Would Carmelo Anthony and the New York Knicks be a match made in heaven?
After 146 years of entertainment the Ringling Brothers Circus is shutting down. The circus provided laughter and excitement for all ages as it has always been pure entertainment. For many years one the of the best venues for the Ringling Brothers show was New York City’s Madison Square Garden as it in the heart the Big Apple. And even though that we won’t see the Ringling Brothers make their way to the Garden anytime soon, there is another circus that has taken its spot.
It’s hard to describe the New York Knicks as a basketball franchise. The Knicks last NBA Championship came in 1973 and although that they’ve come close hoisting the title a few times since then, they have specialized in the art of frustration.
In 2014, Phil Jackson was named as the Knicks team president. Jackson won 11 NBA Titles as a head coach, and two more as a player with the Knickerbockers. But Jackson never ran an NBA front office before coming to the Knicks and he was going to have to learn on the fly under the microscope of the biggest media market in the world. However since joining the Knicks, all that Jackson done is to tarnish his legacy.
Jackson is adamant about the Knicks operating under the umbrella of his triangle offense which led to all of his titles as a head coach. Jackson’s first order of business was to hire a head coach in Derek Fisher who played for him with the Los Angeles Lakers. With Fisher not having any prior coaching experience in the NBA, Jackson expected his transition to be a work in progress which it was as New York would go 17-65 in his first season. 64 games into Fisher’s second season he was fired after reports of him missing practices due to fact that he could not get back from Los Angeles in time where his girlfriend was surfaced. There were also reports of Fisher being linked to women who were involved with some players on the Knicks roster which would lead to him possibly losing the locker room.
Last summer Jackson was looking for another head coach to run the triangle, but Knicks owner James Dolan chimed in on the next hire which led to former Phoenix Suns head coach Jeff Hornacek taking over the team. Hornacek runs more of an uptempo style of offense, while Jackson still wants the Knicks to operate the triangle which has been a recipe for disaster.
Through 44 games the Knicks are 19-25 which includes going 3-12 over their last 15 games. And just like the Knicks were before Jackson arrived in New York, they are a team that is going in circles.
The Knicks have a star player in small forward Carmelo Anthony who is not going to lead New York to the NBA Title that people were hoping for when he was acquired from the Denver Nuggets in 2011. Anthony is an isolation ball player that needs 20-25 shots per game in order to effective. Jackson’s triangle offense relies on ball movement which is not the case when Anthony is on the court. Jackson had a chance to get from under Anthony in 2014 when he became an unrestricted free agent. But since the Knicks could offer Anthony more money than any other team, he was convinced to stay in New York by the likes of his wife La La Anthony and Jackson.
Jackson sold Anthony on the dream of teaming him with other star players which would lead to championships. But this season what the Knicks have is a roster that lacks star power, while it is comprised mainly of players that were good five years ago.
Last summer the Knicks acquired point guard Derrick Rose from the Chicago Bulls. Rose was the NBA’s MVP in 2011, but he has never been the same player since he suffered a torn ACL during the 2012 NBA Playoffs. Rose is averaging 17.5 points and 4.5 assists for the Knicks this season, but the explosiveness that he had with the Bulls is gone. The Knicks also signed Rose’s former Bulls teammate in center Joakim Noah to a four-year deal for $72 million. Noah was the NBA’s Defensive Player of the Year in 2014 as he was a catalyst in regards to the Bulls success as far as being a consistent postseason team. But with back and feet injuries, Noah isn’t the same player that he was in Chicago as he has still managed to average 5.6 points and 9 rebounds in New York City. The Knicks do have their building block of the future in power forward Kristaps Porzingis who was Jackson’s first draft choice with the team. Porzingis is the Knicks second leading scorer at 19.4 points per contest, however an Achilles injury currently has limited his effectiveness.
But the Knicks biggest issues this season have come on the defensive end of the court. New York is 25th in points allowed as they are surrendering 108.3 points per game. In watching the Knicks play defense, there isn’t any communication or intensity which is hard to fathom with Noah on the team. However aside from Noah, the Knicks roster isn’t littered with players that dig in on the defensive end which means that their chances of winning will be hindered. And all of this falls under the category of a lack of leadership for this franchise.
