Phil Jackson destroyed the stability he created with Knicks

The attraction of Phil Jackson running the New York Knicks was he would bring a sensibility to the organization that often didn’t exist.

Whether you agreed or disagreed with the moves Jackson made through the pre-firing Derek Fisher portion of his tenure, his presence became easier to accept because of a level of stability.

The team owned by James Dolan was going along in a rational manner.

They didn’t return much value for Tyson Chandler, Iman Shumpert and J.R. Smith, but you could see a level of logic behind both trades. Despite it taking longer than it should have – Carmelo Anthony did eventually shut it down for the season due to a knee injury. The dead weight on the team was sent away with Amar’e Stoudemire and Andrea Bargnani being bought out.

First-year head coach Derek Fisher spent about half the season experimenting with a more pick and roll based offense rather than the triangle and giving different players an opportunity to prove themselves.

Yea, they screwed up winning a couple games at the end of the season, but it’s not fair to expect players to not go out and try. It was just unfortunate results.

Drafting Kristaps Porzingis and Jerian Grant brought along hope of Jackson being more open to adjusting New York’s playing style due to their skills sets in a good start to his second full offseason on the job.

Free agency should have been the first sign of slight concern when it came to Jackson’s view of what he wanted the team to be. He went after too many bigs and not enough attention to players who could break down a defense off the dribble.

Nothing Jackson did was overly harmful, but he gave insight into what he was looking for with how he constructed the roster. Individually, none of the contracts he gave out were bad, yet in totality they didn’t make all that much sense.

All that said, it wasn’t the end of the world. Rebuilding the Knicks roster from the tear down was more than a one-offseason process. Jackson needed to be given more time to flesh out what he was trying to accomplish.

The season started and the Knicks overachieved. Fisher implemented a smarter defensive scheme that tried to force teams into mid-range shots and the offense was a decent balance of using triangle principles and modern concepts. It wasn’t perfect, but it was something you could live with.

Fisher worked on developing Porzingis and Grant, maximized Thomas’ versatility on the defensive end, had Anthony playing brilliant all-around basketball and managed minutes in a decent fashion.

Once they hit 22-22, one of the healthiest teams in the league at that point in the season, started getting banged up. The nine-man rotation Fisher settled on could no longer be used and the Knicks lack of quality depth shined through. They played a bunch of close games and battled hard, but couldn’t close anything out.

Thinking back on it, in Fisher’s last games it was almost like he was trying to prove a point. In first halves he Knicks would run mainly triangle based offensive sets leading to them falling behind. In second halves they’d run a ton of spread PnR storming back into the game.

This pattern happened quite frequently.

Was it Fisher trying to prove a point to Jackson?

If he was should have Fisher tried to communicate better with his boss instead of being standoffish? Yep.

Should have Jackson been smart enough to see what was happening and not be stubborn about the type of offense that was being implemented? Yep.

The basketball reasons to fire Fisher didn’t make much sense. If it was other dealings that were more involved with off the court shenanigans so be it. Whatever the case, when Jackson made the decision to fire Fisher he tore down what he had worked so hard to build up – an appearance of stability.

Teams that are stable don’t fire coaches less than two years into a job with a group that was on track to be one of the most improved in the NBA.

Jackson made his buddy Kurt Rambis interim head coach and ever since they’ve gone back to their old clusterfuck ways.

Rambis trying to “win now” (poorly by the way, he’s not even good at that) has led to potential bad consequences. Melo is getting overplayed, they’ve swung towards increased base triangle action, the protect the paint screw threes defense is back, Sasha Vujacic’s role has increased while Grant’s has decreased and Porzingis is being used incorrectly.

The scary part of all of this is Rambis and Jackson openly discuss how improved the communication between the two of them is compared to Fisher and Jackson.

Simply put………that’s terrifying.

Even while only winning 17 games what made Jackson’s first year a success was an understanding of where the team was and what needed to be accomplished.

The same hasn’t happened this season – it feels like Jackson has become short sighted.

Outside of unrealistic trade rumors involving Jeff Teague – there’s been no attempt to address their slow, plodding, lack of dribble penetration backcourt.

