Anthony, but Jackson’s time in New York is a clear indication that the triangle offense isn’t for everyone.
Jackson’s first major move was to hire a head coach that was familiar with his triangle offense as he hired Derek Fisher. Fisher spent 18 years in the NBA as a player which included 13 seasons with the Lakers where he was a member of all five of their title teams under Jackson. Jackson hired Fisher in spite of the fact that he didn’t have any previous experience as a head coach or as an assistant in NBA.
Fisher wasn’t given the most talented team to work with and in 136 games with the Knicks, his record was 40-96. But what ultimately did Fisher in was his immaturity. Last off-season Fisher found himself in the middle of an altercation with Memphis Grizzlies small forward Matt Barnes. Fisher began seeing Barnes’ ex-wife which didn’t go over well with Barnes as the two were former teammates with the Lakers while Barnes also saw him as a friend. Barnes would confront Fisher over the matter, but he wasn’t ready for the backlash that he would face from Barnes which led to him calling the police. Barnes would eventually be suspended by the NBA for two games over the incident, but Fisher’s actions had players in the Knicks locker room beginning to look at him differently. Fisher also drew the ire as he missed practice on several occasions as he was flying back from California from visiting the former Mrs. Matt Barnes. It was also reported that Fisher was involved with a woman that previously had dealings with former Knicks and current Atlanta Hawks guard Tim Hardaway Jr., as it was becoming evident that you don’t want to leave your woman around Fisher. But what ultimately did Fisher in was his mouth.
After only going 17-65 last season, the only way for the Knicks to go was up. The Knicks began this NBA season with a record of 22-22 and they found themselves right in the hunt for a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. The Knicks fan base was feeding off of this as they were coming out to support this team as they appeared to have a chance. But Fisher publicly made comments professing that making the playoffs this year wasn’t important for the Knicks and it was more important about the process. And if Fisher’s antics of playing Casanova hadn’t made him lose the Knicks locker room, those comments sealed it as New York would lose nine of their next ten games as he became a back page headline in the Big Apple. Fisher’s immaturity and lack of self-control left Jackson with no choice to fire the once promising head coach that he had previously hoped to groom.
Jackson would replace Fisher with another disciple of the triangle offense in Kurt Rambis who has won NBA Championships with the Lakers organization as both a player and as an assistant coach. Under Rambis, the Knicks are 2-4 and it is clear that he will not be the Knicks head coach going forward as he is just there on an interim basis.
There are former NBA head coaches such as Tom Thibodeau and Mark Jackson that would make sense for the Knicks to go after, but that won’t be the case as long as Jackson is running the team due to the fact that he wants someone that will run his triangle offense. Current Golden State Warriors assistant coach Luke Walton will be someone that Jackson will go after this off-season as he is another disciple of the triangle offense. And after the Warriors hot start this season under Walton while head coach Steve Kerr recovered from back surgery, Walton will be a hot commodity over the summer which means that the Knicks will have competition to obtain his services.
Jackson was able to strike it rich last summer at the NBA Draft when he used the fourth overall pick on power forward Kristaps Porzingis who is in the running to be the NBA’s Rookie of the Year as he is averaging 14.1 points and 7.4 rebounds per contest. Porzingis is a native of Latvia and his perimeter game along with his passing ability make him ideal for Jackson’s triangle offense. But the Knicks need more than just Porzingis to make them a contender and they’ve missed opportunities to part with Anthony in order to get value for him.
Anthony is one of the best scorers of this current NBA era, but at the age of 31, with a bad knee, the Knicks could have allowed him to leave in 2014 when he opted out of his deal to become an unrestricted free agent. Instead Jackson gave Anthony a full no-trade clause as a part of his five-year deal for $124 million. And the reality for the Knicks and Jackson is that Anthony’s knee is not going to get better and soon his yearly salary which is north of $20 million is going to be dead money as Jackson sold him a bill of goods to remain in New York City.
The Knicks appear to on their way to missing the playoffs for the third consecutive year while they don’t have a first-round pick in the NBA Draft this June. The Knicks are hoping to strike it big in free agency with the likes of Oklahoma City Thunder small forward Kevin Durant and Memphis Grizzlies point guard Mike Conley scheduled to be available. But it isn’t that cut and dry for the Knicks due to the fact of Jackson’s stubborness as far as the triangle offense.