The Knicks find themselves led by a meddling owner in Dolan, a team president in Jackson who is trying to do the old “bait and switch” by discussing his issues with Anthony publicly to the media as opposed to the player so that he’ll request a trade, and a head coach in Hornacek whose style of play doesn’t fit with how Jackson wants the team run. Anthony is an aging star with a bad knee who most people are finally realizing won’t lead the Knicks to an NBA Title, while Rose couldn’t pick up a phone to notify the team about his going back to Chicago to deal with a family issue as he went AWOL for New York’s 110-96 home loss on January 9 to the New Orleans Pelicans. And just as the Knicks have been a mess since 2001, they aren’t getting any better under Jackson’s watch.
There should be a sign in front of Madison Square Garden which reads “doomed to fail” as some of the best basketball minds in NBA history such as Larry Brown, Donnie Walsh, and now Jackson have all failed to clean up the mess that is the Knicks. Attempting to turn the Knicks into a winner is the equivalent of reshuffling the deck chairs on the Titanic as either the front office tries to build a winner overnight through various trades, or they don’t properly evaluate young talent. Jackson is too set in his ways which were successful for him before, but it is not going to happen in New York. Anthony is another in a long line of All-Star caliber players who upon arriving to 33rd Street and Eighth Avenue were unable to live up the unrealistic expectations that were put upon them. And at the end of the day all that the Knicks have to give to their fans are higher ticket prices to go along with a mediocre product on the court.
But all isn’t lost for the Knicks as they currently find themselves in 11th place in the Eastern Conference and 2.5 games behind the Bulls for the final playoff spot. However even if the Knicks are able to turn things around and make the playoffs, what good would it do them just to extend their season for four more games in order to be swept by the Cleveland Cavaliers? Success continues to be hard to achieve for the Knicks as long as the owner, team president, head coach, star player, and the majority of the roster aren’t on the same page. The only winners in this ongoing Knicks saga are the members of the media as they’ll have plenty to write about while they will continue to poke fun at and criticize this team. However watching the Knicks is worth the price of admission and then some as it is indeed the best circus in town.
When New York Knicks president Phil Jackson used the fourth overall pick of the 2015 NBA Draft on power forward/center Kristaps Porzingis, he received a ton of flack and criticism. At the time Porzingis was an unknown to the average American basketball fan coming out of his native Latvia. And at 7’3″, 240 lbs., most Knicks fans could only reminisce about the 1999 NBA Draft when New York selected center Frederic Weis whose basketball claim to fame was getting dunked on by Vince Carter in the 2000 Summer Olympics. On that fateful night at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York at the 2015 NBA Draft, Knicks fans were ready to erupt with disgust as rumors swirled about New York possibly selecting Porzingis, and when it happened, there was an echo of boos that rained down from the rafters there.
But the skepticism for Porzingis quickly turned to optimism as he showed off his skills as a passer, along with his post game in the Las Vegas Summer League. In Porginzis’ first regular season game with the Knicks, he went for 16 points and 5 rebounds in a 122-97 victory for the Knicks over the Milwaukee Bucks. As a rookie Porzingis would average 14.3 points and 7.3 rebounds which included 14 games where he scored at least 20 points, while also recording 21 double-doubles. Porzingis would go on to be named to the NBA’s All-Rookie team while he also gave the Knicks hope as the same fans that wanted him run out of town when he was drafted, were now buying up his merchandise in the boatloads.
Porzingis has gone two show that he isn’t a one-hit wonder as he has instead opted to display his talents to remain on Broadway for the coming years. This season through 15 games, Porzingis is averaging 20.7 points and 7.3 rebounds has been highlighted by a 35-point performance on November 16 against the Detroit Pistons. And even though that small forward Carmelo Anthony is the highest paid player on the Knicks roster this season at roughly $24.5 million, he is being pushed by Porzingis to be the face of the franchise.
Porzingis was 19-years old when the Knicks drafted him and Jackson, along with some international basketball scouts compared his game to that of Dallas Mavericks power forward Dirk Nowitzki. Nowitzki is a native of Germany and he has gone on to be arguably the greatest European born player in NBA history. Like Nowitzki, Porzingis has the potential to be a quality post player, while he is also a solid rebounder as well as a passer. And like Porzingis, Nowitzki, had his doubters when he came to the United States, but it would not take him that long to amaze folks with his game.
Porzingis has the potential to be a player that can average 25 points and 10 rebounds per contest for the Knicks, while his passing skills are ideal for the triangle offense that Jackson loves to run. Jackson has taken some heat during his tenure as president of the Knicks for his inability to turn the Knicks into a winner, but he appears to have made a slam dunk with Porzingis.