Lower level guards such as Mario Chalmers, D.J. Augustin, Shelvin Mack and Ish Smith were all traded during the regular season. Maybe getting one of them wasn’t realistic, but a move of that elk could have been made.

They’ve had two players come on 10-day contracts in Thanasis Antetokounmpo and Jimmer Fredette and neither was given a chance to contribute in a meaningful way.

And the Fredette circus should have never been at MSG in the first place.

Jackson been content allowing Lou Amundson, Cleanthony Early and Vujacic eat up roster spots and not contribute in a positive way.

Jackson’s managing of the Knicks roster this season has lacked ingenuity and creativity.

Once the playoffs became unrealistic a smartly run team would have preserved Melo, experimented with an offense revolving around Porzingis and Grant’s skills, and used two or three roster spots to try to find cheap talent to add to the team gong forward.

The reason to be worried about Jackson has nothing to do with what his record is since being in charge of the Knicks. It’s quite the opposite – the bad record shows he understood what needed to be done in his first full year on the job. The roster is in a healthier place than where it was when Jackson took it over.

The question is with the decision-making and vision Jackson has demonstrated this season can he be trusted to be in charge of the Knicks going forward?

If Jackson isn’t able to set aside his ego in regards to the next coach and how the Knicks on court product should be shaped – what needs to happen is so painful I don’t have the will to even spell it out.

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bgibberman

Representing all Knicks fans of Arizona. This is unfortunate for all of them. Unabashed lover of J.R. Smith.

31 thoughts to “Phil Jackson destroyed the stability he created with Knicks”

  1. Few things are quite as douchey as saying that you intentionally left Fisher alone because you wanted him to be his own man and then when you fire him, complain that he didn’t talk to you enough (then later bring it up again to praise Fisher’s awful successor, because he does talk to you a lot). Ugh.

  2. It just occurred to me what it reminds me of. The scene in Office Space:

    Stan, Chotchkie’s Manager: We need to talk about your flair.
    Joanna: Really? I… I have fifteen pieces on. I, also…
    Stan, Chotchkie’s Manager: Well, okay. Fifteen is the minimum, okay?
    Joanna: Okay.
    Stan, Chotchkie’s Manager: Now, you know it’s up to you whether or not you want to just do the bare minimum. Or… well, like Brian, for example, has thirty seven pieces of flair, okay. And a terrific smile.
    Joanna: Okay. So you… you want me to wear more?
    Stan, Chotchkie’s Manager: Look. Joanna.
    Joanna: Yeah.
    Stan, Chotchkie’s Manager: People can get a cheeseburger anywhere, okay? They come to Chotchkie’s for the atmosphere and the attitude. Okay? That’s what the flair’s about. It’s about fun.
    Joanna: Yeah. Okay. So more then, yeah?
    Stan, Chotchkie’s Manager: Look, we want you to express yourself, okay? Now if you feel that the bare minimum is enough, then okay. But some people choose to wear more and we encourage that, okay? You do want to express yourself, don’t you?
    Joanna: Yeah, yeah.
    Stan, Chotchkie’s Manager: Okay. Great. Great. That’s all I ask.

    Fisher is Joanna, Jackson is Stan and Brian is Rambis. “So, do you want me to call you?” “I want you to want to call me.” Argh! So douchey!

  3. I think Dolan could (and probably would) do so much worse than Jackson that I am actually kind of okay with Jackson doing a shitty job than someone else doing a really shitty job. Jackson at least drafted Porzingis and signed Lopez.

    I agree 100%

    No one gets to be GM of an NBA team without having a big ego. Look at Donnie Walsh. He tore down a team that was playing well. You don’t do that unless your ego is so big you always think you can do better. Jackson had a big ego too. But At least Jackson waited until the team was clearly bad before demolishing it. Jackson did get us out of salary cap hell and traded for draft picks instead of giving them away. I can’t explain the Fisher firing. It could be something behind the scenes, but it may just be that Jackson just really can’t take that much losing without doing something. It’s not awful having a GM who hates losing

  4. I’m not going to comment on the Fisher situation beyond saying he was terrible and should have been fired. You can argue that we’ve gone from a terrible coach with upside and an understanding that the team needed to get away from the triangle to a coach that is terrible, has no upside, and that is trying to implement the triangle further. So yes, that’s bad. But it will only be really bad if Rambis becomes permanent or they bring in Shaw next. That hasn’t happened yet. I think Blatt would be tolerable to Jackson and he’s way better than any of the other serious option because Tibs is probably not going to get the job.