As good as the triangle can be for perimeter players such as Jordan, Bryant, and Scottie Pippen who flourished under Jackson, it can be difficult on a point guard who has never played in that kind of system. That was evident by the struggles that Hall of Fame point guard Gary Payton had in his one season of playing under Jackson with the Lakers which will more than likely not entice Conley or an All-Star caliber point guard to New York which is a position that the Knicks need an upgrade at.
Jackson has shot down rumors of him leaving the Knicks in order to join the Lakers front office. But like most people I don’t expect Jackson to be around for the long haul in New York. Sooner rather than later Jackson will realize that attempting to fix the Knicks is the equivalent to reshuffling the deck chairs on the Titanic as the iceberg that is team owner James Dolan will eventually appear out of nowhere and sink the hopes of the “Zen Master”. Porzingis is a talented player that could one day morph into an NBA MVP and make the Knicks a contender. However Jackson must realize that his triangle offense isn’t for everyone and he must accept that as his 11 NBA Titles are clouding his vision. Just like it was when Jackson came to Madison Square Garden two years ago, the Knicks are still a mess, and there still doesn’t appear to be a way for this organization to get themselves out of their 43-year rut.
This past summer at the 2015 NBA Draft, I like many people questioned the decision by the New York Knicks to draft power forward Kristaps Porzingis. The Knicks came into the NBA Draft owning the fourth overall pick, and after winning just 17 games in the previous NBA season, New York was in need of an impact player. When Porzingis walked across the stage at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York to shake the hand of NBA commissioner Adam Silver, he was greeted loudly by a chorus of boos. It is very difficult for a fan of the Knicks to be optimistic about this team being that they have seen the front office in New York miss so many times in the NBA Draft as this is an organization that is still clinging to their last NBA Championship that was won back in 1973 along with the fact that they call New York City home.
When Porzingis was drafted, he gave fans of the Knicks flashbacks of Frederic Weis whom the team drafted in 1999. But Knicks team president Phil Jackson preached patience on Porzingis as he was only 19-years of age at the time that he was drafted while assistant coach Kurt Rambis compared him to a younger version of Dallas Mavericks power forward Dirk Nowitzki. But make no mistake about it that Porzingis is making the most of his opportunity with the Knicks.
During the NBA’s Summer League in Las Vegas, Porzingis averaged 10.5 points and 3.2 rebounds per game as the slender 7’3″ native Latvian was beginning to get his feet wet against NBA-type talent. But as usual in the Big Apple, there were still skeptics about the ability of Porzingis to get it done when the bright lights of the NBA regular season were on.
But in Porzingis’ first regular season game in the NBA, he went for 16 points and 5 rebounds as the Knicks smoked the Milwaukee Bucks 122-97. And five days later Porzingis earned his first career double-double when he went for 13 points and 14 rebounds in a 94-84 loss to the San Antonio Spurs. As the season has gone along, Porzingis has continued to improve which was evident by him dropping 29 points and 11 rebounds on the Charlotte Hornets on November 17, 24 points and 14 rebounds versus the Houston Rockets on November 21, and 20 points and 13 rebounds against the Miami Heat on November 23.
For the season, Porzingis is averaging 13.0 points per game along with leading the Knicks in rebounds (8.1) and blocks (2.1) as he is a big reason why the Knicks have nearly eclipsed their win total from last season while they are also thinking about making the postseason in the spring.
Porzingis’ game is perfect for the triangle offense that the Knicks implement under Jackson and current head coach Derek Fisher. Some folks might call it the “European-style” of basketball that Porzingis plays, but you can see that he is indeed a student of the game. The triangle offense is a system that is predicated off of ball movement and Porzingis is a solid passer while also being able to play in the post as he is more of a point forward. And for the first time in a long time, the Knicks appear to have a franchise cornerstone as Porzingis appears to be the team’s best draft pick since Patrick Ewing in 1985.
Porzingis has captivated the Knicks fan base as his merchandise has been selling like hotcakes due to the fact that he has given them hope. We saw this a few years ago with the Knicks during the 15 minutes of fame in regards to “Linsanity” as the fans rallied around point guard Jeremy Lin, but Porzingis appears to be the real deal.