Anthony is 32-years of age and with a bad knee, the Knicks should not count on him to be an All-Star caliber player for that many more seasons. Porzingis on the other hand is young and doesn’t realize how good that he can be as the sky is the limit for him. And as the Knicks are still trying to find their identity in the early stages of this NBA season, head coach Jeff Hornacek has been running more of the offense through Porzingis. Anthony is averaging 23.3 points per game, while Porzingis is checking in with 20.7 per contest which gives you an idea that times are changing at Madison Square Garden.
Porzingis represents hope for the Knicks and their fans as he is indeed a building block for the present and the future as he stands to be the team’s most important draft pick since Patrick Ewing.
X-Toronto Raptors 54-28 (3)
The past three years have seen the Toronto Raptors become the class of the Atlantic Division. The Raptors have focused on basketball fundamentals which has led to more wins and a growing fan base in Canada. The Raptors will begin the upcoming NBA season as the three-time defending Atlantic Division Championships, and after Toronto reached the Eastern Conference Finals last June for the first time in franchise history, the expectations around this team have increased.
Dwane Casey is set to begin his sixth season with the Raptors and in each of his campaign’s in Toronto, the team’s win total has increased. And after the Raptors won a franchise best 56 games last season, they are poised to once again be one of the better teams in the Eastern Conference.
The backbone of the Raptors has been their All-Star backcourt of point guard Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan. DeRozan averaged a career-high in points last season at 23.5 points per game as he continues to improve as a perimeter shooter. Lowry’s numbers have continued throughout his NBA career as he is emerging as one of the better point guards in the league. Last year Lowry averaged 21.2 points and 6.4 assists per contest and as he intends to test free agency next summer.
Around Lowry and DeRozan, the Raptors have developing players such as center Jonas Valanciunas. Valanciunas has spent his entire four-year NBA career with the Raptors and his numbers continue to improve as he averaged 12.8 points and 9.1 rebounds last season. Valanciunas is a prime candidate to average a double-double this season which could make the Raptors that more difficult to deal with. The Raptors signed center Jared Sullinger who could be a solid role player in Toronto after he spent the last four years with the Boston Celtics. And the Raptors first-round pick in center/power forward Jakob Poltl could give them another dynamic as a big man that can stretch the floor with his ability to hit he mid-range jump shot.
Size has been the one thing that has held the Raptors back in recent years, but as this team continues to get better in the front court, their chances of being a title contender are that much better.
Y-Boston Celtics 48-34 (4)
The past two years have seen the Boston Celtics become “The Little Engine That Could” of the NBA. The Celtics are not the most talented team in the league, but they scrap and claw on a nightly basis as they are a team that opponents are not excited to face. Brad Stevens is the Celtics head coach, and it is a post that he has maintained for the last three years. And in each year that Stevens has been in Boston, the Celtics win total has increased. The last two seasons have seen the Celtics make the playoffs, but they’ve been unable to advance past the first round. However will things change for the Celtics next spring?
Last year saw point guard Isaiah Thomas turn into a star for the Celtics. Thomas led the Celtics in points per game (22.2) and assists (6.2) as he earned his first All-Star Game nod. Thomas has solid ability as a point guard being that is able to penetrate, but for the Celtics to take that next step they are going to need a consistent low-post presence.
For the last nine years, center Al Horford has been one of the cornerstones of the Atlanta Hawks. With the Hawks, Horford was a four-time NBA All-Star as he averaged 14.3 points and 8.9 rebounds during his time there. But when Horford became a free agent this past summer, the Hawks signed center Dwight Howard which made him expendable. And when the Celtics offered Horford $113 million on a four-year deal, he jumped on it.
Horford gives the Celtics a dependable scorer in the post, and he has already been named as one of the team’s captains which gives you an idea of the respect that he commands.
The combination of guards Marcus Smart and Avery Bradley continue to pester opponents with their frenetic play at both ends of the floor. Both Smart and Bradley are two of the better defenders at the point guard position along with each player providing a change of pace on offense which gives Stevens more options as he preaches versatility with his team.
Veteran small forward Jae Crowder should be able to feed off of Horford’s presence in the front court as he no longer has to be the Celtics primary scoring option in the post. The Celtics have high hopes for their first-round pick in small forward Jaylen Brown. But a sleeper on this roster could be rookie forward Ben Bentil who averaged 21.1 points and 7.7 rebounds last year in the college for the Providence Friars. Aside from leading the Friars in scoring and rebounds, Bentil also led the team with 52 made three-point field goals, and his scoring ability will be huge off of the bench for the Celtics.