  5. You know what could have helped communication, actually being present and around the team. How about walking over to talk to fish instead of written emails or text where one’s imagination can miscontrued a person’s tone or context when you read their reply.

  6. I’ve been pretty much tuned out lately but the current management is the definition of “meet the new boss, same as the old boss.”

    Between the Fisher fiasco, the Rambis mess, the insistence on using the triangle in 2016*, our star refusing to leave even though it’s in the best interest of him and team and the odd free agency signings, the Phil Jackson era has been a complete disaster. Our current starting SG spent the last FOUR YEARS out of the league!

    The only saving grace was that we lucked into drafting a potential superstar because we couldn’t pull a trade for Frank Kaminsky on draft day.

    If the Knicks trade Melo and have not Kurt Rambis as their coach next year, I’ll perk up. But hey, let’s throw Nicholas Batum into this rotation and chase that eighth seed!!

    * Not sure which is worse about this stupid insistence on the triangle – the fact that it’s an ineffective way to play basketball or the fact that we’re only hiring personnel who endorse it

  7. One more thing – the ‘passive aggressive’ approach can maybe be excused as an eccentricity if you’re managing a winning team, but is absolutely toxic and disrespectful to both the coaching staff, team and fans if you’re not

  8. Point Giannis is fucking sick. Jason Kidd is a shitty person, but we probably should have just hired him after he retired.

  9. Herring is excellent.

    That’s a good piece. Sort of turned my stomach.

    Nice work with this piece too. Enjoyed it very much.

  10. The shit with Porzingis in the post wouldn’t bother me that much if the idiot coaching the team wasn’t trying to win games. Generally, I think you should try to adapt your style to fit your players, but with a guy as young as Zingis it might be worth it to have him out there working on some things at least part of the time. But it’s obviously not something he’s ready for, so if you’re actually trying to win the game and you’re having Kristaps post up more frequently it’s a good sign you don’t know what you’re doing.

  11. Phil Jackson has done a good job of adding front court players on value contracts with the exception of Derrick Williams. Galloway, D Will, Porzingis, and Lopez are all good basketball players Phil added to the Knicks. Lance Thomas seems more like a Cinderella than an actual improved basketball player (his numbers this season are comparable to his 1st and 2nd years), so I’ll leave him out even though he’s played well.

    The Knicks don’t need stability right now. The Knicks need to shake their foundation in order to get Melo to leave. Imagine a situation where the Knicks add Blatt, Batum, and Chalmers or Livingston. Say Melo decides he can’t compete with that and gets mad we refused to offer Rondo a contract, then waives his NTC. Boom. Now we can “blow it up” but really just add good contracts and youth to build around Porzingis and become next season’s version of this year’s Celtics (and in other disgusting news ESPN was saying Durant to Boston is a possibility as if I don’t already have enough reasons to hate the Celtics). We really don’t know Phil Jackson’s long game. I do think Fisher is 10x better a coach than Rambis, and that we’d probably be 5 wins better with Fisher right now. I just think we should wait until PJax gives DeRozan a max contract, hires Rambis/Shaw full time, and hands Wroten the starting job before we scream he’s terrible. A few months ago he looked great when Fisher had us at .500. I think this is becoming more reactionary than rational at this point.

  12. Tim Hardaway’s son Tim Hardaway started for the Hawks and scored 21 points on 11 FGA and had 7 rebounds and 4 assists. For some reason this feels like a kick in the balls.

  13. Meh, the blind squirrel found a nut. I don’t miss TH Jr. and his complete indifference to defense one iota.

  14. I agree with Massive.

    One thing you have to realize about Jackson is that he has been smartly using and manipulating the media for years. Most of his moves have been unexpected by us. Why he fired Fisher, we will never know. What his long term plan is at coach, we won’t know until he hires one. I agree that if it’s Rambis we should run far away.