Porzingis is also on track to be the NBA Rookie of the Year and he would become the first Knicks player since Ewing in 1986 to win the award. Small forward Carmelo Anthony might be the current star of the Knicks, but Porzingis is the building block for the organization and he has given Jackson some options. Porzingis has a team friendly rookie deal that will run through 2019 as Jackson will continue looking to add more players who will help to transform the Knicks into legitimate title contenders. And although that Anthony is the Knicks leading scorer at 21.8 points per game this season, it is wishful thinking that Jackson could move his contract due to the fact that he is 31-years old with a bad knee. After this season, the Knicks will still owe Anthony nearly $80 million through 2019 when his contract expires and between now and then it could become dead weight.
But Porzingis’ ability to pass, score, and rebound is making him into a star in New York City and around the NBA as his game should be attractive to pending free agents as far as potentially joining the Knicks. Porzingis has also shown that he is not afraid of the spotlight as he wanted to play for the Knicks and he echoed that to the team before they drafted him last summer which is a welcoming sight due to the fact that many players cannot handle the pressure that comes with playing in New York City.
There is plenty that still has to be written in the book of Porzingis, but the first chapter has captivated basketball fans in the Big Apple while he is making Jackson look like a genius while most of us doubted his ability to get things done in the front office.
Y-Toronto Raptors 46-36 (7)
The Toronto Raptors are coming off of their best regular season in franchise history, but will they be able to take the next step in the NBA Playoffs? The Raptors have won the Atlantic Division is each of the last two NBA seasons, but it hasn’t resulted in success in the postseason as Toronto has been bounced in the first round each year. Under general manager Masai Ujiri, the Raptors have been a guard oriented team with their big men mainly focusing on rebounding. This philosophy is good enough for the Raptors to win Atlantic Division in the regular season, but the postseason is a different animal.
The Raptors two leading scorers recently have been shooting guard DeMar DeRozan and point guard Kyle Lowry. DeRozan is an athletic wing player while Lowry is a grizzled point guard. Lowry has shed a few pounds during the off-season in the hope of being able to endure the grind that is the NBA season. Together, DeRozan and Lowry have the ability to put the Raptors on their back which could lead to another division title.
The Raptors do have some size in their frontcourt in center Jonas Valanciunas and power forward Patrick Patterson and they’ll need to improve on the boards as they were just 26th in the NBA in rebounding last season while the acquisition of power forward Luis Scola and small forward DeMarre Carroll should provide Toronto with some extra depth and scoring options up front.
For Raptors head coach Dwane Casey, “small ball” will once again be in effect for his team which should lead to another division title, but they will more than likely be hung out to dry next spring in the NBA Playoffs.
X-Boston Celtics 43-39 (8)
It wasn’t pretty at times, but the Boston Celtics found a way to make the NBA Playoffs last spring. The Celtics went 40-42 to grab a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference as the rebuilding process under head coach Brad Stevens is paying off. Stevens is set to begin his third season as the head coach of the Celtics and his squad in Boston is reminiscent of his teams when he was the head basketball coach at Butler University. The Celtics might not have the overall talent of other teams in the NBA, but they scrap, claw, and play as a cohesive unit on a nightly basis which is something that you’ll see from them once again in the upcoming NBA season.
Like some other teams in the NBA, the Celtics have become a guard oriented team. The Celtics acquired point guard Isaiah Thomas last season from the Phoenix Suns. And in 21 games with the Celtics, Thomas averaged 19.0 points per contest. This season it would not surprise me to see Stevens employ a three guard lineup at times with Thomas, along with fellow point guards Marcus Smart and Avery Bradley as they all possess speed along with the ability to score and facilitate.
In the Celtics front court, they are hopeful that this will be the season in which power forward Jared Sullinger will be able to remain healthy. Sullinger in entering his fourth season with the Celtics, but he has only appeared in 177 games. At 6’9″, 280 lbs., Sullinger gives the Celtics an imposing presence in the post, but he cannot help the team if he is not playing. This off-season the Celtics acquired power forward David Lee from the Golden State Warriors. And if Lee is healthy, what he’ll be able to provide the Celtics with is a player that is always active who doesn’t need many offensive plays called for him in order to contribute which will fit into Stevens’ system.