Five of the Celtics first six games this season will be at home, and a fast start could be just what they need to push the Toronto Raptors for the top spot in the Atlantic Division.
New York Knicks 41-41
When Phil Jackson became the president of the New York Knicks in March 2014, he brought excitement and expectations to the franchise. But in two seasons under Jackson’s regime, the Knicks have only managed to win 49 games, while the man that he was grooming to be the next “great head coach” in Derek Fisher was fired last season after the team got off to a 23-31 start. Kurt Rambis would be named as the Knicks interim head coach for the remainder of the season as New York went 9-19 under him. But what was even more surprising than the firing of Fisher was that Jeff Hornacek was hired to be the new head coach of the Knickerbockers.
The Knicks will be Hornacek’s second NBA coaching gig after he compiled a record of 101-112 in nearly three seasons as the head coach of the Phoenix Suns. Hornacek was never able to lead the Suns to the postseason, and the highlight of his time in Phoenix was when the team won 48 games during the 2013-2014 NBA season. However it is really going to be very interesting to see how the marriage between Hornacek and Jackson will work since Jackson is notorious for hiring coaches that will solely run his triangle offense which isn’t a specialty of the Knicks new head coach who prefers a more uptempo style of offense.
The hiring of Hornacek smells of Knicks owner James Dolan once again putting his nose into the day-to-day operations of the team which makes you wonder if Jackson’s days at 33rd Street and Eighth Avenue are numbered? And even though that the Knicks can be described as the best circus in town, this group must find a way to co-exist in order to make a roster that has individual talent work as a team.
The centerpiece of any potential Knicks success is small forward Carmelo Anthony. Anthony has been with the Knicks since 2011 and he has given New York a face of the franchise while helping them reach the postseason on three occasions. Anthony also led the NBA in scoring during the 2012-2013 NBA season, but since then his offensive numbers have dipped. Anthony is 32-years of age with a bad knee. And although that Anthony can still fill up the bucket, the clock is ticking on he and the Knicks to win a championship together.
The Knicks are hopeful that power forward Kristaps Porzingis will be able to build off of his solid rookie campaign. Last season Porzingis averaged 14.3 points, 7.3 rebounds, and 1.9 blocks. Porzingis came into the NBA being compared to Dallas Mavericks power forward Dirk Nowitzki, and he could be a player that could average 17 points and 10 rebounds this season under Hornacek.
This off-season has seen the Knicks bring in an array of veteran players. The Knicks signed former Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah to a four-year deal that is worth $72 million, while also signing guards Brandon Jennings and Courtney Lee. The Knicks would also acquire point guard Derrick Rose from the Bulls to complete their roster overhaul. But unfortunately for the Knicks, these are moves that should have been made five years ago.
In 2011, Rose was the NBA’s MVP as he was one of the league’s brightest stars. However since then knee injuries have derailed Rose’s once promising career. Noah was Rose’s teammate in Chicago where they helped the Bulls to be one of the better teams in the Eastern Conference when they were healthy. Noah was the NBA’s Defensive Player of the Year in 2014 as his toughness and grit defined that era of Bulls basketball. But like Rose, Noah has been dealing with injuries as foot and shoulder issues have limited his effectiveness over his final two seasons in Chicago. The Knicks will be the fourth different team that Jennings has suited up for and he is seeking to find the explosiveness that he had earlier in his career. Like Jennings, Lee has bounced around the NBA as the Knicks will be his seventh different team. Throughout Lee’s career, he has been an underrated defender that should be able to provide a spark off of the Knicks bench for Hornacek.
The Knicks will look to push the pace of play more this season under Hornacek, but the most important thing for New York is to have everyone on the same page as it will be very interesting to see how this motley crew comes together as the season progresses.
Philadelphia 76ers 29-53
It’s no secret that the Philadelphia 76ers have become the worst franchise in the NBA. The 2011-2012 NBA season was the last time that the Sixers finished with a winning record and it was their only winning campaign over the last seven years. The last three seasons have seen the 76ers combine to win 47 games, and to give you an idea of how bad that it has been in Philadelphia, ten NBA teams won more games than the Sixers last year alone than they were able to accomplish over the last three campaigns. Last season was just about as bad as it could get for the Sixers as they managed to go just 10-72 which led to some wholesale changes.