    I do agree he under-values guard play, and I agree that Sasha has no place taking minutes from young players. But, Lopez has been a solid signing. We all loved the Hardaway trade. We all loved the O’Quinn deal when it happened. Zinger has been better than most of us anticipated. We like finding and keeping Galloway. Most of the moves aren’t bad; you just can’t turn it around over-night.

    I agree it would be good if Melo were traded, but we do not know for a fact that he was asked to waive his no trade and refused. it’s all speculation. And we don’t know that any trade was seriously considered by another team, much less us getting some value back.

    I think we are stuck giving this another off season before we draw a final conclusion. And, by December, President Trump will probably kick Zinger and Jose out of the country anyway.

  15. @16 It really is distasteful. At the same time, Atlanta nailed him to the bench for the majority of the season until he started to actually give a shit about anything besides scoring. I don’t think that would have happened in NY.

  16. The Chandler trade looks terrible, and the trade with Cleveland also looks bad. The Vujacic and Seraphin signings were insanely dumb, grabbing Grant instead of Hollis-Jefferson and Portis looks bad (and that can change), the tweets don’t really matter, the Melo NTC is sorta defensible if Melo walks with no compensation that off season (because at least now we can sign Batum, hire Blatt, and Melo can deem that as a poor effort and request a trade to play with the Clippers or the Bulls or something).

    The funny thing is that the Knicks are right about where everyone but I had projected them (I thought they would win 43 games). If the Knicks finish with 34 wins, they’d have doubled their win total from last year and would honestly be two replacement level players and Nic Batum away from 44-48 wins in 2017. Of course playing Tony Wroten 2,000 minutes next season could make us 15 wins worse, but that’s the point. You can’t really grade Phil’s tenure yet. He can either bring respectable basketball back to New York, or he’ll crash the ship and Melo will request a deal mid season and we’ll have a top 5 pick. Optimistically or cynically, it’s hard to see this franchise as one not headed in the right direction. We have all our picks, Porzingis, and a market that doesn’t suck (Gasol would have never spurned Durant and Westbrook if their market didn’t suck. Never). Phil or no Phil, Melo or no Melo, meaningful basketball is ahead.

  17. @21 I would tend to agree. The second half of this year has been complete shit, but ultimately I recall a lot of people on this board predicting this roster getting about 35 wins, so what we are seeing isn’t totally unexpected. Our front Court has been solid this year. If we improve the guard situation and KP continues to grow, then we are potentially up some good basketball. Ultimately Phil and the players haven’t come out and said “yes we are going for a chip with this roster”, but rather that the playoffs were a goal. If you aren’t at least keeping that as a goal at the start of the season, regardless of what team you are on, I would imagine it’s pretty tough to keep everyone motivated if you are saying “yep we are going to suck th season, so try your best” ha ha.

  18. @16 It really is distasteful. At the same time, Atlanta nailed him to the bench for the majority of the season until he started to actually give a shit about anything besides scoring. I don’t think that would have happened in NY.

    At the time, the hook was basically that Budz felt that he could fix THJ. I didn’t think he could do it, but if he actually did, Budz should be crowned king of the NBA.

    Speaking of great NBA coaches, Dave Joerger is kicking ass in Memphis, keeping that team humming along with basically one hamstring shared by the entire team. It must be nice to have coaches who actually elevate the performance of the team. But we have the next best thing, shitty coaches who are familiar with an outdated offensive system!

  19. the Melo NTC is sorta defensible if Melo walks with no compensation that off season (because at least now we can sign Batum, hire Blatt, and Melo can deem that as a poor effort and request a trade to play with the Clippers or the Bulls or something).

    The NTC is indefensible since Melo is never going to leave, hence him having a NTC is awful. Didn’t you see the interview earlier? The man is never going to leave. He’ll retire a Knick.