Swingman Evan Turner is a solid wing player while small forward Jae Crowder, power forward Amir Johnson, center Tyler Zeller, and center Kelly Olnyk give the Celtics depth and size in their front court; especially coming off of the bench.
The Celtics won’t be able to sneak up on teams this season, but a favorable schedule to begin the NBA campaign along with solid determination will have them once again contending for a postseason berth.
Brooklyn Nets 41-41
In their first year under head coach Lionel Hollins, the Brooklyn Nets posted a losing record, but they still were able to navigate their way to the postseason. And in the upcoming NBA season, the Nets are out to prove people wrong who are ready to write them off as far as being able to be a contender.
It was addition by subtraction for the Nets when they parted ways with point guard Deron Williams over the summer. Williams had developed a reputation in New York City of being a “high-priced diva”. And when your production doesn’t equate to your paycheck in the Big Apple, the fans and media alike there don’t have a problem in letting you know that. The Nets would simply buy out the remainder of Williams’ contract as they decided that it was time for them to move on from their former franchise player.
The Nets are the seventh NBA team that point guard Jarrett Jack has played for. Last season with the Nets, Jack averaged 12.0 and 4.7 assists per game as he was splitting time with Williams. But with Williams now with the Dallas Mavericks, Hollins is giving Jack the opportunity to be a starter which is something that he hasn’t consistently done in the NBA. What Jack gives the Nets at the point guard position is a player who is a veteran floor general that can get his teammates involved while staying within the realm of what Hollins wants to have executed on the floor.
After flirting with trading center Brook Lopez last season, the Nets have decided to keep their big man around as he has begun to display the aggression that Hollins consistently needs from him in the post. Lopez has always been a solid scorer, but not a superstar. And if the Nets are cool with Lopez hitting his career averages of 17 points and 7 rebounds per contest, then they’ll have a solid contributor on their hands. Whereas the Nets traded center Mason Plumlee to the Portland Trailblazers over the summer, they are raving about the potential that power forward Thaddeus Young possesses. Nets general manager Billy King drafted Young into the NBA with the Philadelphia 76ers back in 2007. And even at the age of 27, we still don’t know how good that Young can truly be as a player due to the fact that he’s never had a solid opportunity to be a focal point of a team which we should see more of this year.
The Nets still have veteran sharpshooter Joe Johnson who is in the final year of his contract. Johnson is set to earn $24.9 million this season and if he or Brooklyn gets off to a slow start this season, I could see him getting shipped out of town. But Johnson is still a solid three-point shooter that could benefit from pick and roll action with Jack along with playing off of Young and Lopez in the post as he looks to join the 20,000-point club this season.
The Nets reserve players will consist of point guard Shane Larkin, swingman Bojan Bogdanovic, and veteran small forward Andrea Bargnani who all have something to prove this season after up and down campaigns last season to say the least.
The Nets will embark on a difficult schedule to begin the NBA season which includes games against the San Antonio Spurs and Chicago Bulls, but Hollins is a good motivator and he knows how to adjust as the season goes along which should allow Brooklyn to remain in the hunt for a playoff spot.
New York Knicks 30-52
For some folks it may appear that there is a dark cloud hanging over Madison Square Garden and the New York Knicks. The Knicks have not won the Eastern Conference since 1999 and they have not won the NBA Championship since 1973. But in recent years, the Knicks have become a laughing stock in professional sports. The Knicks are coming off of their worst season in franchise history as they went 17-65, and to make matters worse, the ping pong balls didn’t bounce their way at the NBA’s Draft Lottery as they received the fourth overall pick of the draft. The Knicks would select forward Kristaps Porzingis which was welcomed by a chorus of boos in New York City. Porzingis is a 20-year old native of Latvia who Knicks team president Phil Jackson is classifying as a “project” and only time will tell will tell how good that he can be. But the problem is that the folks in New York City don’t want to hear about a player being a project as they are looking for a winner right now which is something that they shouldn’t hold their breath on with this current Knicks team.
When Jackson came on board as the Knicks president, he wanted to do things his way which meant him bringing his famed triangle offense to town. Jackson hired Derek Fisher to be the Knicks head coach last year due to his familiarity with Jackson’s system during his playing days with the Los Angeles Lakers. But Fisher is the one who is coaching the Knicks and not Jackson and the message of the triangle is not getting across to the players in New York.
In Fisher’s first season with the Knicks, he appeared to be lost for the most part as their has been a steep learning curve for him as he made the quick jump from NBA player to being a head coach without any period of transition as an assistant coach. Fisher also hasn’t helped himself or the Knicks being that he is now embroiled in a saga involving himself and the ex-wife of current Memphis Grizzlies small forward Matt Barnes. And although the Ringling Brothers Circus no longer comes to Madison Square Garden, there is still plenty of circus action around 33rd and Broadway due to the calamity of errors that the Knicks have become.
Small forward Carmelo Anthony is the Knicks best player, but at 31-years of age, and coming off of knee surgery, can he be the same player that he once was? For his 12-year NBA career, Anthony has averaged 25.2 points per game. Anthony is a phenomenal scorer that doesn’t make the players around him better and with the triangle offense predicated on ball movement, it seems to be a marriage of oil and water between he and Jackson’s system.
With a team president that is out to lunch, a head coach that is searching for answers and a superstar player in Anthony that has a scorer’s mentality, fans of the Knicks don’t have a lot to look forward to in the upcoming NBA season.
Philadelphia 76ers 20-62
There’s bad and then there’s how bad that Philadelphia 76ers have been recently. During the 2012-2013 NBA season, the 76ers won 34 games. But over the last two NBA seasons, the Sixers have won a combined 37 games. And by the look of things, you can expect more of the same in Philadelphia from them during the upcoming NBA season. Sam Hinkie is entering his third season as the 76ers team president/general manager and even though he wants people to trust the process, it is time that he produces some positive results for this team.
The Sixers owned the third overall pick of the 2015 NBA draft which they used on center Jahlil Okafor whom they are hopeful will be a building block for them, but at the same time will they stick with him long enough to develop? Under Hinkie, the 76ers have a history of giving up on some of their young players quickly while they’ve also made turned the NBA Draft into a joke due to the fact that they select players that are injured as they’ll once again be without the services of center Joel Embiid for the entire season.
Under head coach Brett Brown, the Sixers have a young team, but they must find a way to become more competitive as they lost 23 games last season by at least 15 points. Right now the Sixers are not a respected organization around the NBA which means they are going to have to earn respect, but by the looks of things, they don’t have the personnel to be that competitive.
The 2015-2016 NBA season is three months away from starting, but that doesn’t mean that basketball isn’t on the brain. The New York Knicks are coming off of their worst season in franchise history as they only won 17 games which is something that team president Phil Jackson is attempting to remedy this summer. Jackson missed out on signing the top-tier players in free agency as none of them wanted to be a part of the Knicks rebuild. But the Knicks are high on forward Kristaps Porzingis who was the fourth overall pick of last month’s NBA Draft. Jackson envisions Porzingis as a work in progress while he still looking to build a team around small forward Carmelo Anthony. Anthony is 31-years old and he is coming off of knee surgery as it will be interesting to see if he can regain his form as one of the best scorers in the NBA. The head coach of the Knicks is Derek Fisher who is set to embark on his second year with the team. Jackson brought Fisher to New York due to the fact that Fisher is a disciple of his coveted triangle offense as he played under Jackson for 10 years. But it will be interesting to see if Jackson’s love for the triangle will hurt or help the Knicks going forward.
A big part of the Knicks struggles last season were a lack of talent and the fact that they were trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. Most of the Knicks roster didn’t grasp the triangle offense and it was like attempting to mix oil with water as Jackson and Fisher never attempted to adjust to their personnel. And going forward that stubbornness could hurt Jackson in New York City with the Knickerbockers.
As a head coach Jackson has won more NBA Championships (11) than any other head coach in league history and it was all done under the banner of his triangle offense. But Jackson also had the luxury of winning with two of the best shooting guards in NBA history. Jackson won six NBA Titles with the Chicago Bulls and Michael Jordan, while he won five more with Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers. But like I’ve said in the past, Jackson has never built a team from the ground up, and more importantly, he hasn’t done it in New York City where the media and fans alike can be relentless.
Even as Anthony is recovering from knee surgery, he is still the Knicks best player. For his 12-year NBA career, Anthony has averaged 25.2 points per game and he’s never had a season where he averaged under 20 points. But as good of a scorer that Anthony is and can be, he is more of an isolation player that is a volume shooter due to the fact that he needs to take numerous shots to score and he isn’t effective without the basketball along with the fact that he doesn’t make the players around him better. Last summer, Jackson had to talk Anthony into re-signing with the Knicks after he opted out of his deal. Jackson’s championship resume was enough to make Anthony stay with the Knicks and although last season was a wash for New York, he is trying to build a team around the eight-time NBA All-Star.
During the 2015 NBA Draft, Jackson shipped shooting guard Tim Hardaway Jr., to the Atlanta Hawks for the draft rights to guard Jerian Grant. Hardaway was one of those players on the Knicks roster last season that struggled in the triangle as there were internet rumors that he and Anthony weren’t on the same page. And whereas Jackson was unable to bring in free agents with star appeal, he was able to sign center Robin Lopez and shooting guard Arron Afflalo.
What Porzingis, Grant, Lopez, and Afflalo all bring to the table for Jackson is that they are players that are effective without the basketball in their hands which is something that is important if Anthony isn’t going to alter his game as the Knicks will need that kind of personnel in order to be able to contend in an Eastern Conference that is improving.
Jackson has received is fair share of criticism from the press in New York City, but being that he played 11 seasons for the Knicks which included helping the franchise win their only two NBA Championships, he knows how to deal with the folks in the Big Apple, and thus he has thick skin. Like any physical structure, building a solid foundation for a team takes time as you need the right pieces to fit your system. But in the NBA, all players don’t like the triangle system which could scare players away from potentially joining the Knicks. And if that is the case, would Jackson be willing to adjust his system or would the bling from his 11 title rings blind him from seeing that? Only time will tell.
There’s something quite unique about the bond between twin siblings as they have a bond between them forever. The journey of NBA centers Brook and Robin Lopez began in North Hollywood, California. The Lopez twins would play high school basketball at San Joaquin Memorial in Fresno, California before attending Stanford University in Palo Alto, California as they are West Coast guys at heart. As a sophomore, Brook would average 19.3 points and 8.2 rebounds as he was named as a Third-team All-American. In 2008, the Lopez twins would each forgo their final two years of eligibility at Stanford in favor of the NBA Draft. Brook Lopez would be selected by the New Jersey Nets with the tenth overall pick while Robin would go to the Phoenix Suns with the 15th overall selection.
Brook has spent his entire NBA career with the Nets which has included moving with the team from Northern New Jersey to Brooklyn, New York in 2012. And with the Nets, Lopez has gone on to become a cornerstone of their franchise which culminated in an All-Star Game appearance in 2013. Robin on the other hand has had to work a little harder to find stability as he has been traded twice, but at each stop along the way he has provided energy and a presence on the defensive end of the floor.
The Lopez twins each hit the free agent market this summer looking to cash in on a big payday, but nobody expected what we’ve seen from them. Brook decided to return to the Nets while Robin decided to join him in the Big Apple. Robin wasn’t going to join the Nets and be his twin brother’s backup; so instead he opted to take his talents to the other side of the East River and join the New York Knicks on a four-year contract that is worth $54 million.
The past three years have seen the Nets make the NBA Playoffs, but they haven’t been a real title contender while the Knicks are coming off of a season where they only managed to win 17 games. What the Lopez twins have done is to put a spotlight on NBA basketball in New York City once again as sports reporters will have plenty of material to now go off of in order to drum up a story in regards to the brothers.
The Nets-Knicks rivalry goes back to 1976 when the then New York Nets joined the NBA after the American Basketball Association folded. The Nets had to pay the NBA $3.2 million due to the league’s expansion fee and $4.8 million to the Knicks for “infringing” on their territory. This left the Nets in financial peril and they were forced to sell the contract of Julius Erving to the Philadelphia 76ers. And thus the first die was cast in the rivalry between the Nets and Knicks. The Nets would then move to New Jersey where they would meet the Knicks three times in the playoffs, but the rivalry never truly amounted to anything. There was hope that the rivalry would intensify when the Nets moved to Brooklyn, but it has been lukewarm at best. However the rivalry stands to reach another level just due to the fact that the media in New York City will run the notion of Brook playing for the Nets and Robin for the Knicks.
On the court, the Lopez brothers have different styles even though they both are mellow. Brook is more the scorer while Robin tends to provide size off of the bench while grabbing rebounds and blocking shots. Brook had to prove himself this past season to new Nets head coach Lionel Hollins who wanted the seven-footer to be more aggressive. Robin played a big role for the Portland Trailblazers last season as he helped them win the Northwest Division Title for the first time in franchise history. Robin now joins the Knicks to play in the famed “triangle offense” of team president Phil Jackson. Lopez should have success with the Knicks due to the fact that he plays well without the basketball as Knicks small forward Carmelo Anthony is known to play a ton of isolation ball. But one things is for sure as the newspapers in the Big Apple will have something to talk about game day between the Nets and Knicks.
Last year when Phil Jackson became the new team president of the New York Knicks, he was looked at as a savior. Jackson played 12 seasons in the NBA and he helped the Knicks win their only two NBA Titles in franchise history. Jackson would then go on to win 11 NBA Championships as a head coach which is more than anyone else in league history. So when Knicks owner James Dolan appointed Jackson to his current post last year, the folks in New York City expected the Knicks to become instant winners, but that hasn’t been the case.
Jackson’s first move in New York was to name Derek Fisher as the Knicks new head coach. Fisher played for Jackson with the Los Angeles Lakers and the two helped the franchise win five NBA Championships. And when Jackson and Fisher entered Madison Square Garden, they came in as if they were Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid as they were attempting to save the Knicks from themselves.
But in the Knicks first full season under Jackson’s regime, the team went 17-65 which was the second worst record in the NBA. And in typical Knicks fashion, the ping-pong balls didn’t bounce in their favor at the NBA Draft Lottery as they were left with the fourth overall pick in the 2015 NBA Draft. Jackson spent this past season raving about point guard D’Angelo Russell to the point that he was fined by the NBA for publicly discussing a player that had yet to declare for the NBA Draft. Jackson was so enthralled with Russell that he never mentioned any other top prospects that the Knicks would be interested in selecting. The Lakers had the second overall pick which they used on Russell. But the calamity of errors that is the Knicks would be completed when NBA commissioner Adam Silver announced their pick.
The Knicks selected power forward Kristaps Porzingis this past Thursday night and the boo birds reigned supreme at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York to the point that it sounded like Madison Square Garden. Porzingis is a 19-year old native of Latvia that Jackson compares to Dallas Mavericks power forward Dirk Nowtizki. But the folks in New York were expecting the Knicks to select a more established college player from the United States as Porzingis invokes memories of Frederic Weis in 1999.
One person that is not a fan of the selection of Porzingis is Knicks small forward Carmelo Anthony.
As a result of Jackson’s influence, Anthony re-signed with the Knicks last summer to the tune of $124 million over five years. Jackson promised Anthony that he would build a contender around him and even though Anthony has backtracked publicly about his displeasure of the Knicks taking Porzingis, the die has been cast as he is not happy. And although that the Ringling Brothers Circus no longer comes to Madison Square Garden, Knicks owner James Dolan (himself included) has the best clowns in town working in the front office who actually believe the garbage that this team can contend for an NBA Championship in the near future.
Jackson’s famed triangle offense has only worked when Michael Jordan and current Los Angeles Lakers shooting guard Kobe Bryant suited up for him. Jackson has never drafted a player and turned him into a star and the same can be said about him building a team from the ground up. Dolan has given Jackson full autonomy with the Knicks and as long as Dolan is willing to write the checks, Jackson can care less if the folks in the Big Apple like what he is doing. Fisher is Jackson’s apprentice with the Knicks and he is already a defeated man as Jackson handed him a beaten up Trans-Am to restore in the Knicks that instead are ready for a scrap metal yard. Anthony is 31-years old and he is coming off of knee surgery. Anthony wants to win, but he should have taken less money to join the Chicago Bulls last summer as they would have given him a more realistic shot to win. Jackson may not care what people think of his moves or lack thereof, but he’ll still has to convince the media, Anthony, and the season-ticket holders in New York why this team is ready to make a push for the postseason. Training camps in the NBA are set to open in three months and already you can write the Knicks epitaph for the 2015-2016 season before it even starts. By the looks of things, Jackson is becoming just another basketball icon that associated himself with the Knicks only to realize that they are a sinking ship that is flush out of lifeboats and it is a very long swim to shore.
With the New York Knicks on the verge of finishing their worst season in franchise history, the pressure will be on team president Phil Jackson to get things turned around and in a hurry. The Knicks have the second worst record in the NBA this season as they are one game ahead of the Minnesota Timberwolves for the worst record in the league. But the Knicks are hopeful for a quick turnaround. Heading into the NBA’s Draft Lottery later this spring, the odds are in the favor of the Knicks to land one of the top picks for the NBA Draft this summer. And with the Knicks only having $35 million committed to player’s salaries for next season, Jackson is hopeful that his plan to quickly turn the team around will come to fruition.
Not to mince words, but Jackson has basically “tanked” this season as part of his “vision” to bring a championship caliber team to Madison Square Garden. The fans and media alike in New York City have basically given Jackson a “pass” this season and the only reason for that has been his previous track record. Jackson won a pair of NBA Championships with the Knicks in the early 1970’s as a player and he would go on to win 11 league titles as a head coach with the Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Lakers. But more than most big cities, New York City is a “what have you done for us lately” place and they want to see results.
Jackson is backing on Knicks small forward Carmelo Anthony returning to All-Star form after missing half of this season due to knee surgery. Jackson also believes that playing under his system will lure superstar free agents to put on the blue and orange while also potentially hitting it big at the NBA Draft. But is Jackson being smart or is he merely rolling the dice at an unwinnable crap table?
The draft is a long shot for the Knicks to improve their roster as they have not drafted a productive first round player since Mark Jackson in 1987 and they haven’t drafted a player that turned into a superstar since they “lucked” out and “won” the NBA’s initial draft lottery in 1985 when they selected Patrick Ewing. Jackson has already developed an affinity on Ohio State Buckeyes freshman point guard D’Angelo Russell as he wants him to run his triangle offense. Jackson’s praise of Russell has already put him in hot water with the NBA as he made some comments about the underclassman before he declared for the NBA Draft which is a violation of team rules. But whomever the Knicks draft in June will have unrealistic expectations and pressure placed on them whenever they arrive at Madison Square Garden.
Jackson is also looking to hit it big in free agency as he feels that his track record will make players want to sign with the Knicks. But Jackson’s track record of winning was done from the sidelines and not the front office. Like the Knicks haven’t drafted an impact player in a very long time, Jackson has never developed a star player as he was always handed teams that just needed to get over the hump in order to win a championship. But for Jackson to get a superstar player to come to the Knicks, it won’t be easy as under the NBA’s current collective bargaining agreement as a player’s current team can offer him more money than a potential new suitor. On top of that, Anthony has averaged 19.7 shots per game during his 12-year NBA career and he tends to make it difficult for other star players to play with him as he constantly demands the basketball. Jackson doesn’t envision the majority of the Knicks current team to be around when next season rolls around. But current Knicks head coach Derek Fisher hasn’t exactly done a tremendous job this season to build a winning reputation around the NBA in his first year on the job. Jackson might be able to sign a star player this off-season, but just like the NBA Draft, will the player or players be up for the challenge and pressure of playing in New York City?
The Knicks haven’t won the NBA Championship since 1973 and the more that the title drought increases, is the more that their fan base becomes anry which means that any new player will really be dealing with unrealistic expectations.
Jackson and the Knicks can be optimisitc as they are ready to embark on the off-season. The Milwaukee Bucks only won 15 games last season and they have so far increased their win total from a year ago by 26 games under new head coach Jason Kidd. The Bucks have also gone on to clinch a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. As of right now the Eastern Conference is still weak and Jackson is backing on the fact that it won’t take that much for the Knicks to get back into contention there. If the majority of the folks are willing to give Jackson a pass for this season, then they should do the same for Fisher. Fisher has looked lost at times on the Knicks sideline in his first year, but Jackson didn’t go all out to give him a good team to work with either. But if the Knicks don’t take care of business and upgrade their team over the summer, all of Jackson’s past accolades won’t mean a thing as he’ll be looked at in New York as just another guy who was willing to take the money of team owner James Dolan.