Sam Hinkie was relieved of his duties as the 76ers general manager after he oversaw the worst stretch in franchise history. Former Phoenix Suns owner Jerry Colangelo was brought in by the Sixers as an advisor and his first order of business was to name his son Bryan as the team’s new president and general manager. The younger Colangelo has a proven track record of putting a team together from his time as the general manager of both the Suns and Toronto Raptors as he was named as the NBA’s Executive of the Year in 2007. Now Colangelo is tasked with making the Sixers respectable once again and they could be a team on the rise.
Brett Brown is set to begin his third season as the Sixers head coach and although that the man who hired him in Hinkie is no longer running the show in Philly, he will still be calling the shots on the sideline.
The Sixers will begin the upcoming NBA season on the wrong foot as they will be without the services of small forward Ben Simmons. Simmons was the first overall pick of the NBA Draft this past summer after he averaged 19.2 points, 11.8 rebounds, and 4.8 assists in one year for the LSU Tigers. But a foot injury will keep Simmons out of action for at least three months which will postpone his NBA debut.
The inability for the 76ers to win games in recent years has led to selecting early in the NBA Draft, but Hinkie rolled the dice on players that weren’t healthy. In 2013, the Sixers obtained the draft rights to center Nerlens Noel from the New Orleans Pelicans, but he missed the entire 2013-2014 NBA season after he recovered from a torn ACL that he suffered in college. In 2014, the Sixers used the third overall pick of the draft on center Joel Embiid, but injuries have prevented him from participating in an NBA game. Last year the Sixers first-round pick was center Jahlil Okafor. Unlike Noel and Embiid, Okafor was able to suit up as a rookie for the Sixers as he averaged 17.5 points and 7 rebounds in 53 games before a knee injury cut his rookie campaign short. However all three players are healthy and it should give the 76ers a huge advantage in the front court.
The good things for the folks in Philadelphia is that it can’t get any worse than it has already been. Colangelo is working to bring a competitive team to the City of Brotherly Love and the 76ers should be an improved team this season.
Brooklyn Nets 22-60
Last year was a sign of things to come for the Brooklyn Nets. The Nets lost 61 games last season which was the third worst record in the NBA and the icing on the cake was that they didn’t have a first-round pick to show for their futility. The Nets are still suffering from the moves that were made by former general manager Billy King as most of their recent and future picks are now property of the Boston Celtics after the team’s failed attempt to become an instant title contender in 2013 when they acquired aging players such as power forward Kevin Garnett and small forward Paul Pierce. The Nets run at a title was short lived as they are coming off of their worst campaign since 2010 when they were still the New Jersey Nets.
Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov has finally realized that winning an NBA Championship is not an easy process and instead of the quick process, he has finally decided on the slow, methodical process. Prokhorov has hired Sean Marks as the Nets new general manager and he’ll be tasked with making Brooklyn respectable.
Marks played for 11 seasons in the NBA and he won a championship as a member of the San Antonio Spurs in 2003. Marks has spent the last four years working in the Spurs front office and he is looking to bring some of that winning formula with him to Brooklyn.
Marks’ first order of business was to hire a new coach in Kenny Atkinson. The Nets will mark Atkinson’s first head coaching gig in the NBA, but he has had stints as an assistant coach in the league with the New York Knicks and Atlanta Hawks. And now that Atkinson is running the show in Brooklyn, you can expect him to preach ball movement for the Nets.
One of the few bright spots that the Nets have on their roster is center Brook Lopez. Lopez is coming off of one of his best NBA seasons as he averaged 20.6 points and 7.8 rebounds in 73 games for the Nets. Lopez gives the Nets a solid presence in the post, but trading him to a contending team could return draft picks to Brooklyn that will be needed in order for them to turn things around.
Aside from Lopez, the Nets are a team that is mainly comprised of youngsters that are thankful to be on an NBA roster and veterans that are attempting to hold on. This past summer the Nets signed point guard Jeremy Lin to a three-year, $36 million deal as they are hopeful than he can give them a dose of “Linsanity” as he did when he suited up for the Knicks in 2012. Rookie shooting guard Isaiah Whitehead is a native of Coney Island and he won’t be fazed by playing in front of the hometown fans as he could have a positive impact on this team.
The Nets will be fighting an uphill battle all season long as they have finally come to grips of the reality that is their rebuilding process.
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.