  20. Ultimately Phil and the players haven’t come out and said “yes we are going for a chip with this roster”, but rather that the playoffs were a goal. If you aren’t at least keeping that as a goal at the start of the season, regardless of what team you are on, I would imagine it’s pretty tough to keep everyone motivated if you are saying “yep we are going to suck th season, so try your best” ha ha.

    The goal was clear. Get close to the playoffs so that big free agents would want to sign here. It’s the same goal Jackson had for year one. He failed miserably both times. Luckily, the first time the Knicks at least had a pick so his miserable failure resulted in the best thing to happen to this franchise in thirty years. It is why he gave out so many one year deals (I’m counting Afflalo and D-Will as one-year deals, as they’d have to each be incredibly bad for them not to be able to beat their option year on the open market with the exploding cap) after making a point of first trying to clear out cap room the previous year. He wanted flexibility to get big name free agents last offseason and when that didn’t work, he wanted to punt the cap space to this offseason to get the big name guys now.

  21. @24: you can defend the NTC in the sense that it says to Melo, “Yeah? You’re committed to NYC all the way? OK; we’re going to rebuild the team they way we want – let’s see how down with it you really are.”
    My opinion: this organization was so badly run before PJax took over that they should rebuild incrementally, and not just in 2-3 years. When the talent is as bare as it was at the end of ’14 and ’15 seasons, and with one 1st round pick in 3 years – this is just gonna take a while.
    It would be best if Melo allows himself to be traded, but I just don’t see him doing that. So the next best thing is to hold on to him and rebuild irregardless if Melo’s “timeline”. He’s shown this year he can be a leader and defer to teammates. So let him continue to do that into his decline or twilight years and maintain value.

    40 wins would’ve been a smashing success this year. They won’t get there, but will likely settle for most projections (around 35 wins). Oh and one last thing: preseason projections pointed out the backcourt would be an issue all season. Doesn’t make it suck less that it’s come to pass (and that it’s been painfully highlighted over and over), but it’s not anothing to go crazy about.

  22. The NTC is indefensible since Melo is never going to leave, hence him having a NTC is awful. Didn’t you see the interview earlier? The man is never going to leave. He’ll retire a Knick.

    I interpreted the interview a little differently. What I took from it is basically he’ll give Phil/the front office one last chance to surround him with a team he’s satisfied with, which might just mean Rondo or bust, and if they “fail” he’ll look at other options. He speaks in the past tense about wanting to be here (“I wanted to be here. This is a place I wanted to be. This is a place where I envisioned myself, winning in New York.”) and says he’s not waiving the NTC “as of right now.” Bizarrely enough he also seems nostalgic for his Denver days.

    By the time Phil has either failed or succeeded in Melo’s eyes there will be plenty of losers of the Durant sweepstakes who might be looking for a consolation prize. So I’ll hold out hope. Stupidly.

  23. The next 3 offseasons are going to be critical for this team to maintain cap space and short term high value contracts, but not for the reasons you’re mostly thinking.

    With the exploding cap over the next few years, expect A LOT of bad contracts to get signed across the league. Which will get even worse next off season.

    Expect Afflalo and DWill to chase this money. Both are easily replaceable. That’ll give this team about 30 million in cap space that doesn’t need to get spent immediately.

    I think the smart move would be to pick up expiring bad contracts later ob for players drafted this June and for future 1st rounders. Basically, build some assests.

    By December, teams will want to move their bad contracts and will pay a premium to do so. Philly has made a killing doing this.

    Couple that with signing younger undervalued players still around after this summer’s contract madness cedes. Think DWill and O’Quinn. Low risk, high reward.

  24. I think the smart move would be to pick up expiring bad contracts later ob for players drafted this June and for future 1st rounders. Basically, build some assests.

    That’s definitely the smart move. It’s not going to be what happens, but it is a smart move.

    The most likely scenario is that the Knicks sign just enough veteran free agents for Melo to be able to spin it as him being happy with the moves, so he doesn’t have to leave (since he is never going to leave). The only thing I’m unsure of is whether Melo will make $40 million in 2020 for the 45-win Knicks or just $30 million.

  25. Heck, I’m ready to give Steve freakin’ Mills the keys, so I’d be thrilled with you.